James Clapper’s Double Super Secret Correction

Screen shot 2013-07-01 at 9.21.55 AMIf the Director of National Intelligence corrects a lie but nobody hears it, does it make a sound?

Greg Miller returns focus to James Clapper and Keith Alexander and President Obama’s lies that underscore why, at least for some of his leaks, Edward Snowden must count as a whistleblower. He reveals two new details about why Clapper is not headed for prison.

First, Clapper claims his staffers acknowledged to Wyden (presumably not in writing) his error after the Senator demanded a correction.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who had asked Clapper the question about information collection on Americans, said in a recent statement that the director had failed to clarify the remark promptly despite being asked to do so. Clapper disputed that in his note to the committee, saying his “staff acknowledged the error to Senator Wyden’s staff soon after the hearing.”

And then, more than two weeks after Snowden proved Clapper to be a liar (and 10 days after Wyden called for hearings for the Intelligence Committee to correct their disinformation), Clapper sent the Senate Intelligence Committee a letter apologizing for his “clearly erroneous” comment.

Acknowledging the “heated controversy” over his remark, Clapper sent a letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee on June 21 saying that he had misunderstood the question he had been asked.

“I have thought long and hard to re-create what went through my mind at the time,” Clapper said in the previously undisclosed letter. “My response was clearly erroneous — for which I apologize.” [my emphasis]

Miller also reveals that Clapper presented yet another explanation for why his lie wasn’t really a lie.

He made a new attempt to explain the exchange in his June 21 correspondence, which included a hand-written note to Wyden saying that an attached letter was addressed to the committee chairman but that he “wanted [Wyden] to see this first.”

Clapper said he thought Wyden was referring to NSA surveillance of e-mail traffic involving overseas targets, not the separate program in which the agency is authorized to collect records of Americans’ phone calls that include the numbers and duration of calls but not individuals’ names or the contents of their calls.

Referring to his appearances before Congress over several decades, Clapper concluded by saying that “mistakes will happen, and when I make one, I correct it.”

Note, this particular lie retreats to Administration claims that they no longer collect Internet metadata, at least no via Section 702 collection, at least as far as they’lll tell us.

Of course, that’s only been true (if it is in fact true) since 2011, for what that’s worth.

One thing Miller is missing in this otherwise laudable article is one more detail from Wyden: that he gave Clapper notice he was going to ask the question.

Clapper got the question for the test before taking it, and he still — he says — misunderstood it.

But of course that’s not what happened. The way Clapper has made false statements in public and then “acknowledged errors” in secret is all part of the game by which Clapper mostly sort of tells the truth to Congress, but continues to lie to the American people.

In other news, it has now been almost a week since, caught in another lie, the NSA took down their “Section 702 Protections” document, without replacing them with an accurate description of what  protections, if any, Americans have under Section 702.

Perhaps NSA has finally decided to start telling the truth?

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

11 replies
  1. omphaloscepsis says:

    Greg Miller:

    “Beyond inadvertent missteps, however, an examination of public statements over a period of years suggests that officials have often relied on legalistic parsing and carefully hedged characterizations in discussing the NSA’s collection of communications.

    Obama’s assurances have hinged, for example, on a term — targeting — that has a specific meaning for U.S. spy agencies that would elude most ordinary citizens.”

    cf. Humpty Dumpty in “Through the Looking Glass”:

    http://www.gutenberg.org/files/12/12-h/12-h.htm

    ” ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.’

    ‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you CAN make words mean so many different things.’

    ‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master—that’s all.’ ”

    And 140 or so years later, the question remains the same.

  2. Peterr says:

    Perhaps NSA has finally decided to start telling the truth?

    I don’t know if I’d go that far, Marcy. But perhaps they have decided to follow Clapper’s lead and be “least untruthful” in their comments.

    It’s one small step for a spook, but a giant leap for spook-kind.

  3. What Constitution? says:

    If I recall correctly, under section 1623(d) of the Federal Criminal Code (18 USC)perjury cannot be recanted by a witness after the falsity has become manifest. So to the extent the law applies to people like Mr. Clapper (if any), he’s still toast. “Boys will be boys” is for sentencing, not for exoneration.

  4. Frank33 says:

    General Clapper, another corrupt and lying General needs to resign immediately. Same as the other spymasters, he has failed to protect us from enemies, because he is making more enemies. And General Clapper lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. He provided false intelligence to create a war in Iraq. General Clapper is a war criminal.

    These rotten Generals, Clapper, Petraeus, Alexander, and probably the worst one Hayden, need to be put on trial for treason.

  5. P J Evans says:

    Perhaps NSA has finally decided to start telling the truth?

    Not before we have flying pigs. And sparkly unicorns.

  6. C says:

    @omphaloscepsis: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again you can ‘target’ with an arrow or a hand grenade. That’s why Wyden’s unanswered question is so important.

  7. thatvisionthing says:

    Love the NSA screenshot at the top of the page – Section 702 protections – “it seems you have experienced an error”

    Well that’s intelligent. Hal.

  8. thatvisionthing says:

    @Frank33:

    Headline today on MichaelMoore.com: Let’s Stop Screwing Around and Impeach James Clapper.

    Links to David Sirota’s article on Salon: James Clapper is still lying to America.

    Subheadline at Michael Moore:

    DO SOMETHING:
    Call the White House at 202 456-1111 and Tell Obama to Get Rid of Clapper
    …and mention that if he won’t impeach Clapper, we could always impeach him

    Thing of beauty. Wish we could embed screenshots in comments.

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