Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! CounterPunch is entirely supported by our readers. Your donations pay for our small staff, tiny office, writers, designers, techies, bandwidth and servers. We don’t owe anything to advertisers, foundations, one-percenters or political parties. You are our only safety net. Please make a tax-deductible donation today.
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:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
September 30, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Henry Giroux
Thinking Dangerously in the Age of Normalized Ignorance
Stanley L. Cohen
Israel and Academic Freedom: a Closed Book
Paul Craig Roberts – Michael Hudson
Can Russia Learn From Brazil’s Fate? 
Andrew Levine
A Putrid Election: the Horserace as Farce
Mike Whitney
The Biggest Heist in Human History
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Sick Blue Line
Rob Urie
The Twilight of the Leisure Class
Vijay Prashad
In a Hall of Mirrors: Fear and Dislike at the Polls
Alexander Cockburn
The Man Who Built Clinton World
John Wight
Who Will Save Us From America?
Pepe Escobar
Afghanistan; It’s the Heroin, Stupid
W. T. Whitney
When Women’s Lives Don’t Matter
Julian Vigo
“Ooops, I Did It Again”: How the BBC Funnels Stories for Financial Gain
Howard Lisnoff
What was Missing From The Nation’s Interview with Bernie Sanders
Jeremy Brecher
Dakota Access Pipeline and the Future of American Labor
Binoy Kampmark
Pictures Left Incomplete: MH17 and the Joint Investigation Team
Andrew Kahn
Nader Gave Us Bush? Hillary Could Give Us Trump
Steve Horn
Obama Weakens Endangered Species Act
Dave Lindorff
US Propaganda Campaign to Demonize Russia in Full Gear over One-Sided Dutch/Aussie Report on Flight 17 Downing
John W. Whitehead
Uncomfortable Truths You Won’t Hear From the Presidential Candidates
Ramzy Baroud
Shimon Peres: Israel’s Nuclear Man
Brandon Jordan
The Battle for Mercosur
Murray Dobbin
A Globalization Wake-Up Call
Jesse Ventura
Corrupted Science: the DEA and Marijuana
Richard W. Behan
Installing a President by Force: Hillary Clinton and Our Moribund Democracy
Andrew Stewart
The Democratic Plot to Privatize Social Security
Daniel Borgstrom
On the Streets of Oakland, Expressing Solidarity with Charlotte
Marjorie Cohn
President Obama: ‘Patron’ of the Israeli Occupation
Norman Pollack
The “Self-Hating” Jew: A Critique
David Rosen
The Living Body & the Ecological Crisis
Joseph Natoli
Thoughtcrimes and Stupidspeak: Our Assault Against Words
Ron Jacobs
A Cycle of Death Underscored by Greed and a Lust for Power
Uri Avnery
Abu Mazen’s Balance Sheet
Kim Nicolini
Long Drive Home
Louisa Willcox
Tribes Make History with Signing of Grizzly Bear Treaty
Art Martin
The Matrix Around the Next Bend: Facebook, Augmented Reality and the Podification of the Populace
Andre Vltchek
Failures of the Western Left
Ishmael Reed
Millennialism or Extinctionism?
Frances Madeson
Why It’s Time to Create a Cabinet-Level Dept. of Native Affairs
Laura Finley
Presidential Debate Recommendations
José Negroni
Mass Firings on Broadway Lead Singers to Push Back
Leticia Cortez
Entering the Historical Dissonance Surrounding Desafinados
Robert J. Burrowes
Gandhi: ‘My Life is My Message’
Charles R. Larson
Queen Lear? Deborah Levy’s “Hot Milk”
David Yearsley
Bring on the Nibelungen: If Wagner Scored the Debates
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]