“It’s Tough on My Family:” A Tale of Two Teachers

“It’s tough on my family,” James Clapper said in an interview with the Daily Beast of observations he’s a liar. Especially his son, who is a high school teacher (though Clapper didn’t explain why his profession led his son to internalize accusations made against him).

The charges against his integrity bother Clapper. “I would rather not hear that or see that,” he said. “It’s tough on my family, I will tell you that. My son is a high school teacher and he has a tendency, or he is getting over it, to internalize a lot of this.”

And yet this man who thinks it unfair to question a public servant’s integrity after he lies blatantly, who has no idea why Edward Snowden did what he did, why he leaked proof that the NSA was collecting the phone records of most Americans, why Snowden leaked evidence of bulk collection (that includes Americans) overseas, why he leaked details on the NSA’s corruption of encryption.

Which made me think of a different teacher, Zaimah Abdur-Rahim, one of the plaintiff’s in the suit Judge William Martini dismissed last week.

Abdur-Rahim taught at the girls school surveilled by the NYPD — the school, which was accredited by the state of NJ — was actually in her home — and now teaches at another of the schools scoped out by the cops.

Zaimah Abdur-Rahim resides at [address removed]. She is currently a math teacher at Al Hidaayah Academy (“AHA”), a position she has held since 2010. A record of the NYPD’s surveillance of AHA appears in the Newark report, which includes a photograph and de scription of the school . Abdur-Rahim was also the principal of Al Muslimaat Academy (“AMA”), a school for girls grades five through twelve, from 2002 through 2010. Like AHA, a record of the NYPD’s surveillance of AMA appears in the Newark report, including a photograph, the address, and notations stating, among other things, that the school was located in a private house and that the ethnic composition of the school was African American.

Abdur-Rahim has been unfairly targeted and stigmatized by the NYPD’s surveillance of AHA, where she is currently employed, and AMA, where she was last employed, as part of the Department’s program targeting Muslim organizations. She reasonably fears that her future employment prospects are diminished by working at two schools under surveillance by law enforcement. Moreover, the Newark report’s photograph of AMA is also Abdur-Rahim’s home, where she has lived since 1993 with her husband and, at various times, her children and grandchildren. The fact that a photograph of h er home appears on the internet in connection with the NYPD’s surveillance p rogram that the City of New York has since publicly exclaimed is necessary for public safety, has decreased the value of the home and diminished the prospects for sale of the home.

I’m betting that having her home and places of work surveilled by the cops is tough on Abdur-Rahim’s family, far tougher than it is for Clapper’s son to internalize complaints by the citizens he serves about the demonstrable obfuscation by his father.

There is no evidence that the NSA programs defended by Clapper ever specifically targeted Abdur-Rahim, though in this era of information sharing it is conceivable that NYPD identified potential targets (especially mosques) using data obtained indirectly from NSA.

But the entire system Clapper defends — in which communication ties between individuals serve, by themselves, as cause for further investigation — foments a logic that questions the integrity of great many members of the Muslim community. They get swept up in a dragnet (or exposed to infiltrators selected in part by using the dragnet) that targets them not because of what they said publicly in front of television cameras, which is why Clapper’s integrity is under question, but simply because they are 2 or 3 degrees away from someone subjected to a virtual stop-and-frisk.

Imagine how the sons and daughters of the real live teachers targeted by Clapper’s dragnet must internalize the presumption of a lack of integrity or even worse? Imagine how much worse it must be when the suspicion comes not from actual actions taken, lies told, but from ties to a community?

Clapper’s plea for his own reputation here is ill-placed. It actually convinces me we’re relying on the wrong evidence for questioning his integrity.

Because his actions, particularly over the past 4 years, involved questioning the integrity of many people based on far, far less evidence than is now being wielded against him. But when he and his employees at the National Counterterrorism Center question someone’s integrity, in secret, with little recourse for appeal, there may be consequences, like losing the ability to fly, or receiving extra scrutiny when they do try to fly.

And he still doesn’t get the problem with that. He still doesn’t understand why his “so-called” domestic surveillance –and the foreign surveillance that also sucks up Americans — is so much worse than being held to account for lies you tell Congress.

9 replies
  1. C says:

    Very interesting EW.

    Clearly one of the problems with the press and with the governance is that they agree with Clapper that his son’s mood is news but that the feelings of Zaimah Abdur-Rahim are not. I suspect that it is the same with people like DiFi and Rogers. They have been in DC long enough for Clapper to be their guy and for Snowden or Manning to be the outsider. It would be nice if they took the feelings of their constituents more seriously than that of their DC buddies but I guess not.

    On a side note Moyers and Company had an interesting piece on the “Deep State” which you may find interesting: http://billmoyers.com/episode/the-deep-state-hiding-in-plain-sight/

  2. What Constitution? says:

    Clapper’s present “predicament”, which he complains causes him concern and which he purports not to understand, is completely and entirely both predictable and is traceable directly to his own dishonesty. And, as he himself described it in that Daily Beast interview, it plainly is rooted in his own unconstitutional prioritization of his own subjective assumptions of how to “protect the nation” instead of any recognition on his part that the “oath” he and “these people” took compels respect for the Constitution when conducting subsidiary (and even “important”) business like protecting the “nation”.

