When James Clapper got away with perjury

Director of national intelligence James Clapper, who resigned rather than serve under President-Elect Donald Trump  is now certain, where he wasn't so certain before, that sophisticated Russian hackers were behind the revelation of the DNC's and John Podesta's emails.  This is the John Podesta whose password was "password."  Clapper now says "we assess" that the Russians hacked the John Podesta and the DNC under direct orders of Vladimir Putin for the purpose of releasing information damaging the credibility of Hillary Clinton and helpful to Donald Trump.

Clapper did not address why the Russians would want to help Trump, who has pledged to rebuild our military, modernize our nuclear arsenal, and drill like there's no tomorrow for oil, the only thing of value the Russians have to sell.  Nor did he address the fact that the emails detailing the corruption, bigotry, and collusion among the media and the Democrats and Hillary Clinton were all accurate and true.  Hillary damaged her own credibility, and her loss is more likely due to her "deplorable" remark and the spike in Obamacare premiums just before the vote.  As investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson notes:

There has also been a concerted, political effort to blame the Russians for Trump's victory. In fact, as I wrote in 8 Facts on the "Russian Hacks," to prove that the DNC hack or leak (whoever committed it) helped Trump win, one would have to know that tens of thousands of Trump voters were planning to vote for Clinton but changed their mind based solely on the WikiLeaks emails; that the emails somehow managed to only affect the electoral vote but not the popular vote (which Clinton won); and that they somehow selectively swayed voters in key swing states, but not voters in states where Clinton won. To date, such evidence has not been provided.

Trump has been skeptical of the conclusions of Clapper and the intelligence community, and rightly so.  Is this the same James Clapper who once reassured the Congress that the NSA wasn't conducting surveillance of the American people?

As U.S. News and World Report noted, his recent resignation didn't assuage critics who believe that James Clapper, like other Obama administration personnel, dodged a perjury bullet when he testified before Congress on the issue of NSA surveillance of American citizens:

Some lawmakers reacted to the long-expected resignation announcement from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on Thursday by wishing him an eventful retirement, featuring prosecution and possible prison time.

The passage of more than three years hasn't cooled the insistence in certain quarters that Clapper face charges for an admittedly false statement to Congress in March 2013, when he responded, "No, sir" and "not wittingly" to a question about whether the National Security Agency was collecting "any type of data at all" on millions of Americans.

About three months after making that claim, documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed the answer was untruthful and that the NSA was in fact collecting in bulk domestic call records, along with various internet communications.

To his critics, Clapper lied under oath, a crime that threatens effective oversight of the executive branch. In an apology letter to lawmakers, however, Clapper said he gave the "clearly erroneous" answer because he "simply didn't think of" the call-record collection.

Clapper later told MSNBC he considered the question akin to asking, "When did you stop beating your wife?" and so gave the "least untruthful" answer.

Critics who say President-Elect Donald Trump has no right to disparage our good and faithful intelligence servants or to be skeptical of the intelligence they gather might be willing to accept "least untruthful" answers, but others are not.  As Investor's Business Daily editorialized in June 2013 after Clapper's testimony:

... Director of National Intelligence James Clapper struggles to explain why he told Congress in March that the National Security Agency does not intentionally collect any kind of data on millions of Americans. "I responded in what I thought was the most truthful, or least untruthful, manner by saying 'no,'" Clapper told NBC News on Sunday.

Least untruthful? Lying to Congress and the American people is just that, except in Clapper's mind. And it seems to depend on the meaning of "collect," a reminder of President Bill Clinton's defense that charges of his lying depended on the meaning of the word "is."

Are blanket collections of data, even just phone numbers, on large swaths of America a good idea? In 2006, when George W. Bush was in office, Joe Biden, in a rare moment of lucidity, told Harry Smith on CBS' "Morning Show" of the pitfalls of what the NSA is doing now.

"Harry, I don't have to listen to your phone calls to know what you're doing," Biden said. "If I know every single phone call you made, I'm able to determine every single person you talk to, I can get a pattern about your life that is very, very intrusive.

"And the real question here is: What do they do with this information that they collect that does not have anything to do with al-Qaida?"

U.S. district judge Richard Leon ruled that the NSA surveillance program was in violation of the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure.  As Judge Andrew Napolitano noted in Fox News Opinion:

"Almost Orwellian" – that's the description a federal judge gave earlier this week to the massive spying by the National Security Agency (NSA) on virtually all 380 million cellphones in the United States.

In the first meaningful and jurisdictionally grounded judicial review of the NSA cellphone spying program, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon, a George W. Bush appointee sitting in Washington, D.C., ruled that the scheme of asking a secret judge on a secret court for a general warrant to spy on all American cellphone users without providing evidence of probable cause of criminal behavior against any of them is unconstitutional because it directly violates the Fourth Amendment.

Readers of this page are familiar with the purpose of that Amendment and the requirements it imposes on the government. The Framers intended it to prevent the new government in America from doing to Americans what the British government had done to the colonists under the king.

The British government had used general warrants -- which are not based on individualized probable cause and do not name the place to be searched or the person or thing to be seized -- to authorize British soldiers to search the colonists wherever they pleased for whatever they wished to seize.

Clapper defended and lied about an intelligence agency unconstitutionally spying on the American people.  Shouldn't we be skeptical about his conclusions on Russian hacking?  Consider that Clapper was also reportedly involved in the cooking of intelligence reports by U.S. Central Command analysts.  As Business Insider reported, reports were changed for political reasons to make ISIS look weaker and our campaign against it look stronger than the facts actually suggested:

The top intelligence official in the US reportedly was aware that assessments of the fight against the terrorist group ISIS were skewed to give a more positive view of the conflict, according to a new report from The Daily Beast.

Analysts at US Central Command, the Pentagon agency covering security interests in nations throughout the Middle East and Central Asia, reportedly complained to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, headed by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

The analysts said their intelligence reports were changed for political reasons.

Clapper downplayed the report of intelligence tampering for political reasons but he in fact may have been involved:

... there's evidence to suggest that some of President Barack Obama's inner circle, including Clapper, may have been involved.

The Guardian reported in September that Clapper was in "frequent and unusual contact" with the military officer who is suspected of allowing the reports on ISIS to be altered.

"In communications, Clapper, who is far more senior than" Army Brig. Gen. Steven Grove, "is said to tell Grove how the war looks from his vantage point, and question Grove about Central Command's assessments," The Guardian's Spencer Ackerman wrote, noting that sources said "such a situation could place inherent pressure on a subordinate."

Considering Clapper's assessment, one can wonder if we would even be having this conversation had Hillary Clinton won.  The Russians and others have been hacking for a long time, and only now, post-election, is it considered a crisis. What did President Obama do about cyber-security in eight years, other than tell Putin to "cut it out"?

Vladimir Putin did not flip some 200 counties that voted twice for Obama to Trump.  He did not cost the Democrats some one thousand legislative seats at all levels over the last eight years.  Clapper has a credibility problem, and despite his assessment, the score is still Trump winning 37 states, Hillary Clinton 13, and Vladimir Putin zero.

Daniel John Sobieski is a freelance writer whose pieces have appeared in Investor's Business Daily, Human Events, Reason Magazine, and the Chicago Sun-Times among other publications.

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