Lawmakers demand Obama dump Clapper

A bipartisan group of House members is criticizing President Obama for not going far enough in his attempts to rein in the country’s surveillance programs.

In a letter to the White House on Monday, six lawmakers led by House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said that the Obama administration should “take immediate and effective safeguards” to reform the National Security Agency (NSA) and make sure that Director of National Intelligence James ClapperJames Robert ClapperDomestic security is in disarray: We need a manager, now more than ever Will Biden provide strategic clarity or further ambiguity on Taiwan? 140 national security leaders call for 9/11-style panel to review Jan. 6 attack MORE is not involved in the process.


“The continued role of James Clapper as Director of National Intelligence is incompatible with the goal of restoring trust in our security programs and ensuring the highest level of transparency,” they wrote.

Earlier this month, Obama gave a speech outlining reforms he would like to see for the embattled NSA. He proposed new limits on the agency's ability to collect and search data about nearly all Americans’ phones calls, among other measures, but called on Clapper and Attorney General Eric Holder to come up with additional reforms.

Clapper has been a subject of lawmakers’ ire since early last year, when he denied that the NSA spied on millions of Americans while under oath. He has since said that he tried to give the “least untruthful” answer without revealing classified information.

“Asking Director Clapper, and other federal intelligence officials who misrepresented programs to Congress and the courts, to report to you on needed reforms and the future role of government surveillance is not a credible solution," legislators wrote on Monday.

Reps. Ted Poe (R-Texas), Paul Broun (R-Ga.), Doug Collins (R-Ga.), Walter Jones (R-N.C.) and Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) also signed the letter.

The White House on Monday stood by the intelligence chief.

“The President has full faith in Director Clapper’s leadership of the intelligence community,” National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in an email to The Hill.

She added that Clapper “has provided an explanation” for his previous answers about the NSA’s surveillance “and made clear that he did not intend to mislead the Congress."

The lawmakers added that the president’s instructions for overhauling the NSA “fall short” of the necessary measures.

“We cannot effectively guard our constitutional liberties and operate our national security programs with unresolved administrative questions," they wrote. "Additional layers of bureaucracy and reporting directives cannot act as a substitute for concrete reforms and overdue transparency.” 

According to documents released by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the NSA has intentionally attempted to undermine private companies' encryption methods, a practice that Obama failed to mention during his speech. The lawmakers criticized him for the omission and wrote that reports "underscore the need to provide leadership and clarity beyond the collection of telephone records.”

They also advocated for higher standards for using National Security Letters, which require people and businesses to turn over information to the government.