After what CNN reports as “months” of anticipation of quitting, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper submitted his resignation today (something all current administration high officials will also be doing during the administration change).
From past Reason reporting, let’s remember just five reasons America should be quite happy to see the door hitting Clapper on his way out, and hard.
1) Most importantly, Clapper believed that any sort of warrant requirement for scouring citizens’ electronic records was untenable as it would hobble the government’s ability to find and prevent terror attacks—and used as evidence for this a list of terror attacks that existing surveillance powers did nothing to uncover or stop—while engaging in lobbying Congress to make sure it didn’t do anything to actually protect America’s liberties and to further empower his own job.
If the Trump administration is so against citizen or business interest lobbying, I hope, but do not expect it to, take a firmer stand against executive branch officials lobbying Congress to expand their ability to violate Americans’ constitutional rights.
2) Clapper’s a confessed perjurer about his assaults on Americans’ rights, lying to Congress about National Security Agency’s privacy violating practices, as Ronald Bailey noted-with-alarm.
3) Clapper’s best defense when his perjury became obvious was that, as director of national intelligence, he was so incompetent in any role as a watchful and efficient executive that he just forgot the massive metadata electronic surveillance program covering pretty much all Americans existed when asked about it, as Scott Shackford reported.
4) Clapper presided over a national system in which our intelligence workers got to enjoy and share embarrassing private information gathered about Americans, because their systems and methods made differentiating targetable foreign actors from Americans pretty much impossible, as J.D. Tuccille reported.
5) According to his own boss President Obama (who chose not to fire him for it), the intelligence operations Clapper managed did a shoddy job understanding and relaying relevant facts about radical Islam (which, whether or not you agree, the U.S. government sees as our most pressing actual military problem demanding good intelligence) in Syria and regarding ISIS in Iraq.
Clapper is going to be gone, and that’s good. What is not good is that the powers, and the vision of the proper use of those powers, that the next DNI will control will almost certainly be the same as Clapper’s, if not worse.
What we know about Trump’s attitude toward whistleblower Edward Snowden who made the existence of such surveillance systems undeniable—that is, that he’s a traitor who deserves death—there is little reason to believe any Trump appointee will be any better. This is not a guy who seems to think anything should hobble him or the government it now controls in pursuit of his perceived enemies.
The departure of an abuser of power is cause for a small moment of glee. That the abuse of power inherent in the job is going nowhere is cause for that eternal vigilance we are always hearing about.