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Opinion

Patriot Act architect says intel boss should face jail time for lying to Congress

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Joel Gehrke,Eric Holder,Darrell Issa,Ron Wyden,Justice Department,House Judiciary Committee,James Clapper

House Republican legislators have asked Attorney General Eric Holder to launch an investigation into James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, who has been accused of lying about the National Security Agency's surveillance programs when asked by a Senate Democrat about the programs during a congressional hearing.

“Congressional oversight depends on truthful testimony — witnesses cannot be allowed to lie to Congress," several members of the House Judiciary Committee wrote in a letter to Holder. The letter is signed by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., who introduced the Patriot Act, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, and Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas.

"Accordingly, we request you investigate Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s ‘erroneous’ statements to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence earlier this year.”

The letter notes that Ronald Reagan's former National Security Advisor John Poindexter went to jail for lying to Congress, among others who lied to Congress.

Clapper told Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., that the NSA did not collect any bulk data on millions of Americans, despite the existence of the phone records surveillance program.

"Senator Wyden had warned Director Clapper prior to the hearing that he would ask the question," the letter states. "Following the hearing, Wyden privately offered Clapper the opportunity to correct the record. Clapper declined."

Clapper said later that he answered in the "least untruthful" way that he could. "And certainly if any member, whether on the Intelligence Committee or the Judiciary Committee or any other committee would -- who had asked for specific briefing or follow-up questions, we certainly would -- would've responded," Clapper told NBC's Andrea Mitchell.

"There are differences of opinion about the propriety of the NSA's data collection program," the lawmakers wrote to Holder. "There can be no disagreement, however, on the basic premise that congressional witnesses must answer questions truthfully."

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