Did Intelligence Director Clapper Lie About Spying?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

National Security Agency (NSA) (Chris Hardie/flickr)

Fred Kaplan, War Stories columnist for Slate and author of The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War, discusses statements by National Intelligence Director James Clapper about the extent of electronic surveillance, and whether he lied under oath. Plus, what Edward Snowden's latest disclosure, to a Chinese newspaper, means for his credibility and legal status.

Comments [30]


What amazes me is the way everyone takes things at face value. People are making a lot of assumptions about what this guy could do based on his job description and age. Wake up, "Systems Analyst" is code for a hacker, and we are talking about a Government hacking operation here. Young men are being recruited or coerced into these jobs weekly, by hood or by crook. There is surreal footage of General Alexander trying to "legitimately" recruit at the DefCon Hacker Conference last year if you want to check it out online for yourself. If Snowden is legit, then he was probably caught doing something illegal, and subsequently coerced into government hacking, and he is now getting his revenge. Alternatively, based on what seems an amusingly contrived back-story, he could still be working for the CIA, obviously hoping to plant him in China or Russia or create a smokescreen for who knows what else may be going on right now.

Anyway, this is just indulging in Media sidetracking. The real issue, still being ignored, is the technology and the fact that we cannot trust these people, be they government or private behemoths to behave ethically. We need a vast overhaul of the legislation concerning devices, operating systems, data collection etc. We need to open up these damn companies to independent inspectors, and international bodies need to be convened to create international agreements and laws. And we need to take all of Google's "doing evil" money and put it in our education system so at least our children will understand what the hell is going on.

And it's not even a matter of privacy. We fundamentally need to define just exactly who OWNS what, then we can decide about legitimate access. We need to redefine devices so they have the same status as one's home. None of these companies could have existed without reaping the benefit of billions of tax payer dollars in the research and development that underpins their technology, and all we get in exchange is skyrocketing costs in higher education, our schools and libraries being closed, and having to RENT our software from Adobe Cloud, our "books" off Kindle, our "albums" off iTunes, etc etc. This is the way everything is heading. It's a perverse Marxism being practised by the new Corporate Welfare Queens: all property is theft, unless you happen to own the company. I'm sick and tired of watching us all being turned into digital serfs, waiting for the day our grandkids end up being turned into Soylent Green.

Jun. 13 2013 06:04 PM


If you have been around IT for that long, you should have had the opportunity to experience how quickly things go wrong when an organization outsources core functions to consulting firms.

Jun. 13 2013 10:57 AM
Stephan from Queens NY

I just love this stuff. I have been in computing for over 40 years. Started out with the IBM punch cards and paper tapes to run my programs. Now we have every one weigh in on a SA that says he can do this and do that from his work station. Just know how to get around MS Word or how to change the setting on your hand held computer (your cell phone) does not make the masses expert on computers. I worked at Citibank as an SA and was not allowed to gain access to critical systems without giving up my first born. So if this guy can do what he stated he can do then banks like Citi is much more secure than the NSA. And I don’t think So…. As a SA that also worked a Lockheed in Mountain View CA, I can say this guy is taking us for a ride. This Snowden is just another rogue disgruntled SA that unfortunately he worked with secret stuff, but I have seen guys like him (in the private sector) many time at various companies.

Jun. 13 2013 10:48 AM
Amy from Manhattan

john from office, unfortunately, there are many cops on the corners, lawyers, & even moms & dads who can't be trusted. Most, I hope, can, but you can't assume that's true of any 1 individual.

Jun. 13 2013 10:45 AM
Vlad from Central. NJ

@Jenna from Hamilton Heights

Snowden revealed himself to protect himself from being " disappeared" ... Which could happen if he remained anonymous.

Jun. 13 2013 10:42 AM

Snowden in an IT guy. In his world, 'authority' is synonymous with 'access' or 'capability'. He was not necessarily saying that accessing the records of a citizen was in his job description - just that he was the ability to do it.

