Who doesn’t love a good joke?
On March 12, Senator Ron Wyden asked former Booz Allen executive turned Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper a simple question and, under oath, Clapper replied with a simple answer.
WYDEN: Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?
CLAPPER: No, Sir.
On Monday, Ed Snowden fingered Clapper as a man who inspired him to step out from under his propeller hat for the benefit of his fellow citizens and the Bill of Rights.
Seeing someone in the position of James Clapper – the Director of National Intelligence – baldly lying to the public without repercussion is the evidence of a subverted democracy.
One of the most important responsibilities a Senator has is oversight of the intelligence community. This job cannot be done responsibly if Senators aren’t getting straight answers to direct questions. When NSA Director Alexander failed to clarify previous public statements about domestic surveillance, it was necessary to put the question to the Director of National Intelligence. 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. 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.
No way Clapper flunks a take home test. So why “No, Sir?”
I responded in what I thought was the most truthful or least most untruthful manner.
Sure seemed like the money quote. On the other hand, you’ve got world-class deviants like former White House Press Secretary, Ari Fleischer, out there offering, “world-class media management for today’s high-profile world.” The Fleischer’s of the world get paid a lot of money to throw people off the trail with dog whistles like “least most truthful manner.”
A second pass at the record coupled with some deep research reveals the true money quote:
MITCHELL: Can you explain what you meant when you said there was not data collection on millions of Americans?
CLAPPER: To me collection of U.S. Persons data would mean taking the books off the shelf, opening it up and reading it.
MITCHELL: You did not mean archiving the telephone numbers?
CLAPPER: No. When someone says ‘collection’ to me, that has a specific meaning, which may have a different meaning to him (Senator Wyden).
That “specific meaning” can be found in the 1982 Department of Defense Procedures Governing The Activities Of DOD Intelligence Components That Affect United States Persons — Explanation Of Undefined Terms, § C2.2.1, p.6 — get a load:
Collection. Information shall be considered as ‘collected’ only when it has been received for use by an employee of a DoD intelligence component in the course of his official duties….Data acquired by electronic means is ‘collected’ only when it has been processed into intelligible form.
Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?
…when he should have asked:
Does the NSA aggregate any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?
Intercept? Archive? Chronicle? Analyze? Boolean search? Vacuum? Ingest? Inhale? Tap? Suck up? Absolutely. Collect? “No, Sir.”
All this time we thought Clapper was using plain language, when in fact he was communicating in the least most untruthful manner not inconsistent with a 31 year old “explanation of an undefined term.”
Who needs perjury when you’ve got good ol’ § C2.2.1? Remember the landlines on Seinfeld? 1982 was seven years before that.
Taking stock of his years with the New York Times, Chris Hedges writes:
When you allow an institution to provide you with your identity and sense of self-worth you become an obsequious pawn, no matter how much talent you possess. You live in perpetual fear of what those in authority think of you and might do to you.
Dianne Feinstein proves Hedges’ theory to George Snuffleupagus:
“Direct or honest”? Which is it, Dianne?
Clapper. Wyden. Mitchell. Feinstein. Ed Snowden — wanted for exposing a program he thought was top-secret, but that the President insists is transparent — is the only one not institutionalized. Not yet.
CHARLIE ROSE: Should this be transparent in some way?
BARACK OBAMA: It is transparent
Jonathan Turley stands in awe:
It is no easy task — particularly to convince a free people — to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget, whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again, and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself.
Ralph Nadar is more to the point:
The con man is right — “it is transparent” — but only because Ed Snowden cared enough to let us in on the joke.