Some lawmakers are making an urgent case for the Justice Department to prosecute former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper for perjury and making false statements in testimony he delivered before Congress regarding domestic surveillance.
According to the Washington Examiner, March 12 is the deadline that the Justice Department must meet before the five-year statute of limitations would prevent them from charging Clapper, who served as the director of the national intelligence from 2010 to 2017. Those pressing for prosecution claim that declining to prosecute Clapper would set a dangerous precedent that impedes oversight and accountability in the executive branch of government.
During a March 2013 Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, Clapper testified that the National Security Agency was “not wittingly” collecting “any type of data at all” on millions of Americans. Clapper’s testimony was contradicted months later when former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed that secret court orders required phone companies to submit to the government all U.S. call records on an “ongoing, daily basis.”
Clapper wrote a letter of apology for his testimony, in which he claimed that he gave a “clearly erroneous” answer because he “simply didn’t think of” the collection of the call records. However, Clapper offered a different explanation in an MSNBC interview, saying that he gave the “least untruthful” answer because he was “asked a, ‘When are you going to stop beating your wife?’ kind of question, meaning not answerable necessarily by a simple yes or no.”
Lawmakers from both parties who support new limits on surveillance insisted on Clapper’s prosecution during the Obama administration, but were denied. As the deadline on the statute of limitations nears, several have renewed their campaign to have Clapper charged.
“The time for the Department of Justice and the FBI to bring the accusations against James Clapper in front of a grand jury is long overdue,” said Rep. Ted Poe, R.-Texas. “He and others who have held administrative power must be held accountable to the same laws that govern the people of the United States.”
Rep. Thomas Massie, R.-Ky., said, “Yes, he should be prosecuted. He admitted to lying to Congress and was unremorseful and flippant about it. The integrity of our federal government is at stake because his behavior sets the standard for the entire intelligence community. The same goes for James Comey, who secretly leaked documents that he was not legally permitted to release.”
Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, echoed the sentiments of his colleagues, saying that Clapper “should be prosecuted for any and all lies he told to Congress.”