The Washington Times - June 11, 2013, 10:31AM

Sen. Ron Wyden is taking National Intelligence Director James Clapper to task for failing to give him a straight answer when he asked about potential snooping on Americans during an oversight hearing in March.

The Oregon Democrat asked Mr. Clapper if the government collects data on millions of Americans. The director said it does not, at least not wittingly.


But Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old analyst who worked for the CIA, the National Security Agency and various companies, set off a firestorm by telling The Guardian newspaper last week that the NSA keeps logs of phone calls from Verizon customers and collects Internet data from foreigners through a previously secret program known as Prism.

This week, Mr. Clapper told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell that he answered Mr. Wyden’s question “in what I thought was the most truthful, or least untruthful manner, by saying no.”

Mr. Wyden doesn’t sound too satisfied by his explanation.

Oversight of the nation’s intelligence agencies “cannot be done responsibly if senators aren’t getting straight answers to direct questions,” Mr. Wyden said in a statement on Tuesday.

Mr. Wyden said his staff provided Mr. Clapper advance notice of the question, so he could formulate his response. They also gave him the chance to amend his answer after the hearing.

“Now, public hearings are needed to address the recent disclosures and the American people have the right to expect straight answers from the intelligence leadership to the questions asked by their representatives,” the senator said.