President Richard Nixon’s faithful secretary Rose Mary Woods famously claimed to have stretched to answer a phone call when she inadvertently erased 18 ½ crucial minutes of the Watergate tapes. This week, National Intelligence Director James Clapper was awarded the 9th annual National Security Archive Rosemary Award for worst open-government performance, named for the 37th President’s clumsy secretary, for a stretch of his own.
Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) asked Clapper during a hearing last year, “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on missions or hundreds of millions of Americans?.”
Clapper answered “No, sir,” to the question, before adding, “not wittingly.”
Unfortunately for Clapper, Americans soon learned that the NSA very wittingly collects multitudes of data about Americans and people all over the planet.
Clapper later backtracked on his lie to Congress, explaining that it was the “least untruthful” answer he could give at the time.
Also recognized by the Rosemary Award for 2013:
Gen. Keith Alexander, director of the NSA, for multiple Rose Mary Woods-type stretches, such as (1) claiming that the secret bulk collection prevented 54 terrorist plots against the U.S. when the actual number, according to the congressionally-established Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) investigation (pp. 145-153), is zero; (2) his 2009 declaration to the wiretap court that multiple NSA violations of the court’s orders arose from differences over “terminology,” an explanation which the chief judge said “strains credulity;” and (3) public statements by the NSA about its programs that had to be taken down from its website for inaccuracies (see Documents 78, 85, 87 in The Snowden Affair), along with public statements by other top NSA officials now known to be untrue (see “Remarks of Rajesh De,” NSA General Counsel, Document 53 in The Snowden Affair).
Robert Mueller, former FBI director, for suggesting (as have Gen. Alexander and many others) that the secret bulk collection program might have been able to prevent the 9/11 attacks, when the 9/11 Commission found explicitly the problem was not lack of data points, but failing to connect the many dots the intelligence community already had about the would-be hijackers living in San Diego.
The National Security Division lawyers at the Justice Department, for misleading their own Solicitor General (Donald Verrilli) who then misled (inadvertently) the U.S. Supreme Court over whether Justice let defendants know that bulk collection had contributed to their prosecutions.
The same National Security Division lawyers who swore under oath in the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit for a key wiretap court opinion that the entire text of the opinion was appropriately classified Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information (release of which would cause “exceptionally grave damage” to U.S. national security). Only after the Edward Snowden leaks and the embarrassed governmental declassification of the opinion did we find that one key part of the opinion’s text simply reproduced the actual language of the 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and the only “grave damage” was to the government’s false claims.
President Obama for his repeated misrepresentations about the bulk collection program (calling the wiretap court “transparent” and saying “all of Congress” knew “exactly how this program works”) while in effect acknowledging the public value of the Edward Snowden leaks by ordering the long-overdue declassification of key documents about the NSA’s activities, and investigations both by a special panel and by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board.