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Lawmakers slam intelligence chief James Clapper for lying to Congress, call for DOJ investigation

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James Clapper
James Clapper

Amid mounting pressure from federal courts, the president's NSA review panel, and the public, several lawmakers today called for the Department of Justice to investigate intelligence community director James Clapper for lying to Congress. In a letter to the DOJ, Representatives Jim Sensenbrenner (R, WI), Darrell Issa (R, CA), Trent Franks (R, AZ), and several other members of the House Judiciary Committee write that "Director Clapper's willful lie under oath fuels the unhealthy cynicism and distrust that citizens feel toward their government and undermines Congress' ability to perform its Constitutional function." While a handful of lawmakers have suggested that Clapper should face a perjury inquiry since his testimony before Congress earlier this year, today's letter marks a formal shift in Congress' tolerance for the intelligence community's leadership.

In a March, 2013 Senate hearing, Senator Ron Wyden (D, OR) asked Director Clapper if "the NSA collected any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans." Clapper responded "no, sir," which has since been revealed as a lie; the NSA routinely collects the phone metadata for every call placed within the United States. "In June 2013, after the Snowden leaks publicly exposed Clapper's testimony as false, Clapper finally retracted his remarks," the letter notes, crediting whistleblower Edward Snowden with the discovery.

"Clapper lying to Congress is probably more injurious to our intelligence capabilities than anything Snowden did."

Harsh words for Clapper also emerged from the Senate side today, with Senator Rand Paul (R, KY) telling CNN's Wolf Blitzer that "Clapper lying to Congress is probably more injurious to our intelligence capabilities than anything Snowden did." Paul said that "Clapper has damaged the credibility of the entire intelligence apparatus and I'm not sure what to believe anymore when they come to Congress." The senator said Clapper should resign. "I don't know how you can have someone in charge over intelligence who has known to lie in a public forum to Congress, to lie without repercussions," Paul said. "If the intelligence community says we're not spying on Americans and they are, and then they say we're not collecting any data, it's hard to have confidence in them."