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Citations & Background :

WaPo 2014.01.30 Transcript: Senate Intelligence hearing on national security threats
National Journal 2014.01.29 : Obama Team Stonewalls Democrat on Spying Questions
WaPo 2013.06.11: Sen. Wyden: Clapper didn’t give ‘straight answer’ on NSA programs

January 29, the Senate Intelligence Committee held an annual hearing on security threats. Appearing before the committee, Director of Intelligence James Clapper, CIA Director John Brennan, and FBI Director James Comey testified and faced questions from the committee members.

Clapper did not disappoint in either his sermonizing to the audience or evading their questions, at least in the case of questions put by Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Mark Udall (D-CO).

Below the fold, we learn the Press are, apparently, "accomplices" of Mr. Snowden who must now return the property of Mr. Clapper's organization.

And once again, when faced with a conflict of human rights verses property rights, we find Clapper a competent landlord.

The text I quote runs a little long but please bear with it as it captures the flavor of the committee's work and oversight at least as it is available to John Q. Public. Any emphasis is mine.

The chair invited Mr. Clapper to make an opening statement.

- snip -

SEN. FEINSTEIN: And I thank you, Mr. Vice Chairman.

I’d like to announce to the committee that last night -- excuse me -- we announced that the early bird rules would prevail today. And I want to welcome the panel.

And Director Clapper, it’s my understanding you have a joint statement for the four gentlemen and yourself. Please proceed.

DIRECTOR JAMES CLAPPER: Madam Chairman, Vice Chairman -- (inaudible) -- and distinguished members of the committee, my colleagues and I are here today to present the intelligence community’s worldwide threat assessment, as we do every year.

I’ll cover five topics in about eight minutes, on behalf of all of us. As DNI, this is my fourth appearance before the committee to discuss the threats we face. I’ve made this next assertion previously, but it is, if anything, even more evident and relevant today.

Looking back over my more than half a century in intelligence, I have not experienced a time when we have been beset by more crises and threats around the globe. My list is long. It includes the scourge and diversification of terrorism loosely connected and now globally dispersed, to include here at home, as exemplified by the Boston Marathon bombing; the sectarian war in Syria, its attraction as a growing center of radical extremism, and the potential threat this poses to the homeland; the spillover of conflict into neighboring Lebanon and Iraq; the destabilizing flood of refugees in Jordan and Turkey and Lebanon; the implications of the drawdown in Afghanistan; the deteriorating internal security posture in Iraq; the growth of foreign cybercapabilities; the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; aggressive nation-state intelligence efforts against us; an assertive Russia, a competitive China; a dangerous, unpredictable North Korea, a challenging Iran, lingering ethnic divisions in the Balkans, perpetual conflict and extremism in Africa; violent political struggles in, among others, the Ukraine, Burma, Thailand and Bangladesh; the specter of mass atrocities; the increasing stress of burgeoning populations; the urgent demands for energy, water and food; the increasing sophistication of transnational crime; the tragedy and magnitude of human trafficking; the insidious rot of inventive synthetic drugs; the potential for pandemic disease occasioned by the growth of drug-resistant bacteria.

I could go on with this litany, but suffice to say we live in a complex, dangerous world, and the statements for the record that we’ve submitted, particularly the classified version, provide a comprehensive review of these and other daunting challenges.

My second topic is what has consumed extraordinary time and energy for much of the past year in the intelligence community, in the Congress, in the White House and, of course, in the public square. I’m speaking, of course, about the most massive and most damaging theft of intelligence information in our history by Edward Snowden, and the ensuing avalanche of revelations published and broadcast around the world. I won’t dwell on the debate about Snowden’s motives or legal standing, or on the supreme ironies associated with his choice of freedom-loving nations and beacons of free expression from which to rail about what an Orwellian state he thinks this country has become.

But what I do want to speak to, as the nation’s senior intelligence officer, is the profound damage that his disclosures have caused and continue to cause. As a consequence, the nation is less safe and its people less secure. What Snowden has stolen and exposed has gone way, way beyond his professed concerns with so-called domestic surveillance programs. As a result, we’ve lost critical foreign intelligence collection sources, including some shared with us by valued partners. Terrorists and other adversaries of this country are going to school on U.S. intelligence sources, methods and tradecraft, and the insights that they are gaining are making our job much, much harder. And this includes putting the lives of members or assets of the intelligence community at risk, as well as our armed forces, diplomats and our citizens. We’re beginning to see changes in the communications behavior of adversaries, which you alluded to, particularly terrorists -- a disturbing trend which I anticipate will continue.

Snowden claims that he’s won and that his mission is accomplished. If that is so, I call on him and his accomplices to facilitate the return of the remaining stolen documents that have not yet been exposed, to prevent even more damage to U.S. security.

As a third and related point, I want to comment on the ensuing fallout. It pains me greatly that the National Security Agency and its magnificent workforce have been pilloried in public commentary. I started in the intelligence profession 50 years ago, in SIGINT, and members of my family and I have worked at NSA, so this is deeply personal to me. The real facts are, as the president noted in his speech on the 17th, that the men and women who work at NSA, both military and civilian, have done their utmost to protect this country and do so in a lawful manner. As I and other leaders in the community have said many times, NSA’s job is not to target the emails and phone calls of U.S. citizens. The agency does collect foreign intelligence -- the whole reason NSA has existed since 1952 -- performing critical missions that I’m sure the American people want it to carry out.

Moreover, the effects of the unauthorized disclosures hurt the entire intelligence community, not just NSA. Critical intelligence capabilities in which the United States has invested billions of dollars are at risk or likely to be curtailed or eliminated either because of compromise or conscious decision.

Moreover, the impact of the losses caused by the disclosures will be amplified by the substantial budget reductions we’re incurring. The stark consequences of this perfect storm are plainly evident. The intelligence community is going to have less capacity to protect our nation and its allies than we’ve had.

In this connection, I’m also compelled to note the negative morale impact this perfect storm has had on the IC workforce, which are compounded by sequestration furloughs, the shutdown and salary freezes. And in that regard, I very much appreciate -- we all do -- your tributes to the women and men of the intelligence community, and we will certainly convey that to all of them.

This leads me to my fourth point. We are thus faced with collectively -- and by collectively, I mean this committee, the Congress at large, the executive branch and, most acutely, all of us in the intelligence community -- with the inescapable imperative to accept more risk. This is a plain, hard fact and a circumstance that the community must and will manage, together with you and those we support in the executive branch.

But if dealing with reduced capacities is what we need to ensure the faith and confidence of the American people in their elected representatives, then we in the intelligence community will work as hard as we can to meet the expectations before us.

And that brings me to my fifth and final point. A major takeaway for us -- and certainly for me -- from the past several months is we must lean in the direction of transparency wherever and whenever we can. With greater transparency about these intelligence programs, the American people may be more likely to accept them. The president set the tone and direction for us in his speech as well as in his landmark presidential policy directive, a major hallmark of which is transparency.

I have specific tasking in conjunction with the attorney general to conduct further declassification, to develop additional protections under Section 702 of the FISA act, to modify how we conduct bulk collection of telephone metadata under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, and to ensure more oversight of sensitive collection activities. And clearly, we’ll need your support in making these changes.

Through all this, we must and will sustain our professional tradecraft and integrity, and we must continue to protect our crown- jewel sources and methods so that we can accomplish what we’ve always been chartered to do, protect the lives of American citizens here and abroad from the myriad threats I described at the beginning of this statement.

With that, I’ll conclude. And we’re ready to address your questions.

- snip -

In turn, Senators Wyden and Udall put their questions to the panel:
- snip -

SENATOR RON WYDEN (D-OR): Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

Let me start by saying that the men and women of America’s intelligence agencies are overwhelmingly dedicated professionals, and they deserve to have leadership that is trusted by the American people. Unfortunately, that trust has been seriously undermined by senior officials’ reckless reliance on secret interpretations of the law and battered by years of misleading and deceptive statements that senior officials made to the American people. These statements did not protect sources and methods that were useful in fighting terror. Instead, they hid bad policy choices and violation of the liberties of the American people.

