2013 10 24 NYT Clapper and Carney Get Slippery on Surveillance – NYTimes.com
Clapper and Carney Get Slippery on Surveillance
Charles Dharapak/Associated PressJay Carney at the daily press briefing at the White House on Oct. 24, 2013.
Does anyone still believe anything the Obama administration has to say about surveillance?
On Wednesday, James Clapper, the director of national intelligence who once excused a lie to Congress by explaining that it was “the most truthful or least untruthful” thing he could say, issued another burst of fog about a Le Monde article that said the United States collected data on 70 million French telephone records in a 30-day period.
He said “the allegation that the National Security Agency collected more than 70 million ‘recordings of French citizens’ telephone data’ is false.” As Tim Cushing pointed out, Mr. Clapper seemed to be taking advantage of on an odd construction (you don’t “record” metadata) to deny something that was basically true.
The Associated Press reported that the N.S.A. was gathering data on which phone numbers were calling which other phone numbers in France, just like they do — I believe unconstitutionally — in the United States.
So what did Mr. Clapper mean? That there were no “recordings” of data? Just database entries? Or that it was not 70 million, but perhaps 69.9 million?
Whatever he meant, President François Hollande of France (who presumably has access to more information than just reading Le Monde), called President Obama to express his anger and frustration.
Then, yesterday, Der Spiegel reported that German Chancellor Angela Merkel asked Mr. Obama “for a thorough explanation of serious indications that U.S. intelligence agencies had declared her private mobile phone to be a target in their operations.”
The White House press secretary, Jay Carney said, “The president assured [Merkel] that the United States is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications” of the chancellor.” Please note: IS not monitoring and WILL NOT monitor. The allegation, unaddressed, was that the United States HAD been monitoring her calls (until it was caught in the act).
Sadly, this is not the first time we’ve had this problem of obfuscation, misdirection, cover up and even outright lying about surveillance.
In June, when The Guardian first began publishing Edward Snowden’s leaks, President Obama assured everyone that there were so many safeguards in place that nobody’s rights could possibly be violated even if the N.S.A. was collecting metadata on every phone call and email from every American every day.
Later, through more leaks, we found out that those safeguards are entirely internal (and of course, secret) and that they have frequently been violated.
If this administration wants to provide “the most truthful or least untruthful” answers, it might consider simply telling the truth.