Apparently the US intelligence community has decided that they should start trying to totally rewrite the history of two of its top officials directly lying to Congress. First up: Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper. This lie is the famous one, in which while testifying before Congress, Senator Ron Wyden engaged in this exchange:
Wyden: Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?
Clapper: No sir.
Wyden: It does not?
Clapper: Not wittingly. There are cases where they could, inadvertently perhaps, collect—but not wittingly.
At first, Clapper denied lying
, saying he merely misunderstood the question, and thought it was about "voyeuristically" poring through emails. But the question is pretty explicit: "any type of data at all." Later, Clapper changed his story to claim that he did understand the question, but was taken off guard by it and gave "the least untruthful answer"
he could. At that point, Wyden pointed out that he had actually given Clapper the questions a day earlier
and then reached out to his office after to confirm that his answers were accurate, leaving Clapper plenty of opportunity to correct his error -- but Clapper did not. At that point, Clapper finally admitted he had lied
and gave a semi-apology to Wyden, saying: "mistakes will happen, and when I make one, I correct it."
Except, now, over a year later, Clapper is back to denying that he lied
. Before a "friendly" audience of defense and intelligence contractors (one of the questions to him started out, "You have a very supportive private sector in front of you..."), Clapper again pretended that he never lied to Congress at all. Even worse, he did so while introducing new "principles of professional ethics" for the intelligence community, and arguing that he did so because of the awful situation he endured when he was falsely accused of lying:
“When I got accused of lying to congress because of a mistake ... I had to answer on the spot about a specific classified program in a general, unsecure setting.”
Except, almost none of that is true. It wasn't on the spot. Wyden gave him the questions a day earlier. He didn't have to answer the question (before and since that questioning, Clapper and others have responded to nearly identical questions by saying they could only give details in a classified setting). And, again, Wyden gave Clapper a chance to correct the answer via a letter, and Clapper stood by the original letter. In other words, he lied. He flat out lied. And then he stood by it afterwards when he had a chance to correct the lie. And now he's lying about the lying. Oh, and as for the new "ethics" principles? 1) mission; 2) truth; 3) lawfulness; 4) integrity; 5) stewardship; 6) excellence; and 7) diversity.
And just to add to this mess, Clapper also claimed that the intelligence community has not been shown to have violated the law
. That's also flat out false. Both a federal judge
and the federal government's privacy and civil liberties oversight board
(PCLOB) found the program unconstitutional and illegal.
Moving on, we've got CIA director John Brennan. After the big mess with Senator Dianne Feinstein accusing the CIA
of spying on Senate staffers, Brennan tried to deny it
(while his denials more or less confirmed the facts). However, he specifically told reporters
"Let me assure you the CIA was in no way spying on [the Senate Intelligence Committee] or the Senate."
He also claimed that "when the facts come out on this," those who claimed that there was "spying" by the CIA "will be proved wrong." Fast forward a few months and the CIA's Inspector General confirmed everything in Feinstein's story
, leading Brennan to apologize to Feinstein. In fact, the full CIA report revealed that the spying was even worse
than Feinstein initially detailed.
And... guess what? Brennan is now denying he lied
. At the very same conference he pulled a "who, me?" routine:
"Thwart the investigation? Hacking in? We did not."
Note that he's parsing words carefully. He's focusing on "thwarting the investigation" and "hacking" in -- though that depends on your definition of hacking. Under the DOJ's definition, what the CIA did was clearly hacking. It's why Senators Wyden and Udall asked Brennan about whether or not the US hacking statute, the CFAA, applied to the CIA
. Because the CIA clearly was unauthorized to access the Senate staffers' network, based on a previous fight with the Senate Intelligence Committee, as detailed by Feinstein when she revealed the details:
Per an exchange of letters in 2009, then-Vice Chairman Bond, then-Director Panetta, and I agreed in an exchange of letters that the CIA was to provide a “stand-alone computer system” with a “network drive” “segregated from CIA networks” for the committee that would only be accessed by information technology personnel at the CIA—who would “not be permitted to” “share information from the system with other [CIA] personnel, except as otherwise authorized by the committee.”
Yet, now Brennan is twisting the story, to say that there was no hacking because they were the CIA's computers all along:
On Thursday, he pointed out the computers technically belonged to the CIA, even though they had been partitioned to create private work space for the Senate staffers.
There was more hairsplitting when he explained his apology. “I apologized then to them for any improper access that was done, despite the fact that we didn’t have a memorandum of understanding.”
Again, that directly contradicts reality. We'll see if Feinstein decides to respond to all of this, but Senator Wyden already has with a bit of internet slang in this hilarious tweet
If you can't see it, that's Wyden's press office linking to one of these stories, saying "smh" which is internet shorthand for "shaking my head."