'A Lie Is a Lie': Sensenbrenner Wants Intel Director Clapper Prosecuted
An author of the Patriot Act wants Director of National Intelligence James Clapper prosecuted for lying to Congress about the NSA's data collection activities on Americans.
After the Edward Snowden leaks, Clapper was asked at a June Senate hearing by Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), "Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?"
"No sir," Clapper responded, later adding, "Not wittingly."
Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) said that Clapper's apology for misleading Congress was "definitely not good enough for me."
"It's a crime to lie to Congress. And Clapper admitted that he gave, quote, 'the least untruthful answer.' Well, I think a little bit of a lie is like being a little bit pregnant. A lie is a lie, and the only Congress can do its oversight properly is with truthful testimony. And that's why the law is on the books that says if you lie to Congress, you've committed a crime," Sensenbrenner said this morning on Fox.
He noted the legislation he filed to clarify the interpretation of his Patriot Act, which intelligence agencies used as justification for the controversial surveillance programs.
"The original intent of the Patriot Act was first, that the government, including the NSA and the justice department would target a non-U.S. person who, as part of an authorized terrorism investigation, get a warrant from the secret court and then find out who that person was in contact with," Sensenbrenner said.
"What they did was turn that definition on its head to grab everybody's phone records. They made a very big haystack and -- well a very small needle inside of it, it -- it hasn't been effective and I think it's in violation of the law."
Sensenbrenner's bill would block the bulk collection of phone records and tighten the definitions on who can be targeted by the NSA.
"Listen, we have to balance out security with -- with respect for civil rights and our constitution which has made America different. And what the NSA has done with the administration's concurrence, simply turn that on the head, then go the security route and forget about the civil liberties and constitutional route," he said.
He also wants civilians in charge of the programs instead of the military, noting that "their job is to protect the security of the United States, and to forget, completely, about the civil liberties and constitutional concerns."
"I think that having someone without a military background in charge of both the NSA, as well as being the national director of intelligence would bring that proper balance into view in determining what to ask the secret court to approve and how to go about collecting the information that needs us -- makes us safe," Sensenbrenner said.
"I can say very clearly and emphatically that we do need to have a properly administered business records law because data that is held by third party, such as telecommunications companies, can be very useful in tracking down terrorists before they strike us. But we ought to -- rather than grabbing everybody's records, zero-in on people that we suspect of doing us harm and then finding out what they're up to."
NSA Director Keith Alexander, a four-star general, reportedly offered to resign after the Snowden leaks but the Obama administration asked him to stay on.