Clapper admits NSA domestic spy program needed transparency

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper admits in a new interview that the United States government should have been transparent about its domestic surveillance program.

“I probably shouldn’t say this, but I will. Had we been transparent about this from the outset right after 9/11 — which is the genesis of the 215 program — and said both to the American people and to their elected representatives, we need to cover this gap, we need to make sure this never happens to us again, so here is what we are going to set up, here is how it’s going to work, and why we have to do it, and here are the safeguards … We wouldn’t have had the problem we had,” Clapper said in an interview with The Daily Beast published Monday. 

Edward Snowden’s leaks about the National Security Agency forced intelligence officials like Clapper to further disclose details of the program.

“What did us in here, what worked against us was this shocking revelation,” he said. 

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Clapper said Americans might have accepted the program more willingly if it had been unveiled after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

“[H]ad we been transparent about it and say here’s one more thing we have to do as citizens for the common good, just like we have to go to airports two hours early and take our shoes off, all the other things we do for the common good, this is one more thing,” he told The Daily Beast. 

Since Snowden’s leaks, Clapper has declassified documents related to the NSA’s metadata program. He continued to defend the program and compared it to buying fire insurance. 

“For me it was not some massive assault on civil liberties and privacy because of what we actually do and the safeguards that are put on this,” he said. “To guard against perhaps these days low probability but a very (high) impact thing if it happens,“ he said. “I buy fire insurance ever since I retired, the wife and I bought a house out here and we buy fire insurance every year. Never had a fire. But I am not gonna quit buying my fire insurance, same kind of thing.”

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