Director of National IntelligenceJames Clapper has no plans to resign following disclosures to the Senate Intelligence Committee that he misled Congress on widespread National Security Agency electronic surveillance of Americans.
“DNI Clapper explained his response in the letter to Chairman [Dianne] Feinstein [(D., Calif.)] and apologized for the misunderstanding,” said Michael Birmingham, spokesperson for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said: “The president has full confidence in Director Clapper and his leadership of the Intelligence Community.”
Clapper disclosed in a June 21 letter to Feinstein that his answer to questions about the electronic surveillance were “erroneous” during March 2013 testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
Clapper has been DNI since August 2010. Prior to that he was undersecretary of defense for intelligence in the George W. Bush administration. He also headed the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency from 2001 to 2006.
His tenure as DNI has been marked by several misstatements, such as the comment before the House Intelligence Committee in February 2011 that Egypt’s Islamist Muslim Brotherhood was “largely secular.”
Clapper also misspoke during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in March 2011. During the hearing, he undermined public Obama administration efforts against Libya’s leader Muammar Gaddafi during the civil war in Libya by predicting that Gaddafi would “prevail” in the conflict. The dictator was killed and his body dragged through the streets in October 2011.
The United States’ top intelligence official also appeared uninformed during a December 2010 television interview when he did not know that 12 terrorists had been arrested in the United Kingdom for plotting attacks earlier in the day.
However, his comments during the March 12 Senate hearing revealed that he misled the Congress on the widespread NSA surveillance. Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) had asked Clapper at the hearing for a yes or no answer on whether NSA collects data on “millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.”
“No, sir,” Clapper said.
Wyden then said. “It does not?”
“Not wittingly. There are cases where they could inadvertently perhaps collect but not wittingly,” Clapper said.
That answer was exposed as false by recent disclosures of documents made public by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Snowden, an NSA systems administrator, revealed NSA’s clandestine PRISM computer system that is used to gather telephone metadata – phone numbers and calls between numbers and the duration of the calls – on some 150 million Americans. The program is part of NSA’s search for terrorists and spies.
Clapper said in his letter, “my response was clearly erroneous – for which I apologize.”