James Robert Clapper Jr. (born March 14, 1941) is a retired lieutenant general in the United States Air Force and is the former director of national intelligence. He served as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) from 1992 until 1995. He was the first director of defense intelligence within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and simultaneously the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence. Clapper has held several key positions within the United States Intelligence Community. He served as the director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) from September 2001 until June 2006.
On June 5, 2010, President Barack Obama nominated Clapper to replace Dennis C. Blair as United States Director of National Intelligence. Clapper was unanimously confirmed by the Senate for the position on August 5, 2010.
Following the June 2013 leak of documents detailing NSA practice of collecting telephony metadata on millions of Americans’ telephone calls, two U.S. representatives accused Clapper of perjury for telling a congressional committee that the NSA does not collect any type of data on millions of Americans earlier that year. One senator asked for his resignation, and a group of 26 senators complained about Clapper’s responses under questioning. In November 2016, Clapper resigned as director of national intelligence, effective at the end of President Obama's term. In May 2017, he joined the Washington, D.C.-based think tank the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) as a Distinguished Senior Fellow for Intelligence and National Security.
Clapper was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, the son of Anne Elizabeth (née Wheatley) and First Lieutenant James Robert Clapper. His father worked in signals intelligence during World War II. His maternal grandfather, James McNeal Wheatley, was an Episcopal minister.
Clapper earned a bachelor of science degree in political science from the University of Maryland in 1963 and a master of science degree in political science from St. Mary's University in Texas in 1970.
After a brief enlistment in the United States Marine Corps Reserve, Clapper transferred to the U.S. Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps program. He was commissioned in 1963 as a distinguished military graduate from the University of Maryland. He commanded a signals intelligence detachment based at a listening post in Thailand’s Udon Thani Province, where he flew 73 combat support missions in EC-47s; a signals intelligence SIGINT wing at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland, and the Air Force Technical Applications Center, Patrick Air Force Base, Florida.
Clapper became director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in November 1991 and retired from active duty in September 1995.
He then spent six years in private industry. From 2001 to June 2006 he was director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency as member of the Defense Intelligence Senior Executive Service (DISES).
From 2006 to 2007, Clapper worked for GeoEye (satellite company) and was an executive on the boards of three government contractors, two of which were doing business with the NGA while he was there: In October 2006 as chief operating officer for the British military intelligence company Detica, now DFI and U.S.–based subsidiary of BAE Systems, also SRA International and Booz Allen Hamilton. Clapper defended the private sector's role in his 2010 confirmation hearings: "I worked as a contractor for six years myself, so I think I have a good understanding of the contribution that they have made and will continue to make."
For the 2006–2007 academic year, Clapper held the position of Georgetown University’s Intelligence and National Security Alliance Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Intelligence. While teaching at Georgetown, he was officially nominated by President George W. Bush to be undersecretary of defense for intelligence (USD(I)) on January 29, 2007, and confirmed by the United States Senate on 11 April 2007. He was the second person ever to hold this position, which oversees the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency (NSA), and the National Reconnaissance Office. He also worked closely with the director of national intelligence.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates suggested to President Obama that he nominate Clapper, but both Chairman Dianne Feinstein and Vice-Chairman Kit Bond of the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence had offered reservations regarding his appointment. Obