Should we pursue perjury charges against the intelligence officials who swore to us that our calls and emails were not being monitored?

As you may recall, last March, months before the recent bombshell allegations of domestic spying were made by 29-year old NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, in sworn testimony before a Senate subcommittee, stated that the NSA does not “wittingly” collect any data at all on American citizens.

Here’s video of the very nervous looking Clapper responding to the questions of Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon).

And it seemed as though people bought it… at least for a while. Then, of course, Snowden began releasing his classified government documents from Hong Kong, where he’d run to avoid prosecution. And the company line began to dissolve… So much so that, on Friday, June 7, President Obama had to assure the American people that they weren’t being spied on. “Nobody,” the President said in his address, is listening to your phone calls.”

And, on June 12, this position was reiterated by NSA Director Keith Alexander, who stated before the Senate Appropriations Committee not only that his organization didn’t eavesdrop on the calls and emails of American citizens, but that they lacked the ability to do so even if they wanted to. Following is the exchange between Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), and General Alexander. (You’ll find it at the 1:29:46 mark of the video linked to above.)

COLLINS: “I saw an interview in which Mr. Snowden claimed that, due to his position at NSA, he could tap into virtually any American’s phone calls or emails. (Is that) true of false?”

ALEXANDER: “False. I know of no way to do that.”

Well, I’m not sure what the consequences of perjury are, but, if I were Alexander or Clapper, I’d be lawyering up right now… especially given yesterday’s most recent, post-Snowden revelation, which you can read all about in the following clip from CNET.

The National Security Agency has acknowledged in a new classified briefing that it does not need court authorization to listen to domestic phone calls.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, disclosed this week that during a secret briefing to members of Congress, he was told that the contents of a phone call could be accessed “simply based on an analyst deciding that.”

If the NSA wants “to listen to the phone,” an analyst’s decision is sufficient, without any other legal authorization required, Nadler said he learned. “I was rather startled,” said Nadler, an attorney and congressman who serves on the House Judiciary committee.

Not only does this disclosure shed more light on how the NSA’s formidable eavesdropping apparatus works domestically, it also suggests the Justice Department has secretly interpreted federal surveillance law to permit thousands of low-ranking analysts to eavesdrop on phone calls.

Because the same legal standards that apply to phone calls also apply to e-mail messages, text messages, and instant messages, Nadler’s disclosure indicates the NSA analysts could also access the contents of Internet communications without going before a court and seeking approval.

The disclosure appears to confirm some of the allegations made by Edward Snowden, a former NSA infrastructure analyst who leaked classified documents to the Guardian. Snowden said in a video interview that, while not all NSA analysts had this ability, he could from Hawaii “wiretap anyone from you or your accountant to a federal judge to even the president”…

As we initiated impeachment proceedings against a president for failing to report a blowjob, one imagines that charges will be brought immediately against these men for lying under oath about something as serious as the warrantless monitoring of millions of Americans, right?

And, of course, I’m being facetious. I’ve lived here long enough to know that, in this country, single ejaculatory episodes between consenting adults are more a threat to our sovereignty than something as insignificant as a warrantless wiretap. Because, really, who gets hurt if a few hundred million of our calls are logged, and a small army of private security consultants have access to our email accounts? It’s not like they’ll discover that we’re guilty of thoughtcrime or something…

And, after all, the Constitution is “just a piece of paper.”

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  1. Demetrius
    Posted June 16, 2013 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    Aside from a handful in the Rand Paul faction, I’m guessing most Republicans have no problem with this. And, aside from a few progressives like Bernie Sanders, I’m guessing most Democrats are simply too afraid of being labelled “soft on terrorism” to make a serious effort to combat it.

    That leaves the Holder Justice Department … so, no … I’m guessing we will not see any serious legal challenge.

    Perhaps there is a small chance some kind of ACLU legal challenge could make its way up through the courts, but that would take years … during which the new security state will continue to become ever-more powerful, day-by-day, byte-by-byte.

