Intel Chief 'Can't Guarantee' America Will Remain Safe During the Shutdown

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper Director of National Intelligence James Clapper Carolyn Kaster/AP

During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa asked the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, if the government shutdown was putting America at risk. Clapper's response was not reassuring.

Grassley: Does America remain safe, even with a shutdown?

Clapper: Um. [pauses] I have to qualify that sir. I don't feel that I can make such a guarantee as each day of this sutdown goes by. I'm very concerned about the jeopardy to the country because of this.

Sen. Patrick Leahy: What you're saying is that it becomes cumulative. You're saying the danger and threat becomes cumulative.

Clapper: Yes, sir.

It is in Clapper's interests to suggest that his agency's work is indispensable at any level below 100 percent, of course; the hearing itself was predicated on allowing defense intelligence agencies like the NSA (which Clapper oversees) to argue for the importance of their work in the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations. But even so, his statement was stark.

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