James Clapper Admits He Lied To Congress; His Punishment Will Likely Be A High Paying Private Sector Job

from the modern-politics dept

Greg Miller, at the Washington Post, has a great article discussing the government’s continued misinformation campaign over its surveillance activities, going back through history to point out that this is nothing new:

President George W. Bush at times engaged in similarly careful phrasing to defend surveillance programs in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. In 2004, while calling for renewal of the Patriot Act, Bush sought to assuage critics by saying “the government can’t move on wiretaps or roving wiretaps without getting a court order.”

At the time, it had not yet been publicly disclosed that Bush had secretly authorized NSA surveillance of communications between U.S. residents and contacts overseas while bypassing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

When the wiretapping operation was exposed in the news media two years later, Bush defended it as a program “that listens to a few numbers, called from outside of the United States, and of known al-Qaeda or affiliate people.” Subsequent revelations have made clear that the scope was far greater than his words would suggest.

He also discusses the way that defenders of the NSA’s surveillance program use things like redefining the word “target” — something we’ve been pointing out for a while now:

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.

“What I can say unequivocally is that if you are a U.S. person, the NSA cannot listen to your telephone calls and the NSA cannot target your e-mails,” Obama said in his June 17 interview on PBS’s “Charlie Rose Show.”

But even if it is not allowed to target U.S. citizens, the NSA has significant latitude to collect and keep the contents of e-mails and other communications of U.S. citizens that are swept up as part of the agency’s court-approved monitoring of a target overseas.

That said, what may be most interesting is the revelation that James Clapper has now admitted to lying to Congress, in responding to Ron Wyden’s questions:

In early June, after the NSA leaks had brought renewed attention to Clapper’s “No, sir,” Clapper cited the difficulty of answering a question about a classified program and said in an interview on NBC News that he had responded in the “least most untruthful manner.”

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.”

This is unbelievable on a variety of levels. First off, as Wyden made clear, his office had sent Clapper the question a day before the hearing so that he knew the question was coming. To argue that he was confused about the question is quite unbelievable. Furthermore, Senator Wyden claimed that: “after the hearing was over my staff and I gave his office a chance to amend his answer.” Clapper now says that his staff “acknowledged the error to Senator Wyden soon after the hearing,” but if that’s the case, it doesn’t appear that anyone else seems to know about this. Furthermore, if this were true, then wouldn’t Clapper have said this back in early June when people first started asking about those statements? But he did not. This sounds like after-the-fact rationalizations for lying to Congress and being called on it.

Similarly, Chris Soghoian rightly mocks Clapper for the claim that “mistakes will happen, and when I make one, I correct it,” by pointing out that Clapper appears to have left off a few important caveats to the end of that sentence: “3 months later, after a front-page scandal.”

On top of that, we’re talking about perjury, in lying to Congress. If other people perjure themselves, do they get to — many months later — go back and say “whoops, my bad” and get away with it?

Finally, when looked at in the context of Clapper’s previous answer that he gave the “least untruthful” answer to Wyden, in which he suggested that he fully understood the question, would that now compound the lies? Did he give the least untruthful answer to a complex question, or did he not understand the question. He’s now claimed both, and under either case, he seems to be continuing to lie, rather than answer honestly.

Unfortunately, it appears that Clapper is likely to get away with blatant lying to Congress as well, as experts are saying there’s almost no chance of prosecution in this case. Why? Well, in part because apparently everyone seems to accuse everyone else of lying to Congress so frequently that no one pays any attention to when it actually happens.

Liar-liar-pants-on-fire charges have become so ordinary and expected in Washington, that few pay serious attention to them. Such charges are understood as merely another weapon in the partisan’s arsenal.

But there is another reality about false statements to Congress. Lying is always easy to charge, but never easy to prove. Before anyone can be formally and criminally charged with lying to Congress, the committee before which the purported false testimony was given must vote to refer the matter to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia for prosecution.

Such votes are not easily nor lightly taken. Such a referral for prosecution cannot be based on a hunch or a hope; rather it requires solid evidence that one or more of the relevant statutes has been violated, along with supporting evidence.

That article also notes that there have been “less than a dozen successful prosecutions of witnesses testifying falsely before Congress.” Of course, in this case, unlike elsewhere, we have Clapper flat out admitting to lying to Congress. In fact, as the article notes above, Clapper’s admission shows that he violated three separate relevant laws. So the “proof” is a lot lower a burden. And yet, still nothing is likely to be done. As that article notes, the prosecutions tend to be around scandals that have pissed off Congress, and that doesn’t appear to the case here (ridiculously).

In other words, there’s almost certainly no punishment for lying to Congress, and the NSA and other intelligence officials have a long history of basically doing just that, knowing that there’s no harm in it. In fact, as that article notes, Clapper’s eventual “punishment” is likely to be that he leaves his current job to get a “much higher salary, as an executive in the private sector that provides most of America’s digital-intelligence operations.”

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Comments on “James Clapper Admits He Lied To Congress; His Punishment Will Likely Be A High Paying Private Sector Job”

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RD says:

One Law to Rule Them All (as long as they are serfs)

Once again, its “one rule for them, one rule for us” from our ruling class. And make no mistake, its a class. If you or I lied to a court, let alone Congress, we would be doing some amount of jail time and the book would be thrown at us. Keep watching this fiasco, we are going to see blatant High Court/Low Court action all throughout. The low-level guys like Snowden are going to be vilified and hung out to dry, while the high-level politicians will give themselves and their buddies a pass.

