Clapper: Maybe we should have been honest about phone-data tracking, huh?

posted at 8:41 am on February 18, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

James Clapper has regrets.Veteran national-security reporter Eli Lake interviewed the Director of National Intelligence eleven months after Clapper lied in testimony to the US Senate about the NSA’s surveillance of American communications, and eight months after the lie got exposed. Now Clapper offers a what-if to Lake, musing that it might have been better to be honest about the NSA’s activities from the beginning:

In an exclusive interview with The Daily Beast, Clapper said the problems facing the U.S. intelligence community over its collection of phone records could have been avoided. “I probably shouldn’t say this, but I will. Had we been transparent about this from the outset right after 9/11—which is the genesis of the 215 program—and said both to the American people and to their elected representatives, we need to cover this gap, we need to make sure this never happens to us again, so here is what we are going to set up, here is how it’s going to work, and why we have to do it, and here are the safeguards… We wouldn’t have had the problem we had,” Clapper said.

“What did us in here, what worked against us was this shocking revelation,” he said, referring to the first disclosures from Snowden. If the program had been publicly introduced in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, most Americans would probably have supported it. “I don’t think it would be of any greater concern to most Americans than fingerprints. Well people kind of accept that because they know about it. But had we been transparent about it and say here’s one more thing we have to do as citizens for the common good, just like we have to go to airports two hours early and take our shoes off, all the other things we do for the common good, this is one more thing.”

Since the first Snowden revelations in June, Clapper has declassified reams of material relating to the 215 program, including opinions and warrants signed by the top secret court that approves domestic snooping. But he has not publicly acknowledged until now his thoughts that the initial secrecy surrounding the program was ill-considered.

Like many who get caught in a public lie, the regrets can be rather self-serving, as Lake points out:

It’s a bit of an adjustment in Clapper’s public stance. The intelligence chief wrote in a letter to Sen. Ron Wyden, that the leak of the 215 program along with others “will do significant damage to the Intelligence Community’s ability to protect the nation.” (Of course, Snowden leaked more than the broad outlines of the program that Clapper said he would’ve liked disclosed.)

Let’s take a step back to March 2013, shall we? Wyden didn’t put Clapper on the spot because Clapper was being honest in classified briefings. This was a program that Wyden apparently knew was in operation, but which Clapper wouldn’t discuss even in closed session. That was the reason why Wyden both asked the question in a public hearing and gave Clapper 24-hour’s notice that it would be asked — as a pressure point to get the head of American intelligence to come clean at least in a classified briefing.

So yes, now Clapper can publicly muse on the notion that full disclosure might have prevented a lot of the nonsense that Clapper and his team produced over the years, and which blew up in his face over the last few months. It’s not a disinterested fallback position either, as the rest of the interview shows. Clapper still defends the 215 program as both constitutional and effective, even though the administration’s own select panel concluded the opposite on both points after its investigation. Another group reached the same conclusion about the effectiveness of the 215 program last month.

Clapper wants to keep the 215 program, and so does Barack Obama. They aren’t regretting anything enough to stop the collection and use of this data, at least not in the short term. The offering of regrets at this stage seems designed more to keep the status quo than to promise reform in the future.

And notice that no one’s been fired in this scandal, either.


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Pound sand, there’s many things this retarded administration should have been more open about, the most transparent administration in history we were once told.

Bishop on February 18, 2014 at 8:44 AM

The Obama Regime makes Clinton look as truthful as George Washington.

ConstantineXI on February 18, 2014 at 8:46 AM

I wish they cared as much about avoiding terrorism as they do about keeping track of American citizens. But we all know they don’t.

crankyoldlady on February 18, 2014 at 8:46 AM

Pound sand, there’s many things this retarded administration should have been more open about, the most transparent administration in history we were once told.

Bishop on February 18, 2014 at 8:44 AM

RAAAAACIST!

/sarc

ConstantineXI on February 18, 2014 at 8:46 AM

But telling lies is the foundation of the Obama Administration.

albill on February 18, 2014 at 8:47 AM

Sorry James, you committed perjury. And unlike whether or not a pitcher used steroids, this matters.

rbj on February 18, 2014 at 8:50 AM

Clap on.. Clap off.. Clap on Clap off, the Clapper.

Kennyraisin on February 18, 2014 at 8:50 AM

You’re fired. Now you should do some time!

bill glass on February 18, 2014 at 8:50 AM

I wish they cared as much about avoiding terrorism as they do about keeping track of American citizens. But we all know they don’t.

crankyoldlady on February 18, 2014 at 8:46 AM

To him, this IS about fighting terrorism,
Obama defines “terrorism” differently than you and I do. To Obama terrorists are those who oppose his agenda, and who oppose his taking of power.

