Director of National Intelligence James Clapper

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

Fire Intelligence Chief, Lawmakers Say

White House rebuffs allegation from some House members that James Clapper lied to Congress.

The White House should fire intelligence chief James Clapper as part of its effort to rein in the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs, said a group of lawmakers this week.

President Obama’s recently proposed NSA reforms “fall short of substantial transparency and reform” and should  include the sacking of Clapper, said a Jan. 27 letter from House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., as well as four other Republicans and one Democrat.

The letter is the latest in a series of critiques from lawmakers who claim Clapper’s March 2013 testimony on NSA programs before a Senate panel was incomplete. The White House should put in place “immediate and effective safeguards to rein in federal surveillance programs and articulate workable, consistent standards to limit access to, and collection of, American citizens’ personal information,” it said.

The letter, also signed by Reps. Ted Poe, R-Texas, Paul Broun, R-Ga., Doug Collins, R-Ga., Walter Jones, R-N.C., and Alan Grayson, D-Fla., asserts that Clapper “continues to hold his position despite lying to Congress, under oath, about the existence of bulk data collection programs.” Clapper is director of national intelligence.  

When asked during a public hearing by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., whether the NSA was collecting data on millions of Americans, Clapper said, “No, sir. Not wittingly. There are cases where they could, inadvertently perhaps, collect -- but not wittingly.” Wyden expressed disappointment with that his answer.

The director apologized for the confusion caused by his response and “is focused on working with the intelligence committees to increase transparency while protecting critical intelligence sources and methods,” said Shawn Turner, a spokesman at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, in an email to Government Executive. “DNI Clapper has been testifying before members of Congress for more than two decades and he enjoys a well-earned reputation as a doggedly honest and honorable public servant,” Turner said.  

White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden also defended Clapper. “The president has full faith in Director Clapper’s leadership of the intelligence community,” she said. “The director has provided an explanation for his answers to Sen. Wyden and made clear that he did not intend to mislead the Congress.”