Director of National Intelligence: Leaked documents painted an inaccurate picture

Director of National Intelligence: Leaked documents painted an inaccurate picture

Summary: In a direct statement castigating the press for misleading coverage, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper provided some background on why the Intelligence Community tracks online communications tools and technologies.


Despite the continuing shutdown of many federal agencies, the Intelligence Community of the United States, including the National Security Agency, is still conducting the business of protecting America's security.

Earlier today, in response to articles critical of the Intelligence Community and the NSA, the fourth Director of National Intelligence, former Air Force Lt. General James Robert Clapper, Jr. prepared an official statement for posting on IC on the Record. The statement discusses the tools our adversaries use, and then goes on to slam the leaked classified documents as "painting an inaccurate and misleading picture of the Intelligence Community."

The following statements contain Director Clapper's words only, edited simply for formatting.

Why the Intelligence Community Seeks to Understand Online Communication Tools & Technologies

Recently published news articles discuss the Intelligence Community's interest in tools used to facilitate anonymous online communication. The articles accurately point out that the Intelligence Community seeks to understand how these tools work and the kind of information being concealed.

However, the articles fail to make clear that the Intelligence Community's interest in online anonymity services and other online communication and networking tools is based on the undeniable fact that these are the tools our adversaries use to communicate and coordinate attacks against the United States and our allies.

The articles fail to mention that the Intelligence Community is only interested in communication related to valid foreign intelligence and counterintelligence purposes and that we operate within a strict legal framework that prohibits accessing information related to the innocent online activities of US citizens.

Within our lawful mission to collect foreign intelligence to protect the United States, we use every intelligence tool available to understand the intent of our foreign adversaries so that we can disrupt their plans and prevent them from bringing harm to innocent Americans.

In the modern telecommunications era, our adversaries have the ability to hide their messages and discussions among those of innocent people around the world. They use the very same social networking sites, encryption tools and other security features that protect our daily online activities.

Americans depend on the Intelligence Community to know who and what the threats are, and where they come from. They want us to provide policy makers with the information necessary to keep our nation safe, and they rightfully want us to do this without compromising respect for the civil liberties and privacy of our citizens.

Many of the recent articles based on leaked classified documents have painted an inaccurate and misleading picture of the Intelligence Community. The reality is that the men and women at the National Security Agency and across the Intelligence Community are abiding by the law, respecting the rights of citizens and doing everything they can to help keep our nation safe.

James R. Clapper
Director of National Intelligence

Topics: Government US, Government, Privacy, Security


David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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  • Yeah, right...

    "Despite the continuing shutdown of many federal agencies, the Intelligence Community of the United States, including the National Security Agency, is still conducting the business of protecting America's security."

    Protecting their own security is more like it.
    • Wow I can tell you put a lot of thought into that. For you that is.

      You need to spend more time learning about those who would love to kill you for no legitimate reason. It might help you grow up.
      Johnny Vegas
      • Sorry, we don't drink the Kool-Aid

        Johnny, Google false flags and get yourself an education. Do you really believe that everyone is out to get us? Why, because they hate freedom? I guess that would make sense if they enjoy enslavement.

        What do you mean by "those who would love to kill you for no legitimate reason"? Do you think that people have nothing better than go around terrorizing others for no reason? Or are we to judge what a legitimate reason is for them.

        A terrorist cannot enslave a free nation - only the leaders of a nation that react in a way that enslaves it's citizens. You sir are the one that has a great amount of growing up to do.
        • More accurate educational resources

          Less compromised sources of information:

          • Stop pandering to the liars and let's get on with it

            Maybe I should just make it very clear now.

            The United States is being robbed blind. We are on the verge of economic destruction and it isn’t because social services or not enough taxes. We are being robbed and the intelligence services are completely aware of what is going on despite the public being mostly asleep.

            So what are the intelligence services telling us? That the problem is terrorists? That while the bankers and politicians are stealing trillions of dollars for the kitty that the problem is really the religious beliefs, customs and skin color of those outside of our country?