Also, I think that by broadening his disclosures to include external spying activities, he is throwing away his chance to be considered a legitimate whistleblower.

Jun. 13 2013 10:37 AM

Chris Pyle, Whistleblower on CIA Domestic Spying in 70s, Says Be Wary of Attacks on NSA’s Critics
Please listen to Amy Goodman's interview of Chris Pyle for his assessment of the state of our surveillance society today. His amazing story and his knowledge of today will cut through all the chatter and get to the heart of our problem today. We are in trouble if we do not pay attention to how far our country has been driven from its principles as a result of money.
Please do listen if you care. It's really simple when you understand how tied up we are in this nation by money in politics. With secrecy eliminating discussion, it is is up to us to demand answers at our loss if we do not. The complete interview is at from today's show. I'm sure Brian would want you to learn of this as we seek answers to understand.

Jun. 13 2013 10:35 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Is public opinion about this "malleable" because the majority of us are unaware blank slates? We blow with the wind, because we're not informed enough to take any strong, informed stance.

Jun. 13 2013 10:33 AM
Vlad from Central. NJ

I don't think Snowden lied when he said he had the "authority" to look at this personal data. He was saying he had the authority as a systems administrator and not in a legal sense.

Jun. 13 2013 10:31 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan


"Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world...
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity."

We are WAAAAY past that point.

Jun. 13 2013 10:30 AM
Jim B from Queens

What prevents Booz Allen Hamilton from using data collected for national security in their private consulting business ?

Jun. 13 2013 10:30 AM

They impeached Clinton over lying about some private personal matter; lying about spying on Americans does not warrant prosecution?

Jun. 13 2013 10:29 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

@ John from office

" order to retroactivly investigate some future crime. Where is the harm, unless you plan to do a crime."

Well, other than the obvious concerns about civil liberties, illegal governmental overreach and abuse of the data (Cointelpro) there is the still more obvious point that this whole program is supposed to stop terrorist acts BEFORE they happen. This program will not do that, so why does it exist?

Analyzing them after the fact does not afford any real insight and may in fact cloud analysis by including irrelevant information that detracts from true substantive intelligence gathering i.e. human intel and confidential sources.

So why does it exist in the first place?

Organized, well funded terrorist organization like Al Qaeda and Hezbollah will never be "caught" by these programs, they are aware of their existence and pass on operational details by analogue means or by encrypted digital communications. Stupid, random terrorist "events" perpetrated by people like the Boston Bomber Brothers will also never be stopped in time because their online behaviors are not noticeably different than any other normal person. The are violent, isolated nut jobs are not different in their digital life than isolated non-violent nut jobs, otherwise we would have rooted them out long, long before the digital age.

So why? Because we are in the eye of the storm, Amerika is clearly in decline and these surveillance measures will become crucial to suppressing internal dissent when our government fails to manage the coming economic and geopolitical crises.

Jun. 13 2013 10:29 AM

The Gallup poll and the other poll ask different questions, leading to different numbers.

Jun. 13 2013 10:29 AM
Simon Lok from Queens

No-one may listen to every conversation, but they are all recorded and kept forever. Also, I am sure if British intelligence has access as was reported, they can lawfully listen to American citizens and report back. Since they keep all of our conversations, emails, texts, etc in perpetuity, when times change what may be acceptable now, may get you in trouble at that point

Jun. 13 2013 10:29 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Did Mr. Snowden say he could actually tap into phone lines/cell phone content, or only monitor the metadata? The q. to Mr. Clapper in the clip played sounded as if it were about tapping for content, in which case that particular answer, at least, could be true.

Jun. 13 2013 10:28 AM

Things fall apart; if lying under oath to congress is now acceptable then we are not a nation of laws. This 1984ish narrative of an endless war on terror, has made that the case more and more.