For example, the director of the NSA said publicly that the NSA doesn’t hold data on U.S. citizens. That was obviously untrue.

Justice Department officials testified that Section 215 of the Patriot Act is analogous to grand jury subpoena authority, and that deceptive statement was made on multiple occasions.

Officials also suggested that the NSA doesn’t have the authority to read Americans’ emails without a warrant. But the FISA Court opinions declassified last August showed that wasn’t true either.

So for purposes of trying to move this dialogue along, because I don’t think this culture of misinformation is going to be easily fixed, I’d like to get into several other areas where the government’s interpretation of the law is still unclear.

Director Clapper, law-abiding Americans want to protect the privacy of their communication, and I see a clear need to strengthen protections for information -- for information sent over the Web or stored in the cloud. Declassified court documents show that in 2011 the NSA sought and obtained the authority to go through communications, collect it with respect to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act, and conduct warrantless searches for the communications of specific Americans. Can you tell us today whether any searches have ever been conducted?

DIR. CLAPPER: Senator Wyden, I think at a threat hearing, this would -- I would prefer not to discuss this and have this as a separate subject that -- because there are very complex legal issues here that I -- I just don’t think this is the appropriate time to discuss them.

SEN. WYDEN: When would that time be? I tried with written questions, Director Clapper, a year ago to get answers, and we were stonewalled on that. And this committee can’t do oversight if we can’t get direct answers. So when will you give the American people a(n) unclassified answer to that question that relates directly to their privacy?

DIR. CLAPPER: As soon as we can -- soon, sir. I-- I’ll -- (inaudible) -- that.

SEN. WYDEN: What would be wrong with 30 days?

DIR. CLAPPER: That’s fine.  {Ed note: mark your calendars}

SEN. WYDEN: All right. Thank you. That’s making some progress.

Director Brennan, a question with respect to policy. Does the Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act apply to the CIA? Seems to me that’s a yes or no question.

DIR. BRENNAN: I would have to look into what that act actually calls for and its applicability to CIA’s authorities, and I’ll be happy to get back to you, Senator, on that.

SEN. WYDEN: How long would that take?

DIR. BRENNAN: I’ll be happy to get it back to you as soon as possible, but certainly no longer than --

SEN. WYDEN: A week?

DIR. BRENNAN: I think that I could get that back to you, yes. {Ed note: mark your calendars}

SEN. WYDEN: Very good.

Let me ask a question of you, then, if I might, Director Comey. I’d like to ask you about the government’s authority to track individuals using things like cell site location information and smartphone applications. Last fall the NSA director testified that we, the NSA, identify a number; we can give that to the FBI. When they get their probable cause, then they can get the locational information they need.

I’ve been asking the NSA to publicly clarify these remarks but it hasn’t happened yet.

So is the FBI required to have probable cause in order to acquire America’s cell site location information for intelligence purposes?

DIR. COMEY: I don’t believe so, Senator. We -- in almost all circumstance we have to obtain a court order, but the showing is a reasonable basis to believe it’s relevant to the investigation.

SEN. WYDEN: So you don’t have to show probable cause; you have cited another standard.

Is that standard different if the government is collecting the location information from a smartphone app rather than a cellphone tower?

DIR. COMEY: I don’t think I know. I probably ought to ask someone who’s a little smarter on what the standard is that governs those. I don’t know the answer, sitting here.

SEN. WYDEN: My time is up. Can I have an answer to that within a week?

DIR. COMEY: You sure can.  {Ed note: mark your calendars}

SEN. WYDEN: All right.

Thank you, Madam Chair.

SEN. FEINSTEIN: Thank you, Senator Wyden.

Senator Udall, let me apologize to you. I inadvertently skipped over your name and called on Senator Wyden. But it’s your moment.

SENATOR MARK UDALL (D-CO): No apologies, Madam Chair.

Good morning to all of you. Thank you for being here. I too want to make it clear how much this committee respects and admires the hardworking members of the intelligence community. And I know everyone on this committee keeps this worldwide threat assessment handy. It’s not reading that puts you to sleep; it’s reading that gets your attention. I want to thank you and your teams for putting this together.

