The federal official in charge of the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies criticized recent coverage of the data surveillance programs used by the National Security Agency (NSA) on Saturday, saying it was a misrepresentation and that it put the country at risk.
While he supported advocating for transparency, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell that the “media explosion” regarding programs like “Boundless Informant” and PRISM was also being followed by “our adversaries, whether nation-state adversaries or nefarious groups.”
“As we speak, they are going to school, learning how we do this,” Clapper said to Mitchell. “That’s why it, potentially, can render great damage to our intelligence capabilities.”
NBC News also reported on Saturday that Clapper used harsher language in a separate statement.
“Over the last week we have seen reckless disclosures of intelligence community measures used to keep American safe,” Clapper said in his statement. “In a rush to publish, media outlets have not given the full context — including the extent to which these programs are overseen by all three branches of government — to these effective tools.”
During their interview, Mitchell brought up reports that the NSA had been collecting data on millions of phone calls thanks to a secret court order.
“People were astounded by that,” Mitchell said to Clapper. “They had no idea. They felt invaded.”
“I understand that,” Clapper responded, before going on to explain that, “I think a lot of what people are reading and seeing in the media is a lot of hyperbole.”
Watch this excerpt from Mitchell’s interview with Clapper, aired on MSNBC on Saturday, below.