When is it permissible for a federal official to lie to Congress ... apparently whenever he wants?
Or at least that would seem to be the position of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper when he testified before the Senate Intelligence hearing in March.
Clapper was asked directly by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., "Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?"
Clapper's lying answer was "No, sir.
The senator pressed, "It does not?" To which the Clapper responded, "Not wittingly. There are cases where they could inadvertently, perhaps, collect - but not wittingly."
Gee, I guess we know now that Clapper cannot be trusted to tell Congress the truth, when in subsequent interviews he admitted "I responded in what I thought was the most truthful or least most untruthful manner."
How's that for government doubletalk. If I cannot tell the truth, I'll tell something that is the least most untruthful. Sounds to me like a lie is a lie is a lie.
If Clapper would lie to Congress how can anyone believe anything he subsequently says to anyone at anytime? If he lies to Congress, wouldn't he also lie to the American people?
Secondly, does Clapper's lies downplay the potential legal issues surrounding Edward Snowden, 29, who says he leaked the National Security Agency's capability to collect telephone communication data on millions of Americans in the name of fighting terrorism?
One of the NSA programs reportedly mines hundreds of millions of U.S. telephone and cellphone records to search for possible links to known terrorist targets abroad. Another program permits the government to tap into nine U.S. Internet companies and gather all communications to detect what the government might consider suspicious behavior that begins overseas. Or, at least, that's what the government tells us it's doing. Should we believe it or is it more lies by Clapper and his cohorts?
So what about Snowden: Is he a patriot for revealing that Big Brother is listening or a traitor for providing terrorists the information that Big Brother is listening?
That's what the Justice Department is trying to determine, weighing whether to charge him for disclosing classified programs to journalists.
Snowden's whereabouts were not immediately known. He was believed to be in Hong Kong, where he might be trying to avoid extradition to the U.S. if charged.
Meanwhile some privacy advocates maintain President Obama has gone too far with his eavesdropping and Internet tapping. The American Civil Liberties Union and Yale Law School have filed suit to force a secret U.S. court to make public its opinions justifying the scope of some of the surveillance. The suit calls the program's "shockingly broad."
Also, not to be out done, conservative lawyer Larry Klayman filed a separate lawsuit against the Obama administration, claiming he and others have been harmed by the government's collection of as many as 3 billion phone numbers each day.
Before this is over - all of which reminds me way too much of Orwell's "1984," Nazi Germany, the USSR and President George W. Bush's total disregard for the Constitution in his over-the-top Patriot Act, everyone from the president to Snowden is going to get as dirty as they all deserve.
Contact Jim Smith at email@example.com