The US director of national intelligence has conceded that the US government ought to have told American citizens that the National Security Agency collects their phone data in bulk.
James Clapper, whose misleading testimony to the Senate about the mass surveillance now overshadows his nearly four years atop the US intelligence agencies, continued to defend the bulk domestic phone, fax and other “telephony” data collection, as well as his honesty.
But in an interview released late Monday with the Daily Beast’s Eli Lake, Clapper said that crucial moment was the first revelations from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden on 5 June last year, when the Guardian revealed the bulk phone records collection, which claims legal authority under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. “What did us in here, what worked against us was this shocking revelation,” Clapper said.
Clapper said that the controversy would not have occurred had the security apparatus been more open before. “I probably shouldn’t say this, but I will. Had we been transparent about this from the outset right after 9/11 – which is the genesis of the 215 program – and said both to the American people and to their elected representatives, we need to cover this gap, we need to make sure this never happens to us again, so here is what we are going to set up, here is how it’s going to work, and why we have to do it, and here are the safeguards … We wouldn’t have had the problem we had.”
“Um, our bad…we’ve got the message, so that’s all right then?”