I did want to pick up on Senator Heinrich’s line of questioning. (Pausing for microphone adjustment.) We’re back in operation here.

Director Brennan, you know the long history of this committee’s study of our detention and interrogation programs, and I’d like to put my statement in the record that walks us through that record. But I did want to focus initially on the CIA internal review. Some people call it the Panetta review.

Were you aware of this CIA internal review when you provided the CIA’s official response to this committee in June of last year? I don’t have much time, so I’d appreciate a yes or no answer.

DIR. BRENNAN: It wasn’t a review, Senator; it was a summary. And at the time, no, I had not gone through it.

SEN. UDALL: It strikes me as a bit improbable, given that you knew about the internal review and you spoke to us and stated that your obligation as the CIA director was to make sure that the CIA’s response was as thorough and accurate as possible.

But in that context, let me move to the next question. Does the information in the internal review contradict any of the positions included in your June 2013 response to the committee?

DIR. BRENNAN: Senator, I respectfully would like to say that I don’t think this is the proper format for that discussion because our responses to your report were in classified form. And I look forward to addressing these questions with the committee at the appropriate time.

SEN. UDALL: Let me make sure I understand. Are you saying that the CIA officers who were asked to produce this internal review got it wrong, just like you said the committee got it wrong? We had 6,300 pages, 6 million documents, 35,500 footnotes.

DIR. BRENNAN: Senator, as you well know, I didn’t say that the committee got it wrong. I said there were things in that report that I disagreed with, there were things in that report that I agreed with. And I look forward to working with the committee on the next steps in that report. And I stand by my statement. I’m prepared to deal with the committee to make sure that we’re able to address the issue of the detention, rendition, interrogation program at the appropriate time. Look forward to it.

SEN. FEINSTEIN: (Off mic.)

SEN. UDALL: Madam Chair, I still have two minutes remaining.

SEN. FEINSTEIN: (Off mic) -- do.

SEN. UDALL: Let me move to the Snowden disclosures and what I think’s been a -- clearly outlined as a trust deficit that exists between the public and the intelligence community. This committee was created to address a severe breach of trust that developed when it was revealed that the CIA was conducting unlawful domestic searches. The Church committee went to work, found that to be true.

I want to be able to reassure the American people, especially given what’s been happening, that the CIA and the director understand the limits of their mission and of its authorities.

We all are well aware of Executive Order 12333. That order prohibits the CIA from engaging in domestic spying and searches of U.S. citizens within our borders. Can you assure the committee that the CIA does not conduct such domestic spying and searches?

DIR. BRENNAN: I can assure the committee that the CIA follows the letter and the spirit of the law in terms of what CIA’s authorities are, in terms of its responsibilities to collect intelligence that will keep this country safe. Yes, Senator, I do.

SEN. UDALL: Let me finish on this note. I think we have an important opportunity when it comes to this vital review that we undertook.

We can set the record straight. America is at its best when we acknowledge our mistakes and learn from those mistakes. It’s clear that the detention, rendition and interrogation programs of the CIA went over the line over the last -- during the first decade of this century.

Director Brennan, I just don’t understand why we can’t work together to clarify the record, to move forward and in so doing acknowledge the tremendous work of those you lead and those that we’re tasked in this -- on this committee to oversee. I’m hopeful that we can find a way forward on this important, important matter. Thank you.

DIR. BRENNAN: I hope we can too, Senator.

- snip -

Perhaps someone should advise Mr. Clapper that:

•  Snowden turned over the information to the press

•  US Constitution, Bill of Rights, First Amendment

•  The press is obviously sending the information back, piece-by-piece with great care.

Be patient, Jim. And wishing you glorious Year of the Horse!


Yeah! New Year! Party Time! The scene of our crime ...

View of the street from our home on the way out
Red sky at midnight.
10,000 firecrackers per person. This was mine.
Box 'o' Rockets - DONE!
"Daddy, why is the street red?"  

Happy New Year Kossacks! Peace & Love from Us.


Nobel Prize material/hottie:

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