Following news that a federal appeals court has ruled the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records illegal, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s attorney is pushing back against allegations that he lied to the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2013 when he told Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) that the NSA does not “wittingly” collect any type of data on millions of Americans. Clapper’s misleading testimony, which can be seen in the above-embedded YouTube video, came just before Edward Snowden leaked information about the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ cell phone records to the public.
According to The Hill, Office of the Director of National Intelligence attorney Robert Litt said at Friday’s meeting of the Advisory Committee on Transparency, “This was not an untruth or a falsehood. This was just a mistake on his part… We all make mistakes.”
Litt claimed that Clapper did not have adequate time to prepare for the question prior to the hearing and said, “We were notified the day before that Sen. Wyden was going to ask this question and the Director of National Intelligence did not get a chance to review it… He was hit unaware by the question. After this hearing I went to him and I said, ‘Gee, you were wrong on this.’ And it was perfectly clear that he had absolutely forgotten the existence of the 215 program.” Litt said that Clapper thought Wyden was talking about the NSA’s 702 program, in which records of Americans’ web activity are sometimes unknowingly swept up in digital dragnets aimed at spying on foreigners.
Litt said that he made a mistake by not sending a letter to the Senate committee clarifying the error, considering the fact that he claims to have told Clapper after the hearing that the statement denying the 215 program’s bulk collection of Americans’ metadata was wrong.
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has previously stated that Clapper should be fired and criminally charged for lying to the Senate and said to CNN, according to The Hill, “I find really that Clapper is lying to Congress is probably more injurious to our intelligence capabilities than anything Snowden did because Clapper has damaged the credibility of the entire intelligence apparatus, and I’m not sure what to believe anymore when they come to Congress.” Paul continued, “And I really think that in order to restore confidence in our intelligence community, I think James Clapper should resign.”