In an interview with Eli Lake of the Daily Beast, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper made an admission. If the national security apparatus had been more forthcoming about its plans to store mounds of call records of American citizens, the backlash that accompanied the revelations about the program via former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden wouldn’t have materialized. Clapper to Lake:
I probably shouldn’t say this, but I will. Had we been transparent about this from the outset right after 9/11—which is the genesis of the 215 program—and said both to the American people and to their elected representatives, we need to cover this gap, we need to make sure this never happens to us again, so here is what we are going to set up, here is how it’s going to work, and why we have to do it, and here are the safeguards… We wouldn’t have had the problem we had.
Those sentiments square with what Clapper said in a recent appearance on Capitol Hill, where he said that “with greater transparency about these intelligence programs, the American people may be more likely to accept them.”
That’s a pretty complete and absolute vindication of the choice that Edward Snowden made to come forth and be a whistleblower. It was precisely because the government wasn’t being forthcoming with the American people that he decided he needed to do it himself. Because it was clear that they created systems that were designed to suppress this information rather than let Americans know it was being done. So when James Clapper says, ‘You know what, eight months later, after I’ve been battered and the agency has lost credibility around the world, I guess in retrospect we probably should have been honest about what we were doing and told the American people we were subjhthat they were being subjected to this mass surveillance.’ You know, I think that vindicates the reasons that led Edward Snowden [to leak documents].
The switch-up carries some implications for news organizations on the national security beat, which are often asked to suppress certain scoops and details on account of pressing national security concerns. In light of Clapper’s confession to the Daily Beast, they might just ask, “Is this really critical to national security, or is it something that you should have disclosed to the American public years ago?”