from the stupid-spoiled-Americans-and-their-rights dept
The Intercept, a site that regularly publishes classified documents, reports that the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, also publishes a classified internal blog -- called (serendipitously enough) the "Intercept."
It even offers a secret RSS feed so analysts will never miss a post. Clapper’s Intercept blog has no relationship to The Intercept, except that he hates pretty much everything we stand for.
In a blog post [PDF] obtained by The Intercept, Clapper responds to a redacted "constituent" in Nevada who -- two months prior to the first Snowden leak -- wants to reassure the Intelligence Community that Americans have far too many rights.
“If the american [sic] people are not willing to release some freedoms, they cannot blame the IC when they can’t stop” domestic terror attacks because of the intelligence agencies “having their hands tied by Law [sic] & policy,” the “constituent” wrote. He adds that Americans “cannot have your cake and eat it too,” and then offers what has become a dangerous cliche in the post-Snowden mentality of the intelligence community: “So if one has nothing to hide why would a little government watching for mass protection be such a big question.” The letter ends: “WE SUPPORT YOU.”
In his response to this outpouring of love for government overreach, James Clapper -- perhaps feeling he was writing for the "home team" -- dispenses with niceties about honest government employees doing their damndest to protect American civil liberties while still keeping the government safe from international terrorism.
Instead, he becomes an echo chamber.
I can't tell you how much I appreciate your letter… I say this on behalf of all the women and men in the Intelligence Community. In my view you have very accurately described the issue that the Boston Bombings represent! Just how small do the Americans want the holes in the security fish net to be?
Clapper has greatly overestimated his affinity with the rank-and-file of the IC, as the comments on his blog post attest.
The first two intelligence people to comment on his post took Clapper, and his “constituent,” to the woodshed. “I think it was inappropriate for DNI Clapper to respond in a way that indicates he agrees with the premise of the writer’s letter, namely, that government must expand its domestic “watching” and the people must give up “some ‘rights’ in the interest of the greater good,” one IC commenter posted. “The head of the US Intelligence Community — the business of which is foreign intelligence —should not be taking sides on matters of domestic intelligence policy.”
Another commenter wrote that, like Clapper, he agreed with the letter’s author about “the fact that it is impossible to defend 100% against these kinds of attacks given the restrictions placed on America’s security forces and the freedom and range of targets enjoyed by the attackers.” However, this commenter, who went by the name Wormy, warned against being “too quick to release your freedoms and “rights” in the name of security.”
The head of the intelligence community is at odds with his own underlings. Clapper and Gen. Keith Alexander have long been fans of unrestricted mass surveillance that helps the agency pursue its "collect it all" goals. Clapper has lied about the existence of surveillance programs and followed those lies up with spirited arguments against any narrowing of their scope.
Clapper apparently believes Americans can get by with fewer rights in exchange for security he can't possibly guarantee. And all to save the nation from something less likely to kill Americans than lightning strikes.
On the other hand, if these two commenters are more indicative of the attitudes of the bulk of the NSA's workforce, then Clapper's assertions about analysts' concern for protecting American civil liberties have been accurate. Of course, they would be accurate despite Clapper, not because of him. If the general NSA attitude was more aligned with his views on the rights v. security debate, Clapper's statements would have been identical. They just would have been less factual.