The Obama Administration not only lies, but encourages and rewards lying. This is an inescapable conclusion. The saga of James Clapper’s perjury before Congress is a perfect, and depressing example.
At a March 2013 Senate hearing, Senator Ron Wyden, prompted by the leaks of classified information through Edward Snowdon, asked head of the NSA James Clapper, “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?”
“No, sir,” Clapper replied. “Not wittingly.”
That means, by any assessment, “If we do, it’s not intentional.” That was a lie. Clapper knew it was false. Wyden later said that he had sent his question to Clapper’s office a day before the hearing, and after the hearing had given Clapper’s office a chance to correct the misstatement after the hearing, but it did not. In June, the nation learned that the agency was routinely collecting data on the phone calls of millions of Americans. (This was the program just declared illegal by a federal court.)
NOTE: The original post erroneously attributed the decision to the Supreme Court. It hasn’t heard the case yet. That was a bad and careless mistake, and I apologize for it. Nothing like not checking your own links, Jack.
The government, including Clapper, has now attempted a dizzying array of rationalizations, excuses and obfuscations to avoid the unavoidable conclusion that Clapper lied to Congress while under oath, that he should be prosecuted, or at very least be fired by that leader of the Most Transparent Administration in History That Somehow Manages To Lie every Time A Mouth Open, Barack Obama. Even by the standards of this sorry administration, it’s an ugly journey into the cold heart of an untrustworthy government.
First, Harry Reid, then Senate Majority Leader, added to his credentials as political swine by arguing that it wasn’t a lie because the senators knew they were being lied to. “For senators to complain that they didn’t know this was happening, we had many, many meetings that have been both classified and unclassified that members have been invited to,” Reid said. “They shouldn’t come and say, ‘I wasn’t aware of this,’ because they’ve had every opportunity.”
Wrong, Casino Breath. A witness testifying under oath is testifying before the entire nation, the public, citizens, voters. If he lies, he lies to them. Only an utter, conscienceless villain like Reid would have the brass to make such an outrageous statement.
Michael V. Hayden, the former director of both the NSA and the CIA., defended Clapper by saying Senator Wyden’s question was “unfair.” “There’s not another country in the world where that question would have been asked and answered in a public session,” he said. To which the answer is, “So what?” This is the U.S.A, not China. The question was asked, the public has a right to know, and if Clapper thought he had a duty not to answer, his only option was to say that the question involved classified information and he refused to respond to it. Lying under oath is not an option, or wouldn’t be, in an administration that valued accountability, honesty, and the truth.
Clapper’s first attempt to deny his lie, which is itself lying, was by claiming he said something completely different, a favorite trick of his boss, the President.
In a National Journal interview to “clarify” his remarks, Clapper said, apparently with a straight face,
“What I said was, the NSA does not voyeuristically pore through U.S. citizens’ e-mails. I stand by that.”
That’s not what he had said though. It’s not even what he implied. That wasn’t going to fly, so Clapper tried again. In a June 2013 interview with NBC, Clapper “explained” his lie by saying that he gave“the least untruthful” answer he could give. What? In what universe is that a defense? “I used the least dishonest lie I could think of” ? Who writes his dialogue, Bill Clinton?
Also in 2013, NSA’s general counsel, Rajesh De, made a speech in which he purported to debunk “myths” that “the NSA is spying on Americans at home and abroad with questionable or no legal basis.” Deceit! It was spying, but the NSA thought there was a legal basis (the basis that the federal court just rejected). De, meanwhile, carefully “neglected” to mention that the collection of phone data on Americans wasn’t a “myth.”
Naturally, Eric Holder’s shamefully politicized Justice Department refused to do its job (if Clapper’s agency had been secretly spying on black citizens, Holder would have turned into Inspector Javert) despite Republican demands that Clapper be held to account. “Congressional oversight depends on truthful testimony – witnesses cannot be allowed to lie to Congress,” wrote representatives James Sensenbrenner, Darrell Issa, Trent Franks, Raul Labrador, Ted Poe, Trey Gowdy and Blake Farenthold at the end of 2013, citing “Director Clapper’s willful lie under oath.” They are entirely, completely correct, and shame on Democrats for not joining them. Nevertheless, nothing happened except more spinning, bobbing, weaving, and lying from the Obama minions.
Clapper was not just allowed to keep his job, he was tasked by the President to help oversee reforms of the same illegal program that he helped run and lied to Congress about! When the demands regarding Clapper’s perjury refused to dissipate, National Intelligence general counsel Robert Litt wrote a letter to the New York Times arguing that “[a]s a witness to the relevant events and a participant in them, I know that allegation [of perjury] is not true.” He claimed that Clapper misunderstood Senator Wyden’s question—you know, because “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” is really complicated—and then could not correct his mistake “because the program involved was classified.”
This explanation, you will notice, was at odds with Clapper’s own explanation that he did understand, and intentionally misled the Committee.
Wait, there’s more!
Last week, Litt took another crack at an explanation for Clapper’s falsehood, conveniently ignoring what he wrote to the Times. (Have I ever mentioned that it is unethical for lawyers to lie?) In the Nixon years, the line was “that statement is now inoperable.” The operable statement, according to Litt, was now this (emphasis mine):
“It was perfectly clear that he had absolutely forgotten the existence of the 215 program. . . . We all make mistakes.”
Wait, what??? The head of the NSA had forgotten about one of his agency’s massive surveillance programs? If true, that alone would justify firing Clapper. Of course, the fact that it has taken two years for this to be the agreed upon justification for the false answer he gave under oath also proved that for a spy agency, this one isn’t too swift. Nobody believes Litt’s latest spin, and nobody should.
His conduct is going into the new government lawyer ethics program I’m preparing for the D.C. Bar, however.
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As a post script, I want to salute Prof. Turley and his blog for following and properly condemning this episode. (Conservatives call Turley a liberal, by the way.) The news media isn’t doing its job informing the public about the depths of the deception at the heart of our government, so bloggers like Turley, who has a wide readership and a national reputation, are critical. Fortunately Hillary Clinton will be the next President, so we can count on transparency, honesty, candor and accountability to once again be demanded of and delivered by our public servants.