Last Friday, President Obama held a press conference at the White House to discuss the reform of Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the section under which the NSA justified its mass surveillance of millions of Americans. During the address, Obama said “we can and must be more transparent,” he also stated that he didn’t think Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower who exposed the NSA’s spying network, was a patriot.
Obama has now appointed who will head up the Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technology, as the group has been called. And he has chosen the man who lied to a Congressional committee about the NSA spying on millions of Americans, Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper.
In June, Clapper sat before a U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, led by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and outright lied under questioning. During the questioning, Wyden asked “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” Clapper offered the quick, two-word response of “No sir.”
However, as he was stroking his head almost nervously, he waffled, altering his affirmed denial to “not wittingly. . . There are cases where they could.” Days after the panel hearing, Clapper said that the simple, close-ended question was “loaded.”
The following month, in July, Clapper issued an apology for making a “clearly erroneous” statement, which is just a pretty way to say he lied. Clapper further said “While my staff acknowledged the error to Senator Wyden’s staff soon after the hearing, I can now openly correct it because the existence of the metadata collection program has been declassified.”
As if Clapper had a choice? He could only “openly correct” the lie because Edward Snowden had to do it for him, had it not been for the leaks, Clapper would have sat through panel hearing after panel hearing and lied through his teeth each and every time.
It’s baffling, or maybe not so, that Obama would make this pick to oversee the country’s intelligence reform. Baffling because it’s a like hiring a 20-year smoker to oversee someone’s physical fitness, but not surprising as Obama supported the spying program.