Jun. 13 2013 10:24 AM
carl from queens

was a snowden sympathizer until this morning... it's one thing to try to protect our amendments, but its another thing to rat out your own country to foreign governments...

Jun. 13 2013 10:23 AM
Jim B from Queens

The information about cyber actions against china is important, to the American People, because, we are being told China is wagging a cyber war against the US, and the US with out provocation.

Jun. 13 2013 10:20 AM
Jenna from hamilton heights

The fact that a government official lied or even that we may have been spied on is not surprising or a secret at all.
This had been going on for years and anyone who has though otherwise is living in a fantasy world

My question is why did Snowdon come forward? he could have remained an anonymous source.

Jun. 13 2013 10:19 AM
Julian from Manhattan

The answer is no. There is no corner of 12th and 8th in Manhattan - it's 12th and Hudson.

Jun. 13 2013 10:15 AM
John A

Angle not yet mentioned:
The metadata was supposedly anonymized, stripped of our names, so data on "me", no, on my call, yes.
Legal fee: negotiable.

Jun. 13 2013 10:14 AM

"When you vote you assume it matters"

A lot of people voted, campaigned, and donated to Obama BECAUSE he claimed to believe in transparency in govt and respect for whistleblowers.

People gave this administration the benefit of the doubt and have no obligation to continue to put their trust in a President who abused it.

Jun. 13 2013 10:12 AM
Ed from Larchmont

But he lied so delicately, so thoughtfully, he seems like a nice man.

Jun. 13 2013 10:09 AM
John A

Internet absolutely deserves policing, just not all Secret policing.

Jun. 13 2013 09:21 AM


Yes, I get it - society does not work without trust. I would assert that the recent wave of 'self-appointed saviors' is a direct result of government corruption, incompetence, and dishonesty. If government were to become transparent and accountable, the saviors would be irrelevant.

Jun. 13 2013 09:14 AM
john from office

Jim, read that articles, especially the Friedman article. A society has to place trust in someone, to be able to operate as a society. The cop on the corner, the lawyer, your mom and dad. If everyone can just say when and where they will be loyal, like an idiot like Manning or a wanabe savior like Snowden, the society breaks down.

When you vote you assume it matters, when you file a lawsuit you trust in the court, when you join the army you express loyalty, when you work for the NSA, you swear to be loyal. If everyone in the society will not participate,when something offends, the society comes to a halt.

Such as a court officer not following the Judges orders, because he does not agree with the Court, do you follow?? Read the articles.

Jun. 13 2013 09:01 AM

@office guy

So, you prefer that our self-appointed saviors be political operatives who work in secret and lie about their motives and actions?

Jun. 13 2013 08:34 AM
John from office

So the NSA basically is saving every electronic item on the planet in a massive database, in order to retroactivly investigate some future crime. Where is the harm, unless you plan to do a crime.

All the big data companies, AOL, facebook etc, already keep all you past exchanges.

Sounds like some of us want a great internet experience and super privacy, you cannot have both.

Read the Latest David Brooks and Thomas Friedman articles, both deal with the mindset of the Bradley Mannings and Snowdens we are creating, self appointed saviors. Bur, really misguided fools.

Jun. 13 2013 08:03 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

Gee, it was well known that Clapper was another INCOMPETENT Obama appointee (see NY POST, NYT and others below) ... to which you can now add Susan Rice & Samantha Power .... but, gosh, DISHONEST????

“Question: What do you call the Director of National Intelligence when he seems to be short of intelligence? Answer: James Clapper." NYP

“Is Our Director Of Intelligence Really This Clueless?”
(James Clapper, announced at a House Intelligence Committee hearing Thursday that the Muslim Brotherhood was basically a secular group who hadn’t a violent bone in their body.) NO QUARTER

“White House Rallies Round National Intelligence Chief” NYT

“Dumb, Dumber and Dumbest: The Obama Security Team”

Jun. 13 2013 07:56 AM

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