  2. alan2102
    Posted June 16, 2013 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    Demetrius is right. Clapper has NOTHING to worry about. If anything, after the micr0-flap dies down and everyone forgets about this (i.e. circa 72 hours), he will get a letter of commendation, followed by a promotion.

  3. Edward
    Posted June 17, 2013 at 5:19 am | Permalink

    I’d settle for them bringing Clapper and Alexander back in front of the Senate and grilling them on the record on why they’d purposely misled investigators. That’s how low my expectations are at this point. I know they won’t ever be threatened with jail time. I just want someone to say on the record, “Hey, this sure sounds like you were lying to us, and that’s not nice.” (I’d also like for someone to do the same with Colin Powell.)

  4. Meta
    Posted June 17, 2013 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    Not surprisingly, the President’s “trustworthiness” numbers are dropping as a result of this.

    President Barack Obama’s approval and trust numbers have dropped sharply in the last month, a new poll found on Monday.

    The president’s approval was down 8 points from May, to 45 percent from 53 percent, according to a new CNN/ORC International poll. Fifty-four percent of those surveyed disapproved, up 9 points from CNN’s polling in May.

    For the first time in his presidency, the poll also found less than half of respondents believed Obama was honest. Forty-nine percent of those surveyed said he was honest and trustworthy, a drop of 9 points from last month.

    The drop in support for Obama was especially steep among young voters and independents. With voters ages 18 to 29, Obama’s approval numbers dropped 17 points, according to CNN’s polling director. Among voters ages 18-34, 48 percent approved of the job Obama is doing and 50 percent disapproved.

    Read more:

  5. Meta
    Posted June 17, 2013 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    Representative Nadler is backtracking, but the evidence keeps on coming.

    Today, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Michigan) insisted the NSA has not been recording Americans’ phone calls under any surveillance program, and that any claim to the contrary was “misinformation.” Rogers’ comments countered remarks from Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), who said he was told in a House Judiciary Committee briefing by FBI Director Robert Mueller that private firms contracted by the NSA could listen to phone calls made by American citizens.

    Since Nadler’s comments were reported by CNET, he has issued a subsequent statement backtracking on his original remarks: “I am pleased that the administration has reiterated that, as I have always believed, the NSA cannot listen to the content of Americans’ phone calls without a specific warrant.”

    The full transcript of Nadler’s exchange with Mueller shows the FBI director claiming that “a particularized order from the FISA court directed at that particular phone and that particular individual” is required for the FBI to retrieve the content of any American’s call.

    However, in a May 1 interview with CNN’s Erin Burnett– well before the scandal over NSA spying sent the White House and its allies into damage control mode – a former FBI agent named Tim Clemente made a startling revelation. According to Clemente, an April 18 phone call between Boston bombing perpetrator Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his wife was retrieved by the FBI as part of its surveillance of bulk US telecom data.

    Here is the relevant section of Burnett and Clemente’s exchange:

    BURNETT: Tim, is there any way, obviously, there is a voice mail they can try to get the phone companies to give that up at this point. It’s not a voice mail. It’s just a conversation. There’s no way they actually can find out what happened, right, unless she tells them?

    CLEMENTE: No, there is a way. We certainly have ways in national security investigations to find out exactly what was said in that conversation. It’s not necessarily something that the FBI is going to want to present in court, but it may help lead the investigation and/or lead to questioning of her. We certainly can find that out.

    BURNETT: So they can actually get that? People are saying, look, that is incredible.

    CLEMENTE: No, welcome to America. All of that stuff is being captured as we speak whether we know it or like it or not.

    Clemente’s comments completely undermine Rep. Rogers’ claim that the government is not recording Americans’ phone calls, and seem to contradict Mueller’s claim that any surveillance that exists is “particularized” according to court orders. Unfortunately, the remarkable statement was buried under the Boston bombings media frenzy, and seems to have been forgotten amidst the latest revelations of NSA domestic spying.

    Read more:

  6. Elliott
    Posted June 17, 2013 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    Obama was interviewed by Charlie Rose yesterday and according to the blurb on-line they discuss domestic spying. It airs tonight.

