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Director of national intelligence: Spying debate ‘probably needed to happen’

Published time: September 13, 2013 16:37
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (Win McNamee/Getty Images/AFP)

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (Win McNamee/Getty Images/AFP)

The United States director of national intelligence said at a conference in Washington on Thursday that the leaking of classified documents by former government contractor Edward Snowden kick-started discussions in America that until then were overdue.

At a trade show in the nation’s capital, DNI James Clapper said that the stream of top-secret national security documents that have been steadily released by Snowden since early June encouraged a debate that should have occurred earlier.

As loathe as I am to give any credit for what’s happened here, which is egregious…” Agence France-Presse quoted Clapper, “I think it’s clear that some of the conversations that this has generated, some of the debate…actually probably needed to happen.”

According to AFP, Clapper said that “perhaps” a debate regarding the balance between the government’s spy powers and Americans’ privacy should have occurred sooner, and added, “So if there’s a good side to this, maybe that’s it.”

The remarks marked the first time that Clapper — the commander of all 16 US intelligence agencies — even remotely applauded Snowden’s leaks, which in a matter of merely three months have sparked international protests, congressional hearings, lawsuits against the White House and calls for reform, among other action.

Clapper could go back to condemning Snowden soon, though: during his statements this week, the DNI said of the leaks, "Unfortunately, there is more to come.”

The Washington Post, the New York Times, the Guardian, ProPublica and others have all published in part classified files attributed to Snowden that have since the first disclosure on June 5 exposed the inner-workings of America’s vast surveillance apparatus, masterminded by the National Security Agency often under a cloak of utmost secrecy that has only begun to be rolled back by recent media reports based off of those documents.

Glenn Guardian, the Guardian reporter who has disseminated leaked documents supplied by Snowden, said previously there the trove of classified information he was provided with contained “dozens” of newsworthy scoops. The Times has reported that Snowden gave reporters roughly 50,000 documents which, according to Clapper, are still being scoured by journalists for potential news pieces that are still to come.

Prior to Snowden’s first leak, Clapper told a congressional panel in March that the US does not wittingly collect any type of data on huge swarms of American citizens. Two weeks after the Guardian and the Post began publishing leaked documents—including those contradicting the DNI’s claims — Clapper issued a formal apology to Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-California) to say sorry for his “clearly erroneous” statement.

The Department of Justice has charged Snowden with espionage and other crimes and has asked him to come back to the US to stand trial. He fled America before the first leaked documents were reported on and has since taken refuge in Russia upon receiving temporary asylum.

Earlier this week, Greenwald and the Guardian published a NSA document that had until then gone unreported. In it, the US intelligence office is said to be sharing raw data pertaining to Americans with colleagues working for Israel’s spy agency, suggesting again that the US is not just collecting domestic data, but distributing it among allies for analysis reportedly without perfect privacy safeguards.

The results of an Associated Press/NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll released this week reported that a majority of Americans remain opposed to an array of NSA programs exposed by Snowden.

Comments (12)


William Hamilton 18.09.2013 04:46

All of these "beltway bozos" will just sit there hoping that if enough time passes the public will lose interest and forget. Then they will return to "business as usual" in DC. Not this time people...We all need to join forces and take back our government. In 2014 vote every congressman out of office and replace them with new blood. We can send shockwaves through government like never before and send a message they will never forget.


j.innes 14.09.2013 21:49

Free exchange of ideas means, if you get to know what everybody else is thinking, and doing, then it require this to be the same for everybody else. If that is not the case then one would assumes, one select group wants to be the "Knowers." Now the rest of us are not likely to be down with that because asymmetrical knowledge always gives an advantage, especially when there are police, or military, the power of state, behind it. Leaders have not proven themselves very adept at being all good. Even the last Pope chose to retire and the next one chose to kiss the feet of children prisoners.


Dave Krueger 13.09.2013 22:27

***Director of national intelligence: Spying debate ‘probably needed to happen’***

Yes, Mr Clapper. Let's make it crystal clear. The debate needed to happen because enemies of freedom and pricacy like you and your boss have been intentionally deceiving the U.S. Congress and public, abusing your powers, and violating your oath to uphold the Constitution. And you know what else needs to happen? You need to quit your job, fall on your knees, and beg the country for forgiveness (not that you deserve it).

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