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Clapper says the intricacy of Wyden's question – asking for a clarification of "hundreds of millions of dossiers on people" – combined with a need to preserve classified information prompted him to give the wrong answer."My response was clearly erroneous – for which I apologize," he wrote in the letter to committee chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. "While my staff acknowledged the error to Sen. Wyden's staff soon after the hearing, I can now openly correct it because the existence of the metadata collection program has been declassified."News of the apology was first reported by Forbes."Mistakes will happen, and when I make one, I correct it," said Clapper, who has served in his current position since August 2010. The veteran intelligence operator spent 32 years in the military before retiring in 1995, according to his DNI biography.[BROWSE: Political Cartoons on NSA Surveillance]Clapper's clarification was prompted by the "charged rhetoric and heated controversy prompted by my response to Sen. Ron Wyden," according to the letter. He says he "thought long and hard to re-create what went through my mind at the time" of the senator's question.