November 17, 2016

Wyden Statement on Director Clapper’s Resignation

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., issued the following statement on the announcement of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s resignation:

During Director Clapper’s tenure, senior intelligence officials engaged in a deception spree regarding mass surveillance. Top officials, officials who reported to Director Clapper, repeatedly misled the American people and even lied to them.      

In 2012 you saw the Director of the NSA make statements like ‘we don’t hold data on US citizens’ and ‘the story that we have dossiers on millions or hundreds of millions of people is absolutely false.’  These statements deceived the American public in order to conceal mass surveillance, and when Senator Mark Udall and I tried to get the NSA Director to correct the record, he declined to do so.

After the NSA Director declined to correct these statements, I put the question to the Director of National Intelligence in March 2013.  I wouldn’t have been doing my job if I hadn’t asked that question.  My staff and I spent weeks preparing it, and I had my staff send him the question in advance so that he would be prepared to answer it.  

Director Clapper famously gave an untrue answer to that question.  So I had my intelligence staffer call his office afterward and ask them to correct the record.  The Director’s office refused to correct the record.  Regardless of what was going through the director’s head when he testified, failing to correct the record was a deliberate decision to lie to the American people about what their government was doing. And within a few months, of course, the truth came out.

The combination of a tendency toward secrecy, which the president-elect has exhibited with regard to his taxes, and press access, combined with the desire for expanded surveillance authorities, which he demonstrated when he responded to Russian hacking by saying ‘I wish I had that power,’ is highly dangerous.  I urge the next administration to take a different approach and reject the use of secret law that has been all too common in recent years. In America the truth always comes out eventually, and when it does, Americans have proven time and again they will be outraged at the government agencies, officials and politicians who allow secret and expansive interpretations of the law.”