A group of six Congressmen have asked President Barack Obama to remove James Clapper as director of national intelligence as a result of his misstatements to Congress about the NSA’s dragnet data-collection programs. The group, led by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), said that Clapper’s role as DNI “is incompatible with the goal of restoring trust in our security programs”.
In March, Clapper, the country’s highest-ranking intelligence official, testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee, and was asked by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) whether the NSA collects information in bulk on Americans. The hearing took place three months before the Edward Snowden leaks began, and Clapper responded that the agency does not collect such information, at least not knowingly.
“No sir,” Clapper said at the time. “Not wittingly.”
In early July, weeks after the Snowden leaks began, Clapper sent a letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the intelligence committee, saying that he had made a mistake in his testimony in March. Clapper said that he was confused by Wyden’s question and thought the senator was asking him about a different program.
“That said, I realized later that Senator Wyden was asking about Section 215 metadata collection rather than content collection. Thus my response was clearly erroneous–for which I apologize,” Clapper said.
Clapper is the former head of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency and has been DNI since 2010. In their letter to Obama, the group of Congressmen calling for his ouster said that he lied to Congress and should no longer be in office.
“The continued role of James Clapper as Director of National Intelligence is incompatible with the goal of restoring trust in our security programs and ensuring the highest level of transparency. Director Clapper continues to hold his position despite lying to Congress, under oath, about the existence of bulk data collection programs in March 2013. Asking Director Clapper, and other federal intelligence officials who misrepresented programs to Congress and the courts, to report to you on needed reforms and the future role of government surveillance is not a credible solution,” the letter from Issa, Ted Poe, Paul Broun, Doug Collins, Walter Jones and Alan Grayson says.
The Congressmen sent the letter to Obama on Monday, 10 days after the president gave a much-anticipated speech on the NSA’s role and some new limits he wants to place on the scope of its data collection. Security experts and privacy advocates were not enthusiastic about the changes Obama announced, which included a recommendation that a third party hold phone metadata records, which are now stored by the NSA.
One issue that Obama didn’t address in his speech was the agency’s alleged subversion of cryptographic standards and algorithms. In their letter, Issa and his colleagues urged Obama to address this issue.
“While the collection of bulk telephone records (meta-data) under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act has understandably garnered the most significant public debate over government overreach, considerable concern has been raised about the govemment’s exploitation of the Internet through circumvention of encryption. The Review Group recognized the potential hazard created by exposing vulnerabilities in encryption data and recommended that your Administration support, rather than undermine, efforts to protect the integrity of these systems.3 However, your January 17’th speech failed to address the future of encryption related programs. Internet freedom is indispensible, and reports regarding the govemment’s treatment of encryption protocols underscore the need to provide leadership and clarity beyond the collection of telephone records,” the letter says.