Clapper under fire for suggesting no knowledge of fed's massive phone, email collecting
Published June 11, 2013
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper is under fire for statements he made before Congress that suggested he had no knowledge about federal government programs that collected data on millions of Americans’ phone calls and Internet activities.
In March, Clapper said at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing that he was not aware that the National Security Agency was involved in such large-scale efforts.
The questioning of Clapper’s statements follow blockbuster news last week that the federal government has since 9/11 been logging millions, perhaps billions, of calls and Internet activities and as the NSA’s top official goes before the same Senate committee for a closed-door briefing on the issue.
"Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?" Oregon Republican Sen. Ron Wyden asked Clapper at the March 12 hearing.
"No, sir," Clapper responded.
"It does not?" Wyden pressed.
Clapper recanted and said: "Not wittingly. There are cases where they could, inadvertently perhaps, collect -- but not wittingly."
Wyden, one of the staunchest critics of government surveillance programs, said Tuesday that Clapper did not give him a straight answer and called for hearings to discuss the two recently-revealed NSA programs that collect billions of telephone numbers and Internet usage daily.
Wyden was also among a group of senators who introduced legislation Tuesday to force the government to declassify opinions of a secret court that authorizes the surveillance.
"The American people have the right to expect straight answers from the intelligence leadership to the questions asked by their representatives," Wyden said in a statement.
Wyden said he first asked NSA Director Keith Alexander for clarity about data colleting. And when he did not get a satisfactory answer, Wyden said, he alerted Clapper's office a day early that he would ask the same question at the public hearing.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.