Fmr NSA chief James Clapper defends perjury: ‘I didn’t lie’ … I just didn’t understand the question

Former National Security Agency Director James Clapper declared he never lied in his congressional testimony about surveillance programs.

In fact, he told CNN’s John Berman on Tuesday, he just did not understand the question he was being asked in the 2013 hearing and “made a big mistake.”

Clapper, a frequent critic of President Donald Trump, was accused of perjury for telling a Senate committee in 2013 that the NSA didn’t collect “any type of data at all on millions, or hundreds of millions of Americans” in mass domestic surveillance programs exposed by then-NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

On CNN Tuesday, Clapper reacted to a comment by The Intercept’s Glen Greenwald on a report in The New York Times that the system which analyzed logs of domestic calls and texts by Americans was being shut down, or allowed to expire.

“The very first NSA program we revealed from Snowden documents, the mass domestic spying program of Americans’ phone records which James Clapper lied about and Obama insisted was vital to national security has been shut down,” Greenwald tweeted along with a link to the report.

Berman asked Clapper, now a CNN commentator, for his reaction to the remark from his “nemesis.”

“Well, the original thought behind this, and this program was put in place as a direct result of 9/11, the point was to be able to track quickly a foreign communicant talking to somebody in this country who may have been plotting a terrorist plot, and was put in place during the Bush Administration for that reason,” Clapper replied.

“I always regarded it as kind of a safeguard or insurance policy so that if the need came up you would have this to refer to,” he said.

“As far as the comment, the allegation about my lying, I didn’t lie, I made a big mistake and I just simply didn’t understand what I was being asked about. I thought of another surveillance program, Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act when I was being asked about Section 215 of the Patriot Act at the time, I just didn’t understand that” he contended.

“One of the things that’s noted in The New York Times article which broke this story overnight was that it suggested no terrorist attacks have been stopped or terrorists caught as a result of this program. If that is the case, does that indicate that it might not be necessary?” Berman asked.

“Well, that’s true, and I think probably at the time contemporaneously back 2013 or so when all this broke that we may have oversold it a bit because, you know, we were hard-pressed to point out to a specific case in point,” Clapper admitted, adding that it proved there was a “need for the intelligence community to have been more transparent.”

“I’m convinced had this been explained contemporaneously at the time it was introduced that it would have been accepted by the public and probably wouldn’t have caused any more anxiety,” he said.

Snowden tweeted a “fact check” on Clapper’s self-defense on Tuesday.

Greenwald seemed to find Clapper’s story on CNN quite entertaining.

Clapper’s comments also seemed to spark a collective eyeroll on Twitter.


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