Not an Electronic Rodent (profile) says:

Re: Re: One Law to Rule Them All (as long as they are serfs)

A government that is truly of the people, by the people, and for the people has no ruling class.

“You’re fooling yourself. We’re living in a dictatorship. A self-perpetuating autocracy in which the working classes–“, “There you go, bringing class into it again.”

Couldn’t resist… seriously though the US, like other “democracies” very definitely has something that
can only be described as a “ruling class” – What would you call it when most of the politicians either do no “work” other than being a politician or sitting on the boards of various companies etc getting exorbitant wages for a few hours work?

RD says:

Re: Re: One Law to Rule Them All (as long as they are serfs)

“When did “ruling class” enter the lexicon of acceptable things to say about the American government?”

When? When it ceased to be a government of, by and for the people. When the elites and corporations started calling the shots in direct opposition to the will of the people. When they went from representing the people, to ruling them. Thats when.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: One Law to Rule Them All (as long as they are serfs)

Lately I have been wondering if the checks and balances in our government are off balance since term limits were placed on one branch and not simultaneously placed on the other two as well. A ten year limit of service in the legislative branch would go a long way in removing some of the corruption that has found it’s way into the halls of congress. Perhaps not all, but some.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: One Law to Rule Them All (as long as they are serfs)

There is a small chance that, that will not actually happen. If they would have been able to take him into custody immediately and stop him from leaking most of the information that he had, then that absolutely would have happened. It would have been one big stink that some people would have complained about before going right back to sleep allowing them to go back to business as usual. But as I have said before, they are deliberately releasing info a little at a time allowing the public to digest it as things come out and setting the government to discredit themselves further with every subsequent knee-jerk reaction to every published piece of information and as such public support for the government’s position is steadily eroding as support for Snowden is steadily growing.

Anonymous Coward says:

experts are saying

? experts are saying there’s almost no chance of prosecution in this case.

That link there points to an article by John Dean. The brief blurb at the bottom of that article says only:

John W. Dean, a Justia columnist, is a former counsel to the president.

The brief bio blurb could say a little more.

John Wesley Dean III?

? (born October 14, 1938) served as White House Counsel for United States President Richard Nixon from July 1970 until April 1973. In this position, he became deeply involved in events leading up to the Watergate burglaries and the subsequent Watergate scandal cover-up. He was referred to as the “master manipulator of the cover-up” by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). He pleaded guilty to a single felony count, in exchange for becoming a key witness for the prosecution. This ultimately resulted in a reduced prison sentence, which he served at Fort Holabird outside Baltimore, Maryland.?

The guy is an expert. No doubt about that.

Anonymous Coward says:

What needs to happen...

Congress needs to haul his and Alexander’s asses back into the Capitol Building for direct thorough questioning under oath AGAIN over these issues and their prior testimonies. This needs to be aired for the public and Congress needs to make sure they have plenty of law enforcement personel on hand to take them into custody for the crimes that are revealed in the process, including the perjury previously mentioned.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: What needs to happen...

Furthermore, it doesn’t HAVE to be referred to the USAG to move for them to take action. They can read the news like everyone else and find out what is going on then use some of that “prosecutorial discretion” that they are so famous and find out how many charges they want to bring against them. Let’s see some them pile on charges like obstruction of justice, civil rights violations, and treason to the list as well just like they would with anyone else. Maybe they can get them to accept plea deals.

Anonymous? says:

Re: So much for justice

Most of them are above the law, well established, well paid, protected and supported. Some will get high paying jobs and the rest will get multiple pensions and free healthcare benefits for the rest of their lives. They would not want to undermine the powers they have created by justice.
We are on a different level of society, our constitution became an illusion of controlled liberties.
We need new leaders to rise and help us take our country back.

RyanNerd (profile) says:

The least most untruthful manner

As to Clapper’s statements to Congress there is some difficulty in justifiably assigning to it the fourth of the epithets he applied to the statement, inasmuch as the precise correlation between the information Clapper communicated and the facts, insofar as they can be determined and demonstrated, is such as to cause epistemological problems, of sufficient magnitude as to lay upon the logical and semantic resources of the English language a heavier burden than they can reasonably be expected to bear.

Anonymous Coward says:

not bad! lie to the members of your government about what you and your agency is/can/will do and get thought of as the dogs danglies and have a job for life with a company that thinks that having you on board is the way to go, paying you handsomely at the same time. tell the world (including your own people) that it is being spied on continuously, and get made out to be the biggest threat to your country since the Sun came up, lose all rights to everything, including your right to have a country! i think there’s a problem with the way things are working!!

GARY DIETZ (user link) says:

The end of freedom

What Nixon did was and will be nothing compared to what’s coming. As technology evolves are freedoms will dissolve. Added to looking for terrorists,
will be threats to anyone who threatens the corruption and evil of who ever is in charge. Whistleblowers, Martin luther Kings, Journalists uncovering the truth,and members of congress and the Judiciary. Hitler and Stalin would be nothing compared to leaders who can and will be able to alter the balance of powers,through these advances.
Three branches of power must be kept not changed to one unchallenged power.
Clapper should not get away with his lying to congress, nor should anyone else
anymore.Even the President.

pegr (profile) says:

The simple truth

The simple truth is that James Clapper and John Brennan are traitors. They should be held to answer for their crimes. They should be subjected to a fair trial and, if found guilty, sentenced to prison.

But it won’t happen. Why? Because, through their traitorous actions, they have enough “dirt” on anyone and everyone who could hold them to account. People fear them out of self-interest.

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