WaPo - Misinformation on Classified NSA Programs Includes Statements by Senior U.S. Officials
… public assertions about these programs by senior US officials have also often been misleading, erroneous or simply false.”
Asked during a congressional hearing in March whether the NSA collected data on millions of Americans, Clapper replied, “No, sir.”
[Clapper]“I have thought long and hard to re-create what went through my mind at the time,” Clapper said in the previously undisclosed letter. “My response was clearly erroneous — for which I apologize.”
Beyond inadvertent missteps, however, an examination of public statements over a period of years suggests that officials have often relied on legalistic parsing and carefully hedged characterizations in discussing the NSA’s collection of communications.
“A lie can get halfway around the world before the truth gets its boots on,” said Robert Litt, citing a line often attributed to Mark Twain. “Unfortunately, there’s been a lot of misinformation that’s come out about these programs.”
The same day Litt spoke, the NSA quietly removed from its Web site a fact sheet about its collection activities because it contained inaccuracies discovered by lawmakers.
“What I can say unequivocally is that if you are a U.S. person, the NSA cannot listen to your telephone calls and the NSA cannot target your e-mails,” Obama said in his June 17 interview on PBS’s “Charlie Rose Show.”
But even if it is not allowed to target U.S. citizens, the NSA has significant latitude to collect and keep the contents of e-mails and other communications of U.S. citizens that are swept up as part of the agency’s court-approved monitoring of a target overseas.
President George W. Bush at times engaged in similarly careful phrasing to defend surveillance programs in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. In 2004, while calling for renewal of the Patriot Act, Bush sought to assuage critics by saying “the government can’t move on wiretaps or roving wiretaps without getting a court order.”
At the time, it had not yet been publicly disclosed that Bush had secretly authorized NSA surveillance of communications between U.S. residents and contacts overseas while bypassing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court
The admission of lying to Congress by James Clapper were made after President Obama’s statements above. How long until some journalsist asks him about it? What is going to become known as more facts become availalble?
News accounts of the NSA programs have also contained inaccuracies, in some cases because of the source materials. Classified NSA slides that were published by The Post indicated that the NSA was able to tap directly into the servers of Google, Microsoft, Apple and other technology companies. The companies denied that they allowed direct access to their equipment, although they did not dispute that they cooperated with the NSA.
Just a note on my part. If government offiials can hide behind requirements of secrecy from the laws who is to say that the technology companies can’t be lying about “direct access” now and it later it is discovered to be true, simply say that that was what they had to say in order to comply with the law?”. It isn’t as if they haven’t tried to keep from complying with the law by using the courts.