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Intelligence chief James Clapper apologizes to Congress for ‘erroneous’ NSA claims

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The US director of national intelligence, James Clapper, has attempted to head off criticism that he lied to Congress over the extent of government surveillance on American citizens, with a letter to senators in which he apologised for giving “erroneous” information.

Two weeks after telling NBC news that he gave the “least untruthful answer possible” at a hearing in March, Clapper wrote to the Senate intelligence committee to correct his response to a question about whether the National Security Agency “collected data on millions of Americans”.

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During the orginal hearing on 12 March, Clapper answered “no, sir,” to a question by Senator Ron Wyden. It emerged later that Wyden had given him 24 hours notice of the question, and after the session ended, offered him an opportunity to correct it, which was declined.

After disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden detailing the collection of millions of American phone records, pressure grew on Clapper to clarify his remarks. In an interview with Andrea Mitchell of MSNBC, portions of which were first broadcast on 9 June, after Snowden’s leaks first emerged in the Guardian, Clapper explained the apparent inconsistency as a ploy to avoid revealing classified information.

On 18 June, Republican senator Rand Paul, of Kentucky, accused Clapper directly of lying, pointed out that lying on oath to Congress was a crime, and questioned whether he could continue in his position.

According to the latest revelation in the Washington Post on Monday, Clapper wrote to the Senate intelligence committee on 21 June, when he admitted directly that his answer was wrong. “My response was clearly erroneous – for which I apologize,” Clapper said in the letter.

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The Office of the Director of National Intelligence did not respond to requests by the Guardian to confirm the contents of the letter.

In his MSNBC interview, Clapper said he believed Wyden’s question was unfair, akin to asking him when he was going to stop beating his wife. “So I responded in what I thought was the most truthful, or least untruthful, manner by saying no,” Clapper said.

In the later letter to the intelligence committee, Clapper acknowleded the “heated controversy” over his remark, and said he had misunderstood the original question. “I have thought long and hard to re-create what went through my mind at the time,” Clapper said in the letter, according to the Washington Post.

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The question was posed by Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden, who grew frustrated that he could not get a “direct answer” from Clapper about a question Wyden said he had been posing to the intelligence agencies in a series of letters for a year: when do US spies need a warrant to surveil Americans’ communications?

“What I wanted to see is if you could give me a yes or no answer to the question: does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans,” Wyden asked Clapper.

He responded: “No, sir, not wittingly. There are cases where they could inadvertently, perhaps, collect, but not wittingly.”

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Last week Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, led a bi-partisan group of 26 senators who wrote to Clapper to complain that the administration is relying on a “secret body of law” to collect massive amounts of data on US citizens.

The senators, including four Republicans, also accused intelligence chiefs of making a number of misleading statements which prevented proper public debate on the subject.

“We are concerned that by depending on secret interpretations of the Patriot Act that differed from an intuitive reading of the statute, this program essentially relied for years on a secret body of law,” they said.

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“This and misleading statements by intelligence officials have prevented our constituents from evaluating the decisions that their government was making, and will unfortunately undermine trust in government more broadly.”

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2013


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Stephen Colbert rips ‘idiot’ GOP senator for defending Trump’s unconstitutional self-dealing

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"Late Show" host Stephen Colbert returned from New Zealand for a new show that aired Monday evening.

"I have been as far from the insatiable black hole of news that is Donald Trump as you can get on this planet.

I've heard there have been some developments over the last 10 days that did not go well for Donnie,"

The host ripped Trump's 71-minute press conference.

"Seventy-one minutes is not a press conference, it's a one man show," he explained. "If you liked 'Fleabag,' you'll love Donald Trump in 'Douchebag,'" he said.

[caption id="attachment_1555275" align="aligncenter" width="800"] ‘The Late Show’ graphic (screengrab)[/caption]

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Texas Republicans are abandoning the state’s GOP Speaker: ‘We no longer support him’

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Some of the most powerful Texas House Republicans said Monday they no longer support GOP Speaker Dennis Bonnen, marking the biggest blow yet to his political future amid the fallout from a secret recording released last week by a hardline conservative activist.

Five Republicans considered senior members of the lower chamber issued a statement withdrawing support for him: State Reps. Four Price of Amarillo, Dan Huberty of Houston, Lyle Larson of San Antonio, Chris Paddie of Marshall and John Frullo of Lubbock.

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Donald Trump is making a mockery of Marco Rubio — and the Florida senator is letting him

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Sen. Marco Rubio was once one of Donald Trump’s most formidable opponents; now, the Florida senator bends over backward to excuse the president’s corruption.

In 2016, Rubio and Trump sparred frequently on the Republican primary debate stage. Trump picked the uninspired nickname “Little Marco” for the senator, which didn’t seem to do much damage on its own, but Rubio never gained the momentum or strength that his backers hoped would prove to be strong enough to take down the reality TV candidate. As Rubio grew desperate, he launched one of his most memorable and pitiful attacks by stooping to his opponent’s level, implying that Trump had a small penis. It was more of an embarrassing moment for Rubio than anyone else, though Trump helped himself with a crude rejoinder.

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