President Obama says that we just need to trust him and national-security state officials with the power to secretly monitor our telephone calls and emails. He says that while it’s true that they’ve been secretly keeping data about our telephone calls, he assures us that no one is recording our telephone calls or indiscriminately reading our emails.
But how do we know that he’s telling the truth about any matter relating to “national security,” given that it’s considered okay to lie about secret matters relating to “national security”?
In other words, if the national-security state is, in fact, secretly recording people’s telephone calls and vacuuming up emails, President Obama and national-security officials aren’t about to disclose that fact to us, given that disclosure would threaten “national security” by letting the terrorists know that their calls were being recorded and emails being read.
How do we know that the president and his national-security team would lie to us about secret programs relating to “national security”? We have proof in the form of the perjury committed by the president’s very own director of national intelligence, James Clapper.
Consider Clapper’s sworn testimony last March before the U.S. Senate:
QUESTION: Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?
ANSWER: No, sir.
QUESTION: It does not?
ANSWER: Not wittingly. There are cases where they could, inadvertently perhaps, collect—but not wittingly.”
Of course, Clapper was testifying long before Edward Snowden made his revelations. The last thing on Clapper’s mind was the possibility that anyone would ever discover that he was committing perjury and that the NSA was, in fact, knowingly, intentionally, deliberately, and wittingly collecting data on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.
So, why hasn’t Clapper been indicted for perjury? After all, there isn’t any doubt whatsoever that if this had been a private citizen like Martha Stewart or Roger Clemens, U.S. Justice Department attorneys would be jumping up and down, screaming about how the integrity of our free and democratic system requires truthful answers in official federal investigations, including those before Congress.
The answer lies in the extraordinary power that the national-security state apparatus has acquired in the last 60 years. That’s why the Justice Department, the Congress, and the federal judiciary are rolling over on Clapper’s perjury. None of them has any desire to jack with the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA, which is why they have been so deferential to them for so long and especially since 9/11.
How do they justify not going after Clapper for perjury when they go after private people like Martha Stewart and Roger Clemens?
They don’t have to justify anything to anyone. But the answer for their inaction lies in the two most important words in the lives of the American people in our lifetime: “national security,” the two words that have absolutely no objective meaning, aren’t found in the Constitution, and whose sole purpose is to expand the power and reach of the national-security state over the American people.
The large concentration of power in the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA has obviously given rise to an informal grant of immunity for crimes committed in the name of “national security,” including murder, assassination, torture, kidnapping, and perjury.
All that national-security state officials have to do when accused of criminal wrongdoing is cite “national security” and they will be let off the hook, notwithstanding that no U.S. law provides that “national security” shall be a defense to criminal conduct.
An interesting question, one that the mainstream press, not surprisingly, isn’t asking, is: What did President Obama know about Clapper’s testimony and when did he know it? Did the president and Clapper discuss what Clapper should say if he were asked under oath about the existence of a secret NSA surveillance scheme on the American people? Did the president order Clapper to lie about the program if he were asked about it during his testimony? If so, that would make the president guilty of the crime of subordination of perjury.
At the very least, President Obama almost certainly had to have known about Clapper’s false testimony after the fact. It defies credulity that the president would have not known about the details of his own director of national intelligence’s sworn testimony before Congress.
If that’s the case, then rather than order Clapper to return to Congress to correct his testimony or rather than issue a corrected statement himself, Obama let the perjury stand.
Why would the president of the United States do that? Because he would have been taking the same position Clapper obviously took: That keeping a national-security secret is more important than speaking the truth, even under oath, especially if “national security” is at stake.
And that’s precisely why no one can trust that Obama or any other national-security state official is telling the truth on anything they say about secret programs relating to “national security.”
Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.
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