    What Snowden did was nothing less than exercise conscience in furtherance of the principles of the Constitution. That exercise of conscience was to reveal intricacies of illegal programs devised by Clapper and others to be concealed from the country, and which plainly contravene the Constitution and even the laws enacted to meet perceived threats. Clapper’s very structure was and is dependent upon lies, and it is not “incidental” that Clapper lied to Congress when confronted, it was and is integral to the scheme. That somebody like Snowden ultimately would reveal materials demonstrating the falsity of the Top Dogs’ deceit was not just poetic justice, it was flatly inevitable in a country that possesses a Constitution such as ours. Clapper himself has admitted as much over the past two weeks in musing that “on further reflection” just maybe this could all have been handled more openly from the outset — and while he and his handlers have tried to spin that admission to make it look like this is some sort of “change of heart” which merits sympathy and acceptance (and yields the kind of interview and “explanations” exhibited in today’s Daily Beast piece), the simple and obvious fact is that Clapper is only trying to deflect attention from the fundamental illegality and fundamental dishonesty that is at the core of (and provides the cover for) the years of illegality which Snowden revealed.

    If somebody, anybody, had respected the oath to defend the Constitution, the chances of our being fourteen years into the post-9/11 Orwellian nightmare would have dramatically been reduced, and it provides neither solace nor cover for Clapper to wonder whether he might have been able openly to achieve the same things “if only he had asked”. He didn’t ask, he did it and he lied about it. And everybody understands that the hardest story consistently to repeat is one premised on lies, because it’s harder to remember the lies to keep the story straight. So Snowden got fed up and was in a position to do something about it. Think about that — it’s going to happen eventually, which is a damn good reason to obey the law and the Constitution. Right? Snowden didn’t make this shit up, Snowden factually dispelled controlling falsity as propagated and perpetuated by this man, Clapper — the guy whining that his son is affected by Dad having been disgraced. How about the rest of us?

  3. Greg Bean (@GregLBean) says:

    A felon is frustrated he is exposed in front of people he cares about.

    Why is this news?

    If I were his son I would be more embarrassed by the fact that I was being used like Nixon’s dog, and that the old man was not only a felon, but gutless to boot.

  4. Peterr says:

    You could take the last two paragraphs end of the Daily Beast piece, make a few minor edits, and it reads pretty much the same:

    And maybe the worst part for Clapper Snowden is, he still doesn’t get why Snowden Clapper did it. Clapper Snowden sees himself as the man who’s opened up the intelligence community to public scrutiny, who keeps the Constitution on his wall in his mind, and who’s endured the endless congressional grillings pursuit by government agencies—all while keeping Americans the Constitution safe informed. How could Snowden Clapper, a fellow intelligence analyst and contractor leader, not see that? “Maybe if I had I’d understand him better because I have trouble understanding what he did or what he’d do,” the director former contractor said. “From my standpoint, the damage he’s done. I could almost accept it or understand it if this were simply about his concerns about so-called domestic surveillance programs. But what he did, what he took violated, what he has exposed lied about, goes way, way, way beyond the so-called domestic surveillance programs.”

    For now Clapper Snowden says he does not mind carrying around so many secrets. Like every intelligence professional he says it’s what he does not know that keeps him up at night. But nonetheless Clapper Snowden still is pained at all the secrets he has seen revealed illegal spying he has seen conducted. “It’s gut wrenching for me to see so much of this so casually exposed undertaken,” he said. “It’s terrible.”

    Both Clapper and Snowden faced choices about how to act, and both made decisions that are mirror images of each other — 180 degrees apart.

  5. Bill Jones says:

    Clappers son’s main regret must surely be that he has the sniveling treasonous genes of a perjuring father.

  6. bmaz says:

    @Bill Jones: Clapper is NOT a perjurer, at least not to Congress as commonly claimed (he may have in formal declarations/affidavits in court actions.

    This is a common meme that just won’t die. Perjury requires sworn statements, and Dianne Feinstein did not (and never does with senior officials at SSCI) swear Clapper in that day. So, the crime Clapper is guilty of is false statements under 18 USC 1001, which is also a federal felony. But it is not perjury.

  7. Nigel says:

    v. intr.

    To complain or protest in a childish fashion about a (wholly justified) accusation of lying.

    (Hence the noun, clapper.)

  8. What Constitution? says:

    @bmaz: Clapper’s false statements before Congress do not constitute “perjury” under the federal perjury statute (18 USC 1621), that’s true — and it’s also true that making false statements before Congress is a separate felony under 18 USC 1001. This doesn’t help Clapper, however, because while “perjury” can be recanted under provisions described in 18 USC 1623(d), “there is no safe harbor for recantation or correction of a prior false statement that violates Section 1001.” Indeed, it’s kind of interesting perhaps that the foregoing quote is taken directly from a Congressional Research Service publication dated January 28, 2014 titled “Perjury Under Federal Laws: A Sketch of the Elements” — which notes that it is being published now as a shorter iteration of a more lengthy piece written quite a few years back. In short, it looks like somebody in Congress may have asked to have the research updated — and the result confirms that Clapper’s lies are, in fact, felonies that can’t be wriggled out of as “easily” as they might have been had they been considered “perjury”.

    And that is as it should be, because governmental officials charged with running programs like these should not be lightly suffered to lie to Congress about what they’re doing behind the curtain when Congress calls them to report so that Congress can fulfill its oversight functions.

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