One could practically hear the neurons firing inside James R. Clapper’s head when Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, put him on the spot in March about whether the U.S. was collecting “any type of data at all” on millions of Americans.
Sen. Ron Wyden (Credit: Wyden's website)
The national intelligence director at first said, “No sir,” paused when Wyden sounded surprised, and added, “not wittingly...”
Since then, the blogosphere has debated whether the question amounted to a nasty trap because the truth was still highly classified at that point. In a statement released today, Wyden said the question was a direct one and that the director should have known it was coming:
“…I sent the question to Director Clapper's office a day in advance,” and “my staff and I gave his office a chance to amend his answer,” Wyden said.
Wyden called for public hearings on the disclosures, and he described his exchange with Clapper as a low mark for congressional oversight: “This job cannot be done responsibly if Senators aren’t getting straight answers to direct questions.”
Text of Wyden statement >>
“One of the most important responsibilities a Senator has is oversight of the intelligence community. This job cannot be done responsibly if Senators aren’t getting straight answers to direct questions. When NSA Director Alexander failed to clarify previous public statements about domestic surveillance, it was necessary to put the question to the Director of National Intelligence. So that he would be prepared to answer, I sent the question to Director Clapper’s office a day in advance. After the hearing was over my staff and I gave his office a chance to amend his answer. Now public hearings are needed to address the recent disclosures and the American people have the right to expect straight answers from the intelligence leadership to the questions asked by their representatives.”