Clapper: I Gave 'The Least Untruthful Answer' To Wyden's 'Beating Your Wife' Question On Data Surveillance
from the oh-really-now? dept
There’s been a lot of coverage of the exchange between Senator Ron Wyden and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, in which Wyden asked Clapper about whether or not data on millions of Americans has been captured. Here’s the exact text:
Wyden: Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?
Clapper: No sir.
Wyden: It does not?
Clapper: Not wittingly. There are cases where they could, inadvertently perhaps, collect—but not wittingly.
If you’d like to see the exchange for yourself, here you go:
Last week, Clapper claimed that he thought that Wyden was only asking him about emails, even though Wyden clearly states “any type of data.” This week, it appears that Clapper is taking a different position, claiming that the question itself was unfair and a form of the loaded question logical fallacy often referred to “have you stopped beating your wife?” which is exactly what Clapper described Wyden’s question as being:
Senator Wyden made quite a lot out of your exchange with him last March during the hearings. Can you explain what you meant when you said that there was not data collection on millions of Americans?
First– as I said, I have great respect for Senator Wyden. I thought, though in retrospect, I was asked– “When are you going to start– stop beating your wife” kind of question, which is meaning not– answerable necessarily by a simple yes or no. So I responded in what I thought was the most truthful, or least untruthful manner by saying no.
That’s quite an answer. First, let’s go with the big one: Least untruthful manner? In other words, it was a lie, but I could have told bigger lies. But he’s still admitting that it was a lie. Lying to Congress is generally not a good idea. Second: in what possible way is “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” a loaded question of the “when did you stop beating your wife?” variety? There doesn’t seem to be any unjustified assumption within the question at all. It’s a pretty basic question, in which a truthful answer (“yes, we do”) does not lead to a fallacious admission.
So, now we have the Director of National Intelligence lying, admitting to lying, and then blaming the questioner by making two separate false claims about his question (“it was about email” and “it was a loaded question”). Why is he still in this job?