In Obama’s worldview, which is NOT an American one, it comes from his Kenyan and Indonesian roots, there is no such thing as “legitimate” disagreement or opposition to him.

ConstantineXI on February 18, 2014 at 8:53 AM

He’s not sorry he lied under oath, he’s sorry he got caught. Reminiscing about your crime in public never ends well.

Kissmygrits on February 18, 2014 at 8:53 AM

Clapper: Maybe we should have been honest about phone-data tracking, huh?

Didn’t your mother ever tell you that “honesty is the best policy”?

If the program had been publicly introduced in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, most Americans would probably have supported it.

Uh, no, this American wouldn’t have.

Flora Duh on February 18, 2014 at 8:53 AM

“. . . but had we been transparent about it and say here’s one more thing we have to do as citizens for the common good, just like we have to go to airports two hours early and take our shoes off, all the other things we do for the common good, this is one more thing.”

Common Good, eh? What a load of crap.

Naturally Curly on February 18, 2014 at 9:02 AM

The man acts like he has a Presidential Pardon in his back pocket.

meci on February 18, 2014 at 9:05 AM

Common Good, eh? What a load of crap.

Naturally Curly on February 18, 2014 at 9:02 AM

“The common good” is a nonexistent thing. It is a term invented by the progressive left and has been used as their pretext for fascist control over people’s lives since the early 20th Century.

Our Republic is a contract between each of us AS AN INDIVIDUAL. There are no collective rights in the Constitution, it is a document designed to safeguard the INDIVIDUAL.

ConstantineXI on February 18, 2014 at 9:07 AM

See!! It’s Bush’s fault!

Pokeyarw on February 18, 2014 at 9:08 AM

Maybe you should be in prison.

WisCon on February 18, 2014 at 9:11 AM

Fired? Promoted

cmsinaz on February 18, 2014 at 9:12 AM

Didn’t your mother ever tell you that “honesty is the best policy”?

Flora Duh on February 18, 2014 at 8:53 AM

Nope. My mum told me I was too dumb to lie and to get use to telling the truth!

HonestLib on February 18, 2014 at 9:15 AM

SECTION 215 Program:

http://www.fas.org/irp/news/2013/06/nsa-sect215.pdf

canopfor on February 18, 2014 at 9:15 AM

Wouldn’t you love to see all these people rounded up and marched off to prison. Sadly we don’t have that kind of country.

crankyoldlady on February 18, 2014 at 9:17 AM

The infrastructure of tyranny.

cthemfly on February 18, 2014 at 9:21 AM

From a former NSA employee. NSA: “Secrecy is what we do.”

vnvet on February 18, 2014 at 9:22 AM

You should be in jail, dingleberry.

Akzed on February 18, 2014 at 9:23 AM

Nope. My mum told me I was too dumb to lie and to get use to telling the truth!

HonestLib on February 18, 2014 at 9:15 AM

:-) I was just reading your comment in the joblessness thread. You’re the real deal and a welcomed addition to HA.

Flora Duh on February 18, 2014 at 9:25 AM

Wouldn’t you love to see all these people rounded up and marched off to prison. Sadly we don’t have that kind of country.
crankyoldlady on February 18, 2014 at 9:17 AM

What do you mean we don’t have that kind of country? Obama has already imprisoned ONE filmmaker who made a parody video about islam (and stated “the future will not belong to those who slander the prophet of islam”) whom he blamed for Benghazi. He’s attempting to imprison ANOTHER filmmaker who DARED release a movie that wasn’t “praise and worship” of “himself”.

We are VERY MUCH becoming the kind of country where opponents of the Regime are censored and locked up just like they are in Venezuela and Russia.

ConstantineXI on February 18, 2014 at 9:26 AM

this crap is why so many were mad about the patriot act being passed.
and extended.
and extended…so on and so forth.

dmacleo on February 18, 2014 at 9:34 AM

I thought lying to congress was against the law. Didn’t a former president and sexual predator get impeached for lying to congress?

paulsur on February 18, 2014 at 9:35 AM

Why isn’t this guy in Jail? He lied to Congress and that is a federal offense. Scooter Libby was convicted supposedly for telling a lie. Why not this guy? Is there any truthful people in this corrupt administration?

regmgr on February 18, 2014 at 10:14 AM

And notice that no one’s been fired in this scandal, either.

Or prosecuted for his blatant perjury…

Most corrupt and duplicitous Administration ever…

Didn’t a former president and sexual predator get impeached for lying to congress?

paulsur on February 18, 2014 at 9:35 AM

Technically, it was committing perjury before the Grand Jury, not Congress.

Athos on February 18, 2014 at 10:16 AM

Why isn’t this guy in Jail? He lied to Congress and that is a federal offense. Scooter Libby was convicted supposedly for telling a lie. Why not this guy? Is there any truthful people in this corrupt administration?
regmgr on February 18, 2014 at 10:14 AM

A sore spot with me: Congress lies to the American People all the time, so does every other government institution. HOW can it be a crime to lie to the government but NOT a crime for government to lie to the People?

ConstantineXI on February 18, 2014 at 10:18 AM

MeanWhile,………………………

AT&T
4m
AT&T releases transparency report on what information it has provided to authorities upon request – @ATT
read more on about.att.com
===========================

Transparency Report
Introduction to this report

We take our responsibility to protect your information and privacy very seriously, and we pledge to continue to do so to the fullest extent possible and always in compliance with the law of the country where the relevant service is provided. Like all companies, we must provide information to government and law enforcement agencies to comply with court orders, subpoenas, lawful discovery requests and other legal requirements. We ensure that these requests are valid and that our responses comply with the law and our own policies.

This report provides specific information for all of 2013 regarding the number and types of demands to which we responded, with the exception of certain information that the U.S. Department of Justice allows us to report only for the first six months of 2013. In the future, we’ll issue reports on a semi-annual basis.

Our commitment to you

Interest in this topic has increased in the last year. As you might expect, we may make adjustments to our reporting processes and create ways to track forms of demands in the future. We’re committed to providing you with as much transparency and accuracy in this reporting as is possible. This includes:

Including new information as we are allowed by government policy changes.
Considering ways to enhance the detail provided in this report as we begin to track these demands consistent with what can be reported publicly.

The chart below includes hyperlinks to additional information on the category of data reported.
(More…)
=========

http://about.att.com/content/csr/home/frequently-requested-info/governance/transparencyreport.html

canopfor on February 18, 2014 at 10:18 AM

Pffftt…they only regret getting caught out…not what they did and are still doing.

merleliz on February 18, 2014 at 10:47 AM

Back when they started the patriot act a liberal friend of mine hysterically claimed they would be spying on all of us. I told her that they would have to have considerable manpower to spy on everyone and at that time they didn’t have enough people to spy on the bad guys even.

The difference now is they don’t need manpower. There are programs that can flag certain words and phrases so that if you aren’t careful what you say you could be in trouble. The whole thing needs to be scrapped and anyone misusing it should be arrested but nobody has the fortitude.

Funny how liberals are now ok with this. They may not realize they are also in danger.

crankyoldlady on February 18, 2014 at 11:07 AM

Go to Hades, and may your head freeze on the ice lake.

Schadenfreude on February 18, 2014 at 11:18 AM

And notice that no one’s been fired in this scandal, either.

Transparently so.

CPRforAmerica on February 18, 2014 at 11:21 AM

Clapper is a ticket-punching, suck up apparatchik.

He doesn’t care about anything but his career.

ajacksonian on February 18, 2014 at 11:46 AM

Clapper wants to keep the 215 program, and so does Barack Obama.

They want to keep using the IRS to oppress their political opponents and prevent them from organizing, too. They’re fascists.

FloatingRock on February 18, 2014 at 12:06 PM

Read it again – he’s not saying that “honesty is the best policy”.

What he’s ACTUALLY saying is – that in the immediate aftermath of 911 – we were all so scared that he could’ve gotten our “buy in” for any surveillance program he wanted to push.

HondaV65 on February 18, 2014 at 3:22 PM

Read it again – he’s not saying that “honesty is the best policy”.

What he’s ACTUALLY saying is – that in the immediate aftermath of 911 – we were all so scared that he could’ve gotten our “buy in” for any surveillance program he wanted to push.

HondaV65 on February 18, 2014 at 3:22 PM

This.

It’s scary to think about, isn’t it?

However, didn’t Justice Scalia JUST make a comment about exactly this a couple weeks ago and get derided for it??

Exactly.

Never let a crisis go to waste and all that. Thanks George Bush and Dick Cheney for wiping your asses with the constitution by the way.

KMC1 on February 18, 2014 at 4:43 PM

The lie is a problem because it shows you aren’t even following your own rules. Which means you’re a rogue agency.

Even if you think you’re protecting the public. You clearly feel you have a license to break any rule that is inconvenient… such as lying before congress.

The NSA needs a purge… at least of its leadership.

Karmashock on February 18, 2014 at 8:03 PM

There is no ‘rule of law’, anymore. Clapper would be in prison, if there was.
We have a two tiered justice system- one for the plutocrats and one for the rest of us.

Nape-wa-ste on February 18, 2014 at 11:36 PM

Clapper is a willing but incompetent liar. Anything he says now about the virtues of “transparency” is sure to be intentionally misleading. He is the very last person to have second-thoughts about his complicity in the abuse of state power.

virgo on February 19, 2014 at 12:33 AM