While thousands of Americans called and e-mailed Congress to object to the National Security Agency's (NSA) mass surveillance operations during yesterday's "Day We Fight Back," Director of National Intelligence James Clapper was feeding Congress contradictory explanations for NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden's revelations with a side of traditional surveillance state apologist fear mongering.
The New York Times reported:
The director, James R. Clapper Jr., testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Mr. Snowden had taken advantage of a “perfect storm” of security lapses.True to form for an official who lied to Congress about mass surveillance, Clapper later contradicted his earlier testimony when he warned that the so-called "perfect storm" could easily happen again:
On Tuesday, for example, he warned that “there are no mousetraps that we could say that we can guarantee that we’ll never have another Edward Snowden.”Contrary to the Obama administration's mud-slinging characterization of Snowden as a "29-year-old hacker," Clapper complimented the whistleblower's intelligence:
“He knew exactly what he was doing,” Mr. Clapper said. “And he was pretty skilled at staying below the radar, so what he was doing wasn’t visible.”Snowden's clear intellect is really no longer a matter of debate considering his articulate and powerful public statements, and the NSA's incompetence at protecting the vast troves of information it is vacuuming up is certainly of concern to the hundreds of millions of Americans whose private data is sitting in NSA's databases. But, Clapper's focus on Snowden and how to stop the "next Snowden" serves to distract from the true confluence of events that led to the Snowden revelations: NSA systematically breaking the law and invading the privacy of hundreds of millions of innocent Americans and spying on entire innocent populations, with no discernible benefit to national security.
It was not Snowden's smarts or the NSA's quite disturbing security failures that caused his revelations. There were no safe internal channels for Snowden to disclose this gross abandonment of NSA's charter, betrayal of the Constitution and massive waste of taxpayer money. The NSA whistleblowers who preceded him used internal channels and were investigated for Espionage.
It was massive illegality and lack of whistleblower protections, not NSA's inability to effectively keep secret the wrongdoing, that created an atmosphere where Snowden used the safest channel available to him by going to the press.
Clapper's frustration that the American public is now informed of NSA's mass surveillance of hundreds of millions of innocent people was on full display when he lodged a new smear at Snowden:
Mr. Clapper also said, for the first time, that some of the information Mr. Snowden is believed to possess could expose the identities of undercover American operatives as well as foreigners who have been recruited by United States spy agencies.The fear-mongering accusation is yet another transparent attempt to tarnish Snowden, whose credibility for being truthful by now should greatly outweigh that of the admitted liar Clapper. Snowden gave his information to journalists specifically so that the information made public would be the information in the public interest, as evidenced by the fact that eight months after the first stories ran, no such "identities" have been made public:
The information Mr. Snowden has released so far through several newspapers and a new digital news organization that began publishing on Monday has not revealed the names of agents or operatives . . .NSA should stop focusing on how to stop the next whistleblower, save for creating safe and effective internal whistleblowing channels, which could serve as an alternative to going to the press. Rather, NSA should focus its energy on ending useless privacy-invading mass surveillance programs. The question NSA should be asking is how to correct the massive waste and abuse the Snowden revelations brought to light, not the revealingly defensive question Clapper addressed: "how did the public find out about the misconduct?" It's time for NSA to face the music for its lawbreaking.