Under fire for telling Congress his agency did not gather intelligence on millions of Americans, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper apologized for what he called a “clearly erroneous” statement.
Clapper apologized in a letter
to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The letter was dated June 21, but was released to the public on Tuesday.
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In it, Clapper says he has "thought long and hard" to recreate what was going on in his mind when he responded to a question from Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., asking whether Clapper's agency collects "any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans."
"No sir," Clapper answered at the March 12 hearing. "Not wittingly."
That was proved to be false when former NSA contract employee Edward Snowden leaked classified information on the PRISM program, which collects electronic communications, including email. Another leak showed that the NSA collects metadata from phone calls showing times and duration of calls as well as the other number involved in the call.
Clapper says his office immediately told Widen about the error, but did not make a public statement at the time because the program was still classified. Following the leaks, Clapper himself partially declassified the programs amid public outrage. He said the action would help Americans understand
the programs better.
The programs are part of the Patriot Act and are intended to target phone calls of terrorists who are not American citizens. Any data between American citizens is not supposed to be viewed or used.
In the letter, Clapper talks about his 50 years of public service, during which he has answered thousands of questions in hearings and briefings. When he makes a mistake, he said, "I correct it."
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