DNI Clapper: We Should’ve Come Clean About Phone Surveillance

Spy chief says Americans would've supported surveillance in wake of 9/11

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J. Scott Applewhite / AP

This April 18, 2013 file photo shows National Intelligence Director James Clapper testifying on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper said in an interview published on Monday that the intelligence community should’ve told the American public about secret phone-data collection when that program first began years ago.

“I probably shouldn’t say this, but I will,” Clapper told the Daily Beast. “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 added that “if the program had been publicly introduced in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, most Americans would probably have supported it.”

The government’s phone-records collection program was authorized by its interpretation of section 215 of the Patriot Act. It was kept secret from the American public until it was exposed last year in documents revealed by NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

Clapper has previously come under fire for denying during Senate testimony that the National Security Agency collects data on millions of Americans. Clapper later said he gave an answer in what he “thought was the most truthful or least untruthful manner,” given the 215 program was classified when the question was asked.

[Daily Beast]