FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

NSA Lies

by KEN KLIPPENSTEIN

James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, evoked Monet when, in fine impressionistic form, he said under oath that the NSA does “not wittingly” collect any kind of data on millions of Americans. As with 19th century Impressionism, the idea is not to portray the details of the subject, but its essence. Details include cumbersome specifics like facts and figures, which would only aggravate the public’s inexplicable mistrust of government; the essence, on the other hand, is much safer for consumption by the masses.

Not content to rest on his laurels, Clapper would try to push the boundaries of Impressionism when he later hedged that he’d answered in the “least most untruthful manner”. Incorporating elements of dark surrealism, he also said that Senator Wyden’s question—whether or not the NSA collects data on millions of Americans—was similar to asking, “are you going to stop beating your wife”? This is a “kind of question which is…not answerable necessarily, by a simple yes or no.”

Unfortunately, Clapper’s work has not aged well: 26 senators sent him a letter objecting to the use of what they called a “body of secret law”. Congresspeople have also called for his prosecution for criminal perjury. Yet, as with so many artists, Clapper is perhaps his own worst critic, having conceded that his statement that the NSA does “not wittingly” collect data on Americans was “clearly erroneous.”

Clapper has always refused to endorse any specific interpretation of his work, as evidenced by his defense of his “not wittingly” comment: “there are honest differences on the semantics…when someone says ‘collection’ to me, that has a specific meaning, which may have a different meaning to him.”

In the modern art wing, we have Obama’s brilliantly nonsensical, Dadaist argument that Snowden isn’t a patriot because, among other equally schizophrenic reasons, “he is convicted of three felonies.” This is a leitmotif pervading Obama’s work: equating illegal with immoral. He notably employed this technique when asked about Bradley Manning, saying that “He broke the law.” (Scholars are trying to reconcile this technique with Obama’s professed admiration of MLK, Jr., who famously remarked that “I disobeyed an unjust law.”)

And then there’s chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Dianne Feinstein. Prominent among Dianne Feinstein’s work is her thunderingly indignant defense of the NSA: “It’s called protecting America.” This piece recalls the German Romanticism movement; in particular, the movement’s recurring invocation of importance of The Volk and the need to protect them. Just weeks after Snowden’s leak, Dianne Feinstein unveiled her magnum opus: a call for legislation that would narrow the definition of what a journalist is. One criterion would be that only salaried journalists could enjoy the legal privileges conferred on the press. Her motivation for this piece arose from concern that “those who are not reporters at all” are enjoying “special privilege”. Feinstein’s performance is being widely hailed by critics as an epochal moment in German Romanticism, reminiscent of the spine tingling, ultranationalist ballads of the Third Reich.

Ken Klippenstein lives in Madison, Wisconsin, USA, where he co-edits the left issues journal, whiterosereader.org He can be reached at Reader246@gmail.com

Ken Klippenstein is an American journalist who can be reached on Twitter @kenklippenstein or by email: kenneth.klippenstein@gmail.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

March 28, 2017
Andrew Moss
Why ICE Raids Imperil Us All
March 27, 2017
Robert Hunziker
A Record-Setting Climate Going Bonkers
Frank Stricker
Why $15 an Hour Should be the Absolute Minimum Minimum Wage
Melvin Goodman
The Disappearance of Bipartisanship on the Intelligence Committees
Patrick Cockburn
ISIS’s Losses in Syria and Iraq Will Make It Difficult to Recruit
Russell Mokhiber
Single-Payer Bernie Morphs Into Public Option Dean
Gregory Barrett
Can Democracy Save Us?
Dave Lindorff
Budget Goes Military
John Heid
Disappeared on the Border: “Chase and Scatter” — to Death
Mark Weisbrot
The Troubling Financial Activities of an Ecuadorian Presidential Candidate
Robert Fisk
As ISIS’s Caliphate Shrinks, Syrian Anger Grows
Michael J. Sainato
Democratic Party Continues Shunning Popular Sanders Surrogates
Paul Bentley
Nazi Heritage: the Strange Saga of Chrystia Freeland’s Ukrainian Grandfather
Christopher Ketcham
Buddhism in the Storm
Thomas Barker
Platitudes in the Wake of London’s Terror Attack
Mike Hastie
Insane Truths: a Vietnam Vet on “Apocalypse Now, Redux”
Binoy Kampmark
Cyclone Watch in Australia
Weekend Edition
March 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump is Obama’s Legacy: Will this Break up the Democratic Party?
Eric Draitser
Donald Trump and the Triumph of White Identity Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nothing Was Delivered
Andrew Levine
Ryan’s Choice
Joshua Frank
Global Coal in Freefall, Tar Sands Development Drying Up (Bad News for Keystone XL)
Anthony DiMaggio
Ditching the “Deep State”: The Rise of a New Conspiracy Theory in American Politics
Rob Urie
Boris and Natasha Visit Fantasy Island
John Wight
London and the Dreary Ritual of Terrorist Attacks
Paul Buhle
The CIA and the Intellectuals…Again
David Rosen
Why Did Trump Target Transgender Youth?
Vijay Prashad
Inventing Enemies
Ben Debney
Outrage From the Imperial Playbook
M. Shadee Malaklou
An Open Letter to Duke University’s Class of 2007, About Your Open Letter to Stephen Miller
Michael J. Sainato
Bernie Sanders’ Economic Advisor Shreds Trumponomics
Lawrence Davidson
Moral Failure at the UN
Pete Dolack
World Bank Declares Itself Above the Law
Nicola Perugini - Neve Gordon
Israel’s Human Rights Spies
Patrick Cockburn
From Paris to London: Another City, Another Attack
Ralph Nader
Reason and Justice Address Realities
Ramzy Baroud
‘Decolonizing the Mind’: Using Hollywood Celebrities to Validate Islam
Colin Todhunter
Monsanto in India: The Sacred and the Profane
Louisa Willcox
Grizzlies Under the Endangered Species Act: How Have They Fared?
Norman Pollack
Militarization of American Fascism: Trump the Usurper
Pepe Escobar
North Korea: The Real Serious Options on the Table
Brian Cloughley
“These Things Are Done”: Eavesdropping on Trump
Sheldon Richman
You Can’t Blame Trump’s Military Budget on NATO
Carol Wolman
Trump vs the People: a Psychiatrist’s Analysis
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Marines to Kill Desert Tortoises
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail