If a regular American lies to a court they go to jail. If they lie under oath to the Senate or Congress they face an even longer jail term.
But when the director of the NSA repeatedly lies to the Senate about the illegal activities of his agency, nothing happens. Zero.
Instead, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper claims to have forgot the program even existed during a key hearing two years ago.
The stance highlights the NSA’s deep contempt for the rule of law and the concept of being accountable to the American people, their employer.
Robert Litt, the DNI’s general counsel, spoke of the alleged memory lapse during a panel hearing Friday hosted by the Advisory Committee on Transparency.
He attempted to explain why, in a now-infamous exchange several months before the Snowden disclosures, Clapper told a Senate committee that his agency does not “wittingly” sweep up information on millions of Americans.
He wasn’t lying, proclaimed Litt to an incredulous audience “It was perfectly clear that he had absolutely forgotten the existence of the 215 program.”
Clapper’s early 2013 testimony only created a congressional controversy after the Snowden revelations showed the NSA was gathering mass amounts of data on Americans.
At the hearing, which received little media coverage, Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden asked Clapper whether the NSA “collects any type of data at all” on millions of Americans.
Clapper told Wyden: “No sir, it does not.” Asked for clarification, he said “not wittingly.”
Clapper later apologized, sending a letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee saying his answer was “clearly erroneous” and that he “simply didn’t think” of the massive data slurping program.
The NSA’s massive data collection program has prompted lawsuits, internal reviews and a fierce congressional debate over whether to scrap it.
Yet these appear to be boilerplate for talking about the program, as congress appears set renew its authorization and has done little to halt it or make it more publicly accountable.
Perhaps that’s what happens when our secret police have a dossier on every single congressman, senator, supreme court judge and senior military commanders.