    Here’s the blurb:

    Tonight, watch an exclusive, 45-minute interview by Charlie Rose with President Obama in the White House.

    In a a wide-ranging conversation on issues that included the outcome of the Iranian elections, the civil war in Syria, China and cyber attacks, the NSA controversy, Guantanamo, and the drone policy, the interview took place on Father’s Day, just before the President and First Family were to depart for Belfast for the G-8 summit.

    The entire interview will air on “Charlie Rose,” on PBS tonight at 11/10c, and it will re-air on Bloomberg television the next day, June 18th at 8pm and 10pm in the U.S. and globally. Check local listings for times near you.

  7. Brainless
    Posted June 17, 2013 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

    The only way for us to save ourselves is to dissolve this government. It’s too late to fix it. They won’t let us.

    Of course, there is another far more terrifying possibility: The threats to the U.S. are far worse than anybody is saying. You all thought this Obama person was a decent human being. We find out instead that he orders remote murder with laser planes and that he ordered us all to be spied upon. Either he’s just another murderous asshole or something really bad is going on and nobody is telling us. Which is worse?

    Dissolve this government, take away the target and stop the killing.

  8. Knox
    Posted June 17, 2013 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    I don’t want to dive down the conspiracy theory rabbit hole, but I think it’s probable that there will be civil unrest in the not too distant future as the planet continues to warm, and, with that in mind, I’m not surprised that the government would institute programs such as PRISM. Things are about to get weird, and, if the nation is to remain viable, we’re going to have to adapt. Central planning, in other words, will have to happen, and those in control will have to exert more control. I’m not saying that I agree, but I can see how it makes sense in the context of today.

  9. Eel
    Posted June 17, 2013 at 11:08 am | Permalink


    Demetrius just posted a link that seconds your comment in a big way.

  10. Aaron B.
    Posted June 17, 2013 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    At one time freedom was worth dying for… but now we are told we must loose are freedom or the boogie men will get us.

  11. Elf
    Posted June 17, 2013 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    The video of Clapper brought this to mind:

  12. Meta
    Posted June 17, 2013 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    There will be no investigation. No one in the Senate gives a fuck.

    TechDirt headline: “More Than Half The Senate Skips Town Rather Than Attend Briefing About NSA Surveillance”

    Read more:

  13. anonymous
    Posted June 17, 2013 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    Al Gore says it’s unconstitutional.

  14. alan2102
    Posted June 17, 2013 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    Brainless: “You all thought this Obama person was a decent human being.”

    You all?!

    Oh yes. You mean the idiots, sell-outs and moral midgets who voted for him, and encouraged others to vote for him, and insisted that “there is no alternative”, we’ve got to “hold our noses and vote for him”.

  15. dragon
    Posted June 18, 2013 at 12:42 am | Permalink

    Thanks alan,
    Truth tellers are not welcome here. Stupid liblruls need to be explained why Obummer is worse than Bush. Maybe you can splain it to them and also tell them why Romney would have been better and shut this whole thing down!!!
    Fight the power!!!

  16. anonymous
    Posted June 18, 2013 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    Yes, the guy that got us out of the war in Afghanistan, and decreased our presence in Iraq is worse than the guy that lied to get us into both wars. Obama isn’t perfect by a long shot, but you can’t make the argument that he’s worse that Bush/Cheney. The things I dislike the most about his administration aren’t things that he set in motion, but things that he continued from the previous administration — domestic spying, predator drones, GITMO, etc. The things that he’s done on his own, like expanding health care and increasing spending on infrastructure, don’t come close on the continuum of evil.

  17. EOS
    Posted June 18, 2013 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    Yes, you can make a strong argument that Obama is worse or at a minimum, no better. He’s currently getting ready to send ground troops into Syria, claiming that they used chemicals (WMD). It’s like Deja vu all over again, except this time, Russia is overtly helping the other side.

  18. Eel
    Posted June 20, 2013 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    Finally we have an explanation.

    The FBI says that complying with the Constitution takes too much time.

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