J. D. Heyes
June 18, 2013
The tortured logic and pained explanations (and justifications) being given by top government officials and lawmakers in the wake of the disclosure that the National Security Agency snoops on every American is as astounding as it is pathetic. But then again, they are being made by people who are a) offended that you and I would dare question their conduct and intent; and b) don’t think we have the right to do so in any case.
This Big Government arrogance was epitomized by the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), James Clapper, who recently sought to “clarify” his previous false testimony to a congressional panel that the NSA does not collect metadata and other personal information on Americans. In an interview with NBC News‘ Andrea Mitchell, he said that during his testimony he gave the “least untruthful” answer possible in regards to the NSA’s surveillance program.
On March 12, during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, Clapper was asked by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., if the NSA gathers “any type of data at all on millions of Americans.”
“No, sir,” said Clapper, “not wittingly. There are cases where they could inadvertently perhaps collect, but not wittingly.”
The ‘Dewey Decimal’ excuse
That answer contradicts revelations contained in an explosive story published in early June by The Guardian, a British newspaper, based on details provided by NSA employee Edward Snowden, who blew the whistle on the agency’s massive domestic spying. But during the NBC News interview, Clapper parsed his earlier claim, saying Wyden’s very simple question did not have a very simple answer.
“I thought, though in retrospect, I was asked – ‘When are you going to start – stop beating your wife’ kind of question, which is meaning not – answerable necessarily by a simple yes or no,” Clapper said in the interview, which aired June 9. “So I responded in what I thought was the most truthful, or least untruthful, manner by saying ‘no’.”
Further, Clapper said his remarks were reflective of his definition of “collection” – which he said means something very specific in the context of discussing intelligence.
“What I was thinking of is looking at the Dewey Decimal numbers – of those books in that metaphorical library – to me, collection of U.S. persons’ data would mean taking the book off the shelf and opening it up and reading it,” he said.
Is Clapper being advised by former President Bill Clinton? “Well, that depends on with the definition of ‘is’ is,” Clinton – the artful (draft) dodger – once said during his impeachment saga.
For his part, Wyden isn’t playing the word game.
In a statement issued June 11, the Oregon senator said he gave Clapper his question in advance, giving the DNI plenty of notice and every chance in the world to give a “straight answer” to a very straightforward question.
“So that he would be prepared to answer, I sent the question to Director Clapper’s office a day in advance. After the hearing was over my staff and I gave his office a chance to amend his answer,” Wyden said. “Now public hearings are needed to address the recent disclosures and the American people have the right to expect straight answers from the intelligence leadership to the questions asked by their representatives.”
Clapper’s lie was quantified by the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein of California, who “said Clapper is one of the most honest people she knows and suggested he misunderstood the question,” according to the Washington Post.
Defending the indefensible
Sure. The director of national intelligence is too stupid to understand a simple question that was provided to him well in advance of his testimony. Don’t you find it offensive that these people think you’re stupid enough to believe that?
Make no mistake – Clapper, President Obama, Feinstein and the growing chorus of Democrats, Republicans and political appointees who are defending the NSA despise those of us who are now trying to hold them accountable. They don’t for one second believe that we have the right to insist upon their accountability, or question their motives, or hold them to the same standards in which they hold us.
They truly believe they are above reproach and that We, the People, are neither smart enough, nor are in any position to question them. What’s more, they believe what they are doing is both justified and proper, despite the fact that neither the law nor the Constitution they swore to uphold gives them the authority they exercise.
Welcome to post-constitutional America, where right is wrong, wrong is right, and the ruling class can barely contain its contempt for you and me.
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This article was posted: Tuesday, June 18, 2013 at 9:42 am