Congratulations, James Clapper: You Escaped Possible Charges For Lying To Congress

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Posted: Mar 13, 2018 5:30 PM
Congratulations, James Clapper: You Escaped Possible Charges For Lying To Congress

James Clapper, former Director of National Intelligence under Obama, can rest a little easier concerning possible legal fallout. The statute of limitations for allegedly lying to Congress in his cringeworthy testimony to Congress over surveillance methods in 2013 has expired. At the time, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) asked Clapper if the National Security Agency was collecting any type of data on Americans en masse. Clapper said, “not wittingly.” He later admitted that his testimony to Congress was erroneous because he didn’t take into account the call record collection. This was after the cat was out of the bag on the intelligence community’s methods of surveillance, which were exposed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden (via Washington Examiner):


Two criminal statutes that cover lying to Congress have five-year statutes of limitations, establishing a Monday deadline to charge Clapper, who in retirement has emerged as a leading critic of President Trump.

[…]

Justice Department spokeswoman Nicole Navas Oxman declined to comment on Clapper or how perjury cases typically would be handled, saying in an email, “No comment or information to be provided.” Clapper, speaking through a spokesman, declined to comment.

Clapper’s problematic testimony occurred a few minutes before noon on March 12, 2013, when he told Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., “No, sir,” and, “Not wittingly,” in response to a question about whether the NSA was collecting “any type of data at all” on millions of Americans. Wyden later said he provided the question to Clapper before the hearing and unsuccessfully asked Clapper to correct the record.

Months later, Snowden revealed in June 2013 that the U.S. intelligence community obtained secret court orders forcing phone companies to turn over millions of U.S. call records on an “ongoing, daily basis.”

Clapper offered at least two different explanations for his inaccurate testimony. In a June 2013 apology letter, Clapper wrote that he gave the “clearly erroneous” answer because he “simply didn’t think of” the call record collection. But in an MSNBC interview the same month, he said he chose to give the “least untruthful” answer because he was “asked a, ‘When are you going to stop beating your wife?’ kind of question, meaning not answerable necessarily by a simple yes or no.”

Now, maybe Clapper didn’t have to worry at all, as The Washington Examiner said lying to Congress is a charge seldom prosecuted. Nevertheless, let’s go to this call record method, which was revealed by then-Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald, who won a Pulitzer for his series of stories on the NSA, the intelligence community, and how they’re collecting data on Americans and others. In June of 2013, Greenwald wrote about how secret court orders had forced telecommunications companies to turnover call records from millions of Americans on a daily basis at the time:

The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America's largest telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April.

The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an "ongoing, daily basis" to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.

The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.

The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (Fisa) granted the order to the FBI on April 25, giving the government unlimited authority to obtain the data for a specified three-month period ending on July 19.

But rest easy now, Clapper; any legal trouble, if there ever was any and it seems doubtful he was going to be charged, is now a memory. Snowden, who has found refuge in Russia since leaking the sensitive information, seemed a bit salty over this development.