By Christopher B. Daly
In what universe does it make sense that DNI James Clapper still has his job?
He should have been charged with contempt of Congress for lying under oath and sacked by his boss, President Obama. Instead, there he was yesterday testifying to Congress.
He used the platform Congress gave him to denounce Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who spilled the beans on the illegal and questionable programs and tactics run by our intelligence agencies. Of course, he blamed Snowden for serious but vague damage done to America. On examination, what he really means is that Snowden made life difficult for our spy agencies. Whether he caused any other kind of damage is unclear. (transcript, anyone?)
To quote the Times:
Mr. Clapper did not give specific examples to bolster his assessment about the damage Mr. Snowden had done. He also did not say whom he believed Mr. Snowden’s accomplices to be.
But he wasn’t finished. Turns out, he sees “threats” everywhere. There are bogeymen all over Asia, the Mideast and Africa. Everywhere he looks, he sees nukes, bio-chem weapons, conspiracies, and an ever-mutating array of threats. Most of these threats are either hypothetical, localized in some faraway place, or intramural disputes between people who are no friends of ours. At the risk of sounding like some kind of neo-isolationist (which I am not), I have to observe that almost none of the threats hinted at by Clapper involve real, credible, imminent attacks on the territory of the United States.
But that’s not the standard for our military-intelligence complex. There, the issue is whether someone presents a threat (of any kind) to something known as “American interests” — a term that has no specific definition. It is so vague and all-encompassing that it could mean almost anything — a kidnapping threat against a U.S. citizen anywhere in the world, for example, or an apolitical piracy operation that menaces U.S. shipping anywhere in the world.
The fact is, not every problem in the world is an American problem, and not every problem in the world has an American solution. But if you are seeking to justify the existence of your agency and get more money for your budget, it behooves you to play up all these “threats.”
Thanks to Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, who has emerged as the great skeptic in Congress. (He’s the one Clapper lied to, face to face, last year.) At this week’s hearing, Wyden
said that the dealings between spy agencies and their congressional overseers were crippled by a “culture of misinformation.”
Speaking of executive actions, this is one problem Obama could solve today, without needing an act of Congress. Fire Clapper.