Dear Chairwoman Feinstein and Members of the Select Committee on Intelligence:
Whatever their differences on policies and programs, members of Congress have always agreed on the absolute necessity for candor in the testimony of witnesses at congressional hearings.
With that in mind, I write on behalf of Common Cause to ask that the Intelligence Committee investigate whether the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, intentionally lied about the scope of the National Security Agency's covert mining of personal communications data from American citizens during his March 12 testimony to your committee, and to determine whether any sanctions for Mr. Clapper should be pursued.
Mr. Clapper assured the Committee that the National Security Agency never collects data on unwitting Americans. When Sen. Ron Wyden, D-OR, asked, "Does the [NSA] collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?," Clapper replied, "No, sir. Not wittingly. There are cases where they could, inadvertently perhaps, collect - but not wittingly."
This statement appears to be deliberately false in light of revelations about the NSA's surveillance programs that have been made in recent weeks. Mr. Clapper has publicly conceded as much, explaining to NBC's Andrea Mitchell that his "no" was the "least untruthful" answer he could think of. Americans and the Congress deserve better than that from our public officials, particularly those entrusted with high office.
We urge the Intelligence Committee to hold additional public hearings to address growing public concerns about the scope of the NSA's domestic surveillance operations, and to recall Mr. Clapper under oath to obtain more direct answers and an explanation for his earlier misleading comments. A new Washington Post-ABC News polls shows that two out of three Americans surveyed want Congress to convene public hearings on these matters.
When public officials lie or mislead our representatives, they contribute to the continued erosion of faith in our democracy. Mr. Clapper's false statement should not go unaddressed.
Arn H. Pearson
Vice President for Policy and Litigation