comScore

James Clapper: ‘I Didn’t Lie’ to Congress About NSA Surveillance, I ‘Simply Didn’t Understand’ the Question

Former National Security Agency Director James Clapper said he did not lie about mass domestic surveillance programs when he testified to Congress in 2013, but rather he made a mistake and did not understand what specific program was being asked about.

CNN’s John Berman asked for Clapper’s reaction to The Intercept’s Glen Greenwald report: “The very first NSA program we revealed from Snowden documents, the mass domestic spying program of Americans’ phone records which James Clapper lied about and Obama insisted was vital to national security has been shut down.”

“Well, the original thought behind this, and this program was put in place as a direct result of 9/11, the point was to be able to track quickly a foreign communicant talking to somebody in this country who may have been plotting a terrorist plot, and was put in place during the Bush Administration for that reason,” Clapper said. “I always regarded it as kind of a safeguard or insurance policy so that if the need came up you would have this to refer to.”

“As far as the comment, the allegation about my lying, I didn’t lie, I made a big mistake and I just simply didn’t understand what I was being asked about. I thought of another surveillance program, Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act when I was being asked about Section 215 of the Patriot Act at the time, I just didn’t understand that” he continued.

When Berman said because it has been reported no terrorists have been caught using the surveillance program, he asked Clapper if it suggests it does not work.

“Well, that’s true, and I think probably at the time contemporaneously back 2013 or so when all this broke that we may have oversold it a bit because, you know, we were hard-pressed to point out to a specific case in point,” Clapper admitted. “What this was was just trying to capitalize on the lesson learned from 9/11. I will say that — and I’ve said this publicly many times before, that what this did prove was the need for the intelligence community to have been more transparent.”

Watch above, via CNN.

Have a tip we should know? tips@mediaite.com

Filed Under:

Follow Mediaite:

Follow Julio Rosas: