The director of national intelligence was in push-back mode at the annual C4ISR Journal conference, suggesting that the U.S. intelligence community was right to view Russian tips about the radicalization of Tamerlan Tsarnaev with a healthy dose of skepticism.
Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper
The U.S. has long taken a “trust but verify” attitude to Russian claims in arms control issues, James R. Clapper said. Suddenly the U.S. was supposed to take Russia’s warnings about Tsarnaev "without question." Clapper said he finds that amusing and ironic.
>>More from Clapper below: IT overhaul deadline slips to August; Mandiant report could incite China; sequestration hurts; limits of domestic intel>>
Clapper said the bombing case has entered a “post-event witch-hunt phase, which is predictable.”
He counseled patience. "I think it would be a real good idea to not hyperventilate for a while until we get all the facts," he said.
Clapper said the country’s going to have to grapple with how much domestic intelligence it wants in the wake of the Boston bombings:
"I think at some point we have to come to a judgment here on just how intrusive you want Big Brother to be. To me as a citizen, not just as the head spy of this country, I think we need to think about that,” he said.
Clapper said finding a “lone wolf” is difficult. “I think the bigger issue here is what is the government’s responsibility for mind-reading and determining the point at which someone self radicalizes,” he said.
As he left the venue, Clapper shook hands with House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, who was on his way in to address the audience.
McCaul had a different take on the question of whether the bombers were lone wolves. “It’s astounding to me” that some members of the intelligence community have already concluded that there was no foreign involvement in the Boston bombings, he said. “They just got his computer," he said.
McCaul said he agrees that the mood of the nation is shifting toward protecting civil liberties, even in the wake of the bombings.
Mandiant report>>"The downside of outing the Chinese is of course they’ll go to school on us.”
Domestic surveillance>> "...there’s a bigger issue here that no one is thinking about, and that is the extent to which you want the government monitoring U.S. citizens behavior, monitoring their social media."
Sequestration>> "No one ever thought sequestration would actually happen. It’s egregious. It’s mindless...the entire federal budget is divided into what are called PPAs, planned program activities. And so I have several hundred of them in the NIP (National Intelligence Program), and of course the way sequestration works is every one of them have to be equally taxed. And some of those are nothing but people. "
Intelligence Community Information Technology Enterprise (ICITE) overhaul>> “We’re sort of declaring IOC here in August, and I must tell you having done this a couple times before, we are well past the euphoria state on, 'Gee, what a great idea this is,' into the passive aggressive phase, which is predictable and it just takes some consistent, persistent management.”