Clapper Defends Surveillance Activities

James Clapper, national intelligence director, defended US intelligence operations before the House Select Intelligence Committee, deeming them “lawful.” “The rigorous oversight we’ve operated under has been effective,” said Clapper during the Oct. 29 oversight hearing. Committee members met to discuss potential amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and changes to National Security Agency programs in response to public concern regarding government surveillance practices unveiled by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Clapper said the “manner” in which some have characterized these intelligence activities has been “incomplete, inaccurate, or misleading.” “What we do not do is spy unlawfully on Americans or . . . spy indiscriminately on the citizens of any country,” he asserted. “We only spy for valid foreign intelligence purposes as authorized by law, with multiple layers of oversight to ensure we don’t abuse our authorities.” The hearing took place on the same day that Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee’s crime, terrorism, homeland security, and investigations panel, introduced the US Freedom Act, legislation that would end the government’s “dragnet” collection of phone records and require greater oversight of domestic surveillance activities. (See Sensenbrenner release.) (Clapper-Alexander-Cole joint statement)