- Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper warned Congress: “There is a difference between oversight and micromanaging.”
- Clapper declared himself a fan of imposing sanctions on Russia
- “Intelligence community does not have great respect for Julian Assange,” he said.
WASHINGTON – On Thursday, the so-called chiefs of intelligence of the United States, led by James Clapper, appeared before the Senate’s Armed Services Committee to talk about surveillance and cyber security.
One fact jumped at anyone who was watching with attention: All three chiefs of intelligence who appeared before the committee refrained from speaking the truth, and instead provided vague information or straightforwardly lied to the members of the committee and the public by issuing comments I have previously dubbed as ‘intelligent’ lies.
Among the three men who testified – the director of Nationa Intelligence, James Clapper, the undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, Marcel Lettre, and the head of the NSA, Admiral Mike Rogers, Clapper was the one who seemed more keen to lie.
The hearing began with the committee’s head neocon, John McCain regurgitating war seeking rhetoric as if they were truth. After McCain, Senator Jack Reed, another neocon, picked up on McCain’s baseless accusations. “Russia’s efforts are a threat to democracy,” he said.
Soon it was clear that all Senators in the committee were there to talk tough and to insist on blaming Russia for allegedly hacking the US elections. The intelligence chiefs and the members of the committee also sought to save face before by accusing Russia of interfering in the election while showing no proof whatsoever.
One of the questions that many people ask today is, are we supposed to believe that the most powerful country in the world is not prepared to defend itself from hacking attacks? Unlikely. In fact, undersecretary Lettre soon explained how wonderful and powerful America’s cyber warfare is.
Given how little or no proof was presented by the intelligence community to support the claim that Russia interfered in the election, James Clapper stated that a new version of the interagency report, a declassified version would be made public next week, and that such version would have more juicy details, although not many, about Russia’s attacks.
Clapper also defied public concerns about the validity of the report made public last week and said that the intelligence community stood by that report. While accusing Russia and China of increasing their cyber activity, Clapper failed to explain how the US had also increased its cyber attacks on other nations. No one in the panel asked him about that.
Not surprisingly, Clapper hugged most of the time during the hearing, but he did not provide any newsworthy details about the current state of the US-led cyber warfare campaign. He did take a shot at the free internet saying that information on the web threatens truth. He did not elaborate on his opinion at that point, but later he said that cyberspace is an echo chamber where information a.k.a fake news gets spread.
Clapper directly attacked RT, the Russian-funded news outlet, for what he called “actively promoting Russian view of events”. The director of the DNI said he was concerned because RT and other outlets presented alternative news and views to the public. He did not show any concern, however, about mainstream media spreading US propaganda both on their live broadcasts and on the web.
When questioned about solutions to fight Russian and Chinese propaganda, Clapper did not hesitate to directly call for the creation of a US propaganda office: “We could do with having a United States Information Agency USIA to fight the current propaganda war,” said Clapper.
Later on, he called for the creation of international rules to govern the internet and the separation of the NSA and CYBERCOM. He added that the cyber capabilities of America’s enemies are difficult to evaluate.
Perhaps the only bit of truth that came from the director of the DNI was that Russia had not affected the result of the US election. That statement should put all rumors of Russia’s interference in the result of the election to rest. Strangely enough, Clapper did not want to say if Russia attempted to cover its tracks when allegedly hacking the DNC and John Podesta’s email.
According to him and the other chiefs of intelligence, Russia is a master of covering its tracks and diverting responsibility when committing cyber crimes, which makes it unlikely that this specific time, they mysteriously left some crumbs to be blamed for the hacking. When asked if Russia had left the crumbs on purpose, Clapper refused to comment.
One of the most interesting answers given by Clapper was in reference to China’s cyber crimes compared to Russia’s alleged hacking. When asked if the United States had retaliated against China after it stole millions of documents from US servers, Clapper immediately justified Obama’s inaction by saying that the difference with the Chinese was that their actions were espionage and not a hacking attack.
“The Chinese was espionage, not an attack. We conduct espionage as well,” Clapper admitted. “We did not retaliate against China’s act of espionage, just as others do not retaliate against our espionage,” said the DNI director.
While both the Mike Rogers and Marcel Lettre sat next to the DNI director to second his statements, it was Clapper who made two other revealing statements:
First, when asked about Julian Assange and his assertions about US intelligence gathering, Clapper said that Assange had put U.S. lives in danger, but showed no proof of it. He added that the intelligence community does not have great respect of Assange.
Second, Clapper admitted that he is a fan of imposing sanctions against Russia and explained that the last round of sanctions, which included the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats, had been decided by consensus.
When asked if he knew who in the Russian government had authorized the alleged hacking, Clapper said he could not tell the public who in the Russian government had given the green light. He was clear that full transparency is not possible when it comes to revealing intelligence, which is why he did not explain, for example, how the United States interfered in other countries’ elections for the past century.
None of the three chiefs who testified in the hearing thought twice about what they advocated for when it comes to cyber-bullying other nations, but it was Clapper who was the most incisive: “Virtually everything we do is done in secret.”
When asked if Congress could be of any more service in helping the intelligence community fight cyber threats, Clapper responded with a somehow intimidating statement: “There is a difference between oversight and micromanaging.” He referred to Congress’ oversight powers over the intelligence community. It was his way of telling Congress that perhaps it is better of they allow US spooks do as they please, without delay or interference.