Obama: Clapper ‘should have been more careful’ in congressional testimony

Obama said Clapper felt "that he was caught between a rock and a hard place."

President Obama said Friday that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper “should have been more careful” when he testified to a Senate panel last year that the National Security Agency did not collect data on millions of Americans.

“I think that Jim Clapper himself would acknowledge, and has acknowledged, that he should have been more careful about how he responded,” Obama told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “His concern was that he had a classified program that he couldn't talk about and he was in an open hearing in which he was asked, he was prompted to disclose a program, and so he felt that he was caught between a rock and a hard place.”

In July, Clapper apologized to the Senate Intelligence Committee for his “clearly erroneous” testimony.

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“My response was clearly erroneous — for which I apologize,” Clapper wrote. “While my staff acknowledged the error to Senator [Ron] Wyden’s staff soon after the hearing, I can now openly correct it because the existence of the metadata collection program has been declassified.”

During a open hearing in March, Clapper said “no” when Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, asked if the NSA collected “any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.”

Obama said Clapper had “acknowledged that he could have handled it better” and spoken to Wyden personally about the matter.

“What's clear is that we are going to have to do a better job of being transparent about what we do, to have a robust public debate about what we do,” Obama said.

The president added that he was “confident” the intelligence community could win back the confidence of the American people and international community.