Even if the Federal government and U.S. spy agencies are poised to continue stonewalling meaningful efforts to protect American communications data, the National Security Agency leaks provided by whistle-blower Edward Snowden have caused some officials so many headaches that they are reconsidering modest transparency. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper recently conceded that Washington should have been more forthright with the public with regard to the government’s collection of Americans’ call records.
In an interview with The Daily Beast, Clapper said that the U.S. intelligence community would have been better able to justify the tactics revealed in the Snowden leaks if members of Congress and the public had been better informed about the government’s legal interpretation of section 215 of the Patriot Act.
“I probably shouldn’t say this, but I will. Had we been transparent about this from the outset right after 9/11—which is the genesis of the 215 program—and said both to the American people and to their elected representatives, we need to cover this gap, we need to make sure this never happens to us again, so here is what we are going to set up, here is how it’s going to work, and why we have to do it, and here are the safeguards… We wouldn’t have had the problem we had,” Clapper said.
“What did us in here, what worked against us was this shocking revelation,” he said.
If the program had been properly explained, Clapper continued, “I don’t think it would be of any greater concern to most Americans than fingerprints. Well people kind of accept that because they know about it. But had we been transparent about it and say here’s one more thing we have to do as citizens for the common good, just like we have to go to airports two hours early and take our shoes off, all the other things we do for the common good, this is one more thing.”