James Clapper é o mais alto responsável dos serviços secretos norte-americanos. Tem sob a sua tutela 16 agências de informações. E é a ele que os jornalistas ligam cada vez que estão prestes a revelar novos dados obtidos a partir dos documentos entregues por Edward Snowden. O The Daily Beast traçou o seu perfil
By Jim Lo Scalzo–pool
Every morning at around 4:30 a.m., James Clapper wakes up and prepares for the worst job in Washington. He is the nation’s top intelligence officer at a time when the intelligence community is derided because it can’t keep its secrets, and loathed because some of the secrets it has tried to hide concern the same American citizens it was charged with protecting. Thanks to rogue contractor Edward Snowden, the machinations of the shadow bureaucracy Clapper heads have for the last eight months been exposed one news story at a time. Clapper is often the guy who has to call newspaper editors to tell them not to print stories that they usually publish anyway.
Clapper, 72, a 51 year veteran in the intelligence community, is also the first director of national intelligence to hold the post when the annual intelligence budgets are being slashed instead of fattened. (Between 2002 and 2010 the annual intelligence community budget doubled from around $40 billion to $80 billion.) Add to this the fact that the legal authority Clapper needs to command the 16 intelligence agencies under his control is murky at best.
And in the last eight months at least, a growing chorus in Congress and the media are calling for him to resign. Meanwhile his friends and colleagues inside the classified government see Clapper as a scapegoat whose reputation has been unfairly rubbished.
But of all the problems Clapper faces, the biggest one is still Edward Snowden, the former systems administrator for the National Security Agency who raided the U.S. government’s classified computer networks for secrets he would later turn over to journalists at the Guardian and the Washington Post. To this day the U.S. government doesn’t know the full extent of what Snowden revealed or whether more documents that have yet to be published in the press have made their way into the hands of Russian or Chinese intelligence agencies.
Snowden pilfered documents from databases designed to share intelligence more broadly within the government. Promoting this integration of secrets is the primary mission of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). The office was created on the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission that faulted the intelligence agencies for jealously guarding information that could have prevented the attacks of that day. Clapper and his predecessors were supposed to help transform the intelligence community’s “need to know” culture to one of “need to share.” Snowden (and Chelsea Manning before him) were able to exploit the reforms promoted by the office Clapper now leads.
Covering nearly an entire wall of the waiting area outside Clapper’s office is a wooden relief sculpture dedicated to the U.S. Constitution. It contains a flag, a rendition of the constitutional assembly, and a copy of the document itself. It also has a plaque that reads, “What is the magic of the Constitution? The magic is how it states: We, the people. For the first time in history, government was about the people, not about the leader.”
And while it’s tempting to call the relief just a decoration for Clapper–especially in light of Snowden’s disclosures of wholesale surveillance on virtually the entire planet–that wouldn’t be entirely fair. However belatedly and reluctantly, he has moved in the last eight months to push the intelligence community to acknowledge many of the activities it has kept from the public since 9/11. Since the Snowden disclosures (and a court order last summer in favor of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by civil liberties groups about domestic surveillance), Clapper has declassified scores of documents related to some of the most sensitive programs he would have once done everything to keep secret. Thedeclassified documents included not only the court warrants to collect the troves of call records, but also a secret court’s findings that the government inadvertently collected tens of thousands of domestic Internet communications that had nothing to do with foreign intelligence targets.
Clapper said that in retrospect it would have been better for the government to acknowledge the collection of call records when the program started after 9/11. Even long-time critics applaud him for that.
“I think he deserves credit for rethinking the calculation over secrecy,” said Steve Aftergood, the director of the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy. “I think post-Snowden, he quickly realized that declassification and disclosure would serve the interests of the intelligence community.”
Clapper also acknowledges that the very human nature of the bureaucracy he controls virtually insures that more mass disclosures are inevitable. “In the end,” he says, “we will never ever be able to guarantee that there will not be an Edward Snowden or another Chelsea Manning because this is a large enterprise composed of human beings with all their idiosyncrasies.”
Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, concurs: “I do think he recognizes that we are in a new normal after Snowden where we can’t operate with the expectation where nothing will get out,” he said. “If you are going to be dealing with the world where there are these disclosures you have to be more transparent to make the case to the public what you are doing and not doing.”
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