Clock Runs Out On Perjury Charges For James Clapper, Ensuring He Won't Be Punished For Lying To Congress

from the skating-by-on-DOJ-indifference dept

It almost seems like half a lifetime ago, but only a half-decade has passed since James Clapper lied to Ron Wyden about the NSA's domestic collections. Wyden pointedly asked Clapper during an intelligence committee hearing whether or not the NSA was collecting "any type of data at all" on American citizens. Clapper gave two answers, both untrue: "No, sir" and "Not wittingly."

A couple of months later, the first Snowden leak -- detailing massive amounts of call data being captured in the Section 215 dragnet -- undid Clapper's careful, under-oath lies. Since then, nothing has happened. The DOJ refused to investigate Clapper for lying to his oversight. Clapper exited office a few years later, becoming a go-to national security expert for a variety of news programs. He has since offered a variety of excuses for lying, but none of them are particularly good.

As of March 12, the clock has run on perjury charges. James Clapper has violated federal law and gotten away with it.

Clapper, director of national intelligence from 2010 to 2017, admitted giving “clearly erroneous” testimony about mass surveillance in March 2013, and offered differing explanations for why.

Two criminal statutes that cover lying to Congress have five-year statutes of limitations, establishing a Monday deadline to charge Clapper, who in retirement has emerged as a leading critic of President Trump.

Some members of Congress had called for charges to be brought against Clapper, but they seemed based more on Republicans' newfound distrust for the "Deep State" than an honest desire to see a federal lawbreaker brought to justice. One of the reps, however, has held steady in his calls for Clapper's prosecution for the entirety of the last half-decade: James Sensenbrenner.

"Political consideration should not affect the Department of Justice from pursuing this matter,” Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., said ahead of the deadline. “Complete and truthful testimony is imperative for Congress to conduct effective oversight. It is clear from the evidence and Director Clapper’s own admission that he lied.

Both the DOJ and James Clapper have refused to comment on the issue. Presumably, both entities are happy the deadline came and went without further development. The "no comment" responses allow both to avoid discussion of the DOJ double standards. But this non-prosecution shouldn't pass without notice.

Jesselyn Radack, a defense attorney who represents Snowden and fellow NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake, however, takes a dim view of Clapper being let off the hook.

“It shows that government officials in positions of power can lie with impunity to Congress and the American people about outrageous abuses, but when ordinary citizens like Reality Winner reveal the truth about the same abuses, they face espionage charges and prison," Radack said, referring to the NSA contractor charged last year for sending the Intercept a report on Russian attempts to hack election systems.

Most people who lie to Congress won't have the luxury of exiting their current positions gracefully before popping in cable newsrooms all over the nation. But Clapper is one of the special ones -- the ones who won't be held accountable because the government takes care of its own, especially when dubious, Congress-approved surveillance programs are in the mix.


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  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 15 Mar 2018 @ 3:37am

    High court, low court. Justice is for the ignorant folk.

    US Executive branch is out of control and both the legislative and the judiciary lack the spines to rein it in.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    discordian_eris (profile), 15 Mar 2018 @ 3:56am

    Honestly, did anyone expect anything different? Neither Obama nor Trump had the stones to do anything. Both love their illegitimate spy programs too much to rock the boat. So much for the “most transparent administration in history” and "drain the swamp".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Mar 2018 @ 6:58am

      Re:

      Martha Stewart was put in prison by James Comey for her small lapse in memory, the same James Comey who later opted to forgive Hillary Clinton's blatant lawbreaking.

      Former IRS official Lois Lerner is another one who needed to be prosecuted but ended up getting off scot free. But just as Obama refused to prosecute any of the Bush-era officials, Trump will also turn a blind eye to lawbreaking in the previous administration.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 15 Mar 2018 @ 11:15am

        Re: Re:

        Your examples pale in comparison to those who destroyed the world economy while stealing billions, and they skated all the way to their offshore bank accounts where they pay no taxes.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Hero, 15 Mar 2018 @ 7:35am

      Re:

      First off, James Clapper didn't lie. He just told an "alternative truth".

      Similarly, Bush administration officials didn't waterboard people, they just provided thirsty folks with "alternative hydration".

      It's not that "Neither Obama nor Trump had the stones to do anything". It's that Obama and Trump have "alternative testicles".

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Mar 2018 @ 4:23am

    I know he is the worst kind of thief, a liar.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 15 Mar 2018 @ 5:33am

    You mean "clock runs out"?

    "Clock runs" sounds weird.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Mar 2018 @ 6:38am

      Re: You mean "clock runs out"?

      Maybe including that three letter word in the title would have exceeded Techdirt's [recently reduced?] character limit?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Mar 2018 @ 7:00am

    Americans love liars and hypocrites.

    The bigger and better the liar, the better. If you're a really good one, you might even get to be President.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Mar 2018 @ 8:08am

    Equal protection under the law

    Did we repeal that as well as the 4th Amendment?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    tom (profile), 15 Mar 2018 @ 8:32am

    Charges would have meant a trial. A trial means defense attorneys demanding disclosure of evidence. Such evidence would almost assuredly shown the depth of government surveillance of US citizens along with orders to keep such surveillance secret. Orders that originated from 'Top Men'. Can't have that so no charges.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Mar 2018 @ 9:01am

    Tame Article Title, must not be about Trump

    If this were a Trump appointee, TechDirt would be making snide attacks at Trump throughout the article. Not one mention of Obama here.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Toom1275 (profile), 15 Mar 2018 @ 10:44am

      Re: Tame Article Title, must not be about Trump

      Trump specifically selects his appointees for their complete incompetence and/or their deep-seated hatred of Americans, which means that when those traits become relevant, so does he. The situation is pretty much unique to Trump, so of course that will be reflected in news coverage.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Mar 2018 @ 11:17am

      Re: Tame Article Title, must not be about Trump

      Please explain, in your own words, how this is Obama's fault.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Mar 2018 @ 11:53am

      Re: Tame Article Title, must not be about Trump

      Don't worry, we can always rely on the tone police to bring up Obama.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Mar 2018 @ 11:36pm

      Re: Tame Article Title, must not be about Trump

      Obama's no longer in office. Get over it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Mar 2018 @ 1:34pm

    We're all in Deep State

    The Dems have selective memory (aka Alzheimer's -- e.g., DiFi & Nancy).

    When the Repubs are in power, ubiquitous surveillance and waterboarding are impeachable offenses.

    When the Dems are in power, ubiquitous surveillance and drone murders are just fine.

    Clapper merely made a "Kinsley gaffe".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Mar 2018 @ 5:35pm

    Benedict Arnold never got his day in court - Thats why we all remember his name. James Clapper will die knowing he never really got away with what he did to the citizens.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Mar 2018 @ 5:25am

    It's fine when James Clapper lies to congress under oath, but don't you even try to share a copyrighted song.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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