            What are they really doing to solve the problem? If we were to give them the benefit of the doubt the least that we should do is hold their feet to the fire. Otherwise are we supposed to proceed in blind trust while the problem on the surface appear to be getting far worse than ever before?

            The banks that we spent trillions on to bail out because they were too big to fail are much bigger today than ever before. So what has been done about this by those in the know. I’m sorry but there may questionably be a reason to keep everything a big secret but the proof is in the pudding and the pudding is pretty sour at the moment.

            No longer should we just trust the “misunderstood” services that have been proven to lie to us over and over again. Wasn’t it clapper that stood in front of the world and lied to us saying that Americans were not being surveiled. Now we are arguing over the definition of what the word “is” is. Oooops, I’m sorry, that was a different lie.
            Now I have said in the past that help is on the way and that it is a done deal.

            However, the longer we pander to the liars the longer it will take. It won’t be long now, but why drag it out? Let’s get on with it. People are dying for no good reason. They took out Michael Hastings. Who next? And will your conscience be clear when you found out that you were aiding and abetting, perhaps naively, but abetting nevertheless because you refused the see the truth?

            World hunger and poverty will be solved in months and a new renaissance will flower practically overnight. There are inventions and solutions waiting to see the light of day and the new vision and hope of a bright future will turn toil to joy and a whole new world of opportunity will open to everyone.

            Let’s get on with it.
  • Then by all means clear it up by...

    "Leaked documents painted an inaccurate picture."

    ...providing us with exact details of what they're doing and provide some independent oversight (and not, the FISA court isn't independent).
    • Thats how sources dry up and/or get killed.

      There's already too many people who know who shouldn't.
      Johnny Vegas
  • Well, let's see if Mr. Clapper is correct:

    "The Fourth Amendment (Amendment IV) to the United States Constitution is the part of the Bill of Rights that prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures and requires any warrant to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause. It was adopted in response to the abuse of the writ of assistance, a type of general search warrant issued by the British government and a major source of tension in pre-Revolutionary America. " -Wikipedia

    Tony Burzio
  • What he actually said was ...

    Read between the lines (i.e. spin).

    What he actually said was, they have to read all communications, otherwise how can they tell whether or not it contains valuable intelligence information.

    "Yes Minister" and "Yes Prime Minister" covered this 30 years ago.

    Bernard Woolley:
    But, you only need to know things on a need-to-know basis.
    Sir Humphrey Appleby:
    I need to know *everything*. How else can I judge whether or not I need to know it?
    Bernard Woolley:
    So that means you need to know things even when you don't need to know them. You need to know them not because you need to know them but because you need to know whether or not you need to know. If you don't need to know, you still need to know so that you know that there is no need to know.
    Sir Humphrey Appleby:
    Bernard Woolley:
    Good. That's very clear!
  • For a country with supposed top security

    You sure are scaredy cats. Killing a mother with a one year old kid in the back for ramming a blockade shows a country scared of its own shadow.
    So your security apparatus's are doing a fine job in making you feel safe and secure. Keep handing out guns to protect yourself and keep shooting at those shadows, just be careful of the ricochets.
  • Whatever

    As an non-US national, I could care less what their excuses are. According to those nice guys, I am subject to surveillance even if I don't really even care about the US. Funny enough, people all over the world, who might not even know the US exists are being tracked, just in case...

    Of course, I do not like being monitored, by anyone. So therefore it is only natural that I take measures to protect my communications. From anyone. Does this make me criminal or terrorist according to the US? Or perhaps an US adversary? Go figure.

    The most worrying revelation of it all is that the US has been at war with the rest of the world for all this time. In "normal" countries, measures like these are in effect during war times only and there are special laws that govern such situations. If the US is at war, is it surprise that other parties feel threatened?
  • Extrapolation ... Depth of Thought

    Apart from Gewirtz's usual biased 'love of country' and 'Government apologist' stance ... he lacks the thought process of deduction and consideration of alternatives to be a journalist.
    Here are some pairs of ideas WHICH PERMIT MORE THAN ONE CONCLUSION. Hopefully the hidden underlying common thread will become apparent. (Gewirtz is not alone in this non-reasoning.)

