James Clapper: Four strikes and you’re out?

Mitchell: “Senator Wyden made quite a lot out of your exchange with him last March during the hearings. Can you explain what you meant when you said there was not data collection on millions of Americans?”
Clapper: “First, as I said, I have great respect for Senator Wyden. I thought though in retrospect I was asked when are you going to start--stop beating your wife kind of question which is, meaning not answerable necessarily, by a simple yes or no. So I responded in what I thought was the most truthful or least most untruthful manner, by saying, `No.’ And again, going back to my metaphor, what I was thinking of is looking at the Dewey Decimal numbers of those books in the metaphorical library. To me collection of U.S. Persons data would mean taking the books off the shelf, opening it up and reading it.”

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When I wrote about Clapper, in March 2011, he was in the hot seat and there was an opinion abroad that perhaps this guy was not really intellectually up to the task. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called for Clapper’s resignation with the words “three strikes and you’re out,” and Graham enumerated the strikes, which assume further resonance in the wake of the breathtaking scope of the NSA surveillance/data-mining program.

Strike one: Seeming clueless, during an interview with ABC News’s Diane Sawyer, that 12 men who allegedly had been planning a terrorist attack were arrested in London.

Strike two: As Hosni Mubarak was falling in Egypt, describing the country’s Muslim Brotherhood as “largely secular.”

Strike three: In March 2011, testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, that the biggest threats to America are Russia and China. Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) begged to differ, suggesting that Iran and North Korea are bigger threats.

For those who think that it’s time for Clapper to go, he should get some points on the latter. In June 2013, given the horror of the ongoing war in Syria, a pretty good case could be made that Clapper was right — at the very least in singling out Russia as a festering problem for the U.S.