Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has had some explaining to do now that the NSA wiretapping program has been exposed and declassified and totally admitted to by no less than President Obama. Here's what he told Sen. Ron Wyden, under oath, about that program just a few short months ago.

Wyden: [...] So, what I wanted to see is if you could give me a yes or now answer to the question: "Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?"

Clapper: No, sir.

Wyden: It does not.

Clapper. Not wittingly. There are cases where they could inadvertently perhaps collect, but not, not wittingly.

Now, most people would look at that exchange, in light of recent revelations, and see a bold-faced lie. No, Clapper assures us. He didn't lie. He was asked an unfair question and it's all in the semantics.
His latest take: It's an unfair question, he said, like "When are you going to stop beating your wife?" And it seems to depend on the meaning of "collect."

"I responded in what I thought was the most truthful, or least untruthful, manner by saying 'no,'" Clapper told NBC News on Sunday. [...]

On Sunday, Clapper elaborated: "This has to do with of course somewhat of a semantic, perhaps some would say too cute by half. But it is—there are honest differences on the semantics of what—when someone says 'collection' to me, that has a specific meaning, which may have a different meaning to him."

Okay, except for the part where Sen. Wyden says in the exchange about how he has "served on the committee now for a dozen years." Wyden and Clapper definitely have the same definition of "collect" in this context, because Wyden has been on this committee for more a decade and because Wyden has been warning against this program for two years now. And Clapper calls Wyden "too cute by half." So what's your definition of "collect," Clapper? Or is that classified, too?

Don't expect the Senate Intelligence Committee to bring Clapper back in to clarify whether or not he lied to them, though.  The committee chair Dianne Feinstein is on Clapper's side. Sort of, since she implied he wasn't really capable of understanding the question. Some defense.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Mon Jun 10, 2013 at 12:05 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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