President Obama diplomatically defended embattled Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who is accused of lying to Congress about the existence of the National Security Agency’s spying program.
“I think that Jim Clapper himself would acknowledge, and has acknowledged, that he should have been more careful about how he responded,” the president told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “His concern was that he had a classified program that he couldn’t talk about and he was in an open hearing in which he was asked, he was prompted to disclose a program, and so he felt that he was caught between a rock and a hard place.”
Clapper flat-out denied to Senator Ron Wyden, during congressional testimony, that the NSA collected “any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.”
Clapper later apologized, but that hasn’t stopped critics like Senator Rand Paul from calling for Clapper’s resignation and potential prosecution.
“I find really that Clapper lying to Congress is probably more injurious to our intelligence capabilities than anything Snowden did, because Clapper has damaged the credibility of the entire intelligence apparatus, and I’m not sure what to believe anymore when they come to Congress,” Paul told CNN.
Support for prosecuting Clapper is mixed, which means that in the current Congressional environment any sanctions would be difficult to pass.
It certainly doesn’t send a good message to future intelligence officials, though, that they can essentially say whatever they want in public and don’t have to suffer anything harsher than a slap on the wrist.