Director of National Intelligence James “most truthful, least untruthful” Clapper lamented to a House Intelligence Panel Tuesday that the current criticism facing the National Security Agency is creating an “erosion of trust” within the Nation’s intelligence community.
Clapper told the group of lawmakers that Congressional criticism of the tactics carried out by U.S. intelligence agencies is creating an environment in which officials at the Nation’s spy agencies are unable to adequately do their jobs.
Clapper was joined by NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander and other intelligence officials for the Congressional discussion about government surveillance.
“There has been a lot in the media about this situation. Some right. Some wrong,” panel ranking member Representative Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) said during the committee hearing, adding that “more needs to be done” to increase NSA transparency and accountability.
Clapper responded, insisting that the NSA and the U.S. intelligence community as a whole “does not spy indiscriminately on citizens of any country.”
“To be sure, we have made mistakes,” Clapper said, adding that the intelligence community would work to resolve those mistakes.
“That is what the American people want and that is what the President has asked us to do,” he said.
Clapper notably lied to Congress during a hearing on March 12, when Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) asked, “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?”
Clapper replied, “No sir … not wittingly.”
Clapper later admitted that his answer was a lie on national television, telling NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, “I thought, though in retrospect, I was asked [a] ‘when are you going to … stop beating your wife’ kind of question, which is … not answerable necessarily by a simple yes or no. So I responded in what I thought was the most truthful, or least untruthful, manner by saying, ‘No.’ ”
If there is an “erosion of trust,” Clapper, it seems, should count himself among the most caustic benefactors of the problem.