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Intelligence director James Clapper should resign for 'lying to Congress,' say lawmakers

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Shortly after an attempt to curtail the NSA's surveillance capabilities failed narrowly in Congress, two of the measure's co-sponsors have said that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper should still be held accountable for giving false testimony. "[Clapper] was here in March and unambiguously lied to Congress," Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) told Democracy Now. "And I believe he was under oath. And it really sets a bad precedent for the whole organization to let him keep his post. I think he should be relieved of his post for lying to Congress." Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) said that he "completely" agreed. "We're now at the point of having a more honest disclosure of what's going on in our intelligence community, which we now find was very deliberately ignoring parts of the law that they knew perfectly well they were violating," he said.

"It really sets a bad precedent for the whole organization to let him keep his post."

Critics both inside and outside Congress have raked Clapper over the coals for a statement made in March to Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR). When asked whether the NSA collected "any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans," Clapper replied "Not wittingly." Since a leaked court order showed that the NSA regularly asks for all phone metadata from Verizon, Clapper has equivocated, saying he "simply didn't think of" the Patriot Act section that allowed for phone metadata collection. In an interview with NBC, he said "I responded in what I thought was the most truthful, or least untruthful manner by saying no," relying on a semantic definition of "collection" that he at one point referred to as "too cute by half."

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has been one of Clapper's most outspoken critics, saying Clapper would not be welcome if he were President, but he's so far refrained from directly asking him to resign. But Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), who led the push for the now-defeated amendment, has been harsher. "Perjury is a serious crime. Mr. Clapper should resign immediately," he tweeted in mid-June. So far, of course, Clapper has not resigned, nor have efforts to limit the NSA's capabilities so far succeeded. However, a mere seven votes could have tipped the balance on the last amendment. "To be honest, we didn't know that we were that close to victory," said Conyers. In addition to that measure, he's also brought a standalone bill known as the "Libert-e Act," which is also meant to increase transparency and prevent mass data collection. The bill is currently in committee.