Now That The Intelligence Community Got Away With Lying, How Can You Trust Anything They Say?

from the there's-no-punishment dept

We’ve already discussed how Director of National Intelligence James Clapper flat out lied to Congress (and the American public) and gets away with it completely. While the Obama administration and other surveillance defenders have been almost universal in support for Clapper, despite his lying to Congress and the American public, this seems like a really bad strategy. As has been discussed, at the Black Hat conference, NSA director General Keith Alexander was heckled by someone who accused him of lying to Congress as well, perhaps confusing Alexander for Clapper or perhaps assuming that Alexander told lies another time.

But here’s the thing: given Clapper’s admitted lying combined with the complete lack of any direct consequences for doing so, there’s simply no reason at all to take anything that Clapper or Alexander says at face value. Alexander, especially, has been trying to go on a charm offensive to convince people that the press reports are exaggerated. He even “cursed” during his speech at Black Hat, and then pretended that it was by accident, and asked that it not be mentioned, trying to show how “honest” he was being. But all the charm in the world can’t overcome the simple fact that everyone knows that there appear to be no direct consequences for lying. Even if we want to believe him, it’s pretty difficult.

If the administration really wants to convince us that the surveillance programs are above board, it seems that keeping on an admitted liar to both Congress and the American public as the “face” of such programs isn’t a particularly intelligent idea. It just makes people that much less likely to believe anything that Clapper, Alexander or others say about the program in their attempts to defend it.

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Comments on “Now That The Intelligence Community Got Away With Lying, How Can You Trust Anything They Say?”

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Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Now That The Intelligence Community Got Away With Lying, How Can You Trust Anything They Say?

By not doing anything about the lying they continue to dig a deeper hole for themselves. There is an ever growing level of distrust, that is directed at the government. As long as they maintain the business as usual, “we are above the law” attitude it will increase.

MrPendent (profile) says:


Aren’t these guys spies? Isn’t the whole point of being a spy to lie? Why would anyone have trusted them in the first place?

And as far as “not doing anything about the lying”–what could they possibly do? I mean, how do you prove that you aren’t lying?

Note that I am not defending the NSA by any stretch. I just always assumed they were doing this kind of thing. What surprises me about it is that they were so stupid as to allow an IT contractor to gain access, and that they are so very bad at covering this kind of stuff up. I mean, if they can’t keep this kind of stuff from our politicians, they must just be spewing information at foreign operatives.

Anonymous Coward says:

You mean someone else has finally come to this same conclusion? Amazing.

This is exactly what I’ve been saying here off and on about you can’t believe anything you are being told about what the NSA is doing from the Executive branch, the security apparatus, the Intelligence committee, the FISA court, nor from congress supposedly having been in the know about all this from back in 1997. Hello!

The only solution that will once again provide trust in government is for a totally outside independent agent revealing just what is the truth in these matters and that’s not going to happen as long as they have any say in the matter.

The trust in government here has been totally shattered.

Anonymous Coward says:

Both Alexander and Clapper have lied to Congress

“General Keith Alexander was heckled by someone who accused him of lying to Congress as well, perhaps confusing Alexander for Clapper or perhaps assuming that Alexander told lies another time”

Gen. Alexander lied to Congress in 2012. Gen. Clapper lied to Congress in 2013.
In April 2012, William Binney said Alexander’s testimony was intentionally misleading if not blatantly lying. Snowden’s revelations confirmed that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Clapper was set up by Wyden’s game of political theater. Yes, I understand about Wyden’s prior expressions of concern given his access to security briefings, but he also well knew that asking this question in an open forum would box Clapper in and leave him no alternative that would avoid the disclosure, directly or indirectly, of classified information.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Two problems with that:

  1. How hard would it have been to say ‘That information is classified, but I can give it to you in private later on’?
  2. Clapper knew days in advance what questions were going to be asked, as they had been sent to him for review and so he would have his answers ready without having to dig for needed information, which means the fact that he still lied was very much deliberate, and not something caused by being ‘boxed in’ and not having answers ready.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Two problems with that:

To say a classified meeting would be needed is a disclosure, something that Clapper did not deem appropriate to admit in a public forum.

Yes, he knew a day in advance…but it is virtually impossible to say “no” to oversight committees that can influence whether or not your agency gets funded.

What Wyden did was squeeze Clapper in public, knowing full well there was nothing Clapper could do other than deny the activity asked about by Wyden.

Perhaps to persons like Manning and Snowden dealing with classified information in a public manner comes more easily, but it is obviously rare for such information to be treated as such. BTW, it is not that information is classified that concerns me. What does concern me is the manner by which determinations are made about who has a “need to know”. It is the latter by which dissemination is controlled.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Two problems with that:

… what?

Saying ‘that’s classified’, to the people supposed to be providing oversight to them, is ‘giving away too much information’? Saying simply ‘yes we do’, or ‘no we do not’ would provide vital intel to the public(otherwise known as the classified ‘enemy’ they refuse to name)?

Which magically makes lying to the people providing oversight acceptable?

Sorry, but if an agency is allowed to lie to the people who are supposed to provide oversight for them, then the entire idea of oversight is a complete and utter sham, nothing more than something to give an illusion of legitimacy to an agency that in reality has no real checks on what they are allowed to do.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Two problems with that:

Saying what you seem inclined to demand in a public forum is precisely the problem here that was visited upon Clapper. If he had said “yes”, the world…including those with interests inimical to the US…would have confirmed for their benefit that such activities were going on. If he had said “yes, but it is classified” the same confirmation would have occurred. In matters of state “plausible deniability” is quite important.

Besides, Wyden already knew the answer. He was just trying to get Clapper to admit it publicly, which is not a trivial matter.

If Wyden wanted the answer on the public record, there was nothing keeping him from doing so. But, heck, why not try and get Clapper to do Wyden’s dirty work?

Anonymous Coward says:

Alexander Lying Examples

“…perhaps confusing Alexander for Clapper or perhaps assuming that Alexander told lies another time.”

First Alexander said this in congressional testimony:

Then this was revealed 4 days later:

And now this has been revealed:

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