    1. a. The vast majority of NSA staff are doing their appointed job to protect America from terrorists.
    b. A proportion of the NSA regime is breaking the law. Diverting the Bolivian presidential jet is a small indication of what this minority will do if push comes to shove.

    2. a. The vast majority of the American Army is doing their appointed job of protecting democracy around the world by intervening in foreign national disputes.
    b. An American ruling elite is crushing emerging democracy and resource-based power structures in places like Chile; Central America; ... Vietnam; Iraq lest they see the rise of powerful socialist and non-Christian groups of countries who will not bend to American will and trade requirements.

    3. a. The vast majority of US Government officials are doing their best for the people of America.
    b. Inhabitants of the two houses are a self-serving, useless bunch of ......'s. (pronounce in Samuel L. Jackson accent.) Their last achievement was a poisoning of the world economy, after their own ... and they are a few weeks from continuing the destruction. Health? Who needs it?

    Why don't you put them all on Air Force 1 and land it in Syria. Assad's palace would be good for me: I believe the standard of accommodation is very high ... and I'm pretty sure they would receive a warm welcome ;-)
    Intelligence gathering 'on the ground' would be much improved too.
    • can't

      Air Force 1 can't carry that much personnel.
  • My....

    ....BS meter spinning at 100,000 RPM.
  • gilly

    Good for you to stand up and make a statement. The US has been gathering intelligence for years. Now all of a sudden folk want to paint all the intelligence community as evil. Gimme a break. The US may be far from perfect but I'd rather live here than where some dictator can run all over my rights. It's good that all this discussion has come up. But I am not naive to think that in this world that we live in that we can be ignorant about the threats looming outside and within our borders.
  • Our rights are not being run all over? Wake up McFly!

    Once again a shallow empty statement of fear from an uneducated writer.

    gilletskillet56 – Please provide clear examples of who is out to get us and why. Is China out to get us? Isn’t our economic health critical to keeping their economy alive? Is Russia out to get us? Brazil? Europe? Africa? Who are all of these enemies from within and without? Who are the terrorists? Who benefits?

    The only evidence that ‘someone’ is out to get us are these occasional ‘events’ that occur that have no clear benefit to anyone but the creators of the growing police state in America – and that is completely something that is occurring of our own choice. I ask you this – how did 911 assist these terrorists? If they were smart enough to pull that event off on their own they should have been smart enough to know that we had prepositioned a naval force of the coast of Afghanistan ahead of time allowing us to invade almost immediately.

    How did providing an excuse to invade Afghanistan and Iraq help their cause? Are they really better off? Our military—industrial-corporate infrastructure, the emerging police and surveillance states, and the bankers who supply the debt that funds all of this had to gain but maybe we should ignore that. Clearly they are far better off.

    How many hundreds of billions of dollars do we have to invest and have invested in these intelligence agencies to fight paper tigers and what real return have we received from this investment? Start naming real returns or are they all conveniently secret? Can all of this massive investment really stop a group of individuals who are already 100% aware of the level of monitoring going on from say derailing 20 different trains in a single day with a low tech piece of debris?

    When it is clear that these agencies are fighting the real enemy and not supporting them which massive amounts of evidence have proven then we will support them. I frankly think that some good is going on with the white hats in these agencies, but they need to seriously clean house and start using their power to help America and the world instead of undermine it as history has clearly shown.

    Can I provide countless examples? Don’t get me started.
  • Pandora's Box

    This will probably raise more issues than answer questions, but if all information is going to be deemed as useful regardless it's relevance to the initial public intentions for the Patriot Act, then why are we to use only that information? Since in was used from a series of (I assume) keywords, I believe it would first be necessary to go back and recheck all historical communications that were not originally oversought with whatever queries were checking. In addition I believe you would have to have all of the original finger pointers to be ok with someone going through all of their personal communications and effects first, before they could establish a moral highground.

    And that doesn't even cover the moral implications of certain accusations. If it's a victimless crime then how ok with the American public be with pursuing prosecution that doesn't affect their safety directly?
    • Caveat

      I will preface this with saying please do not judge on spelling mistakes this was written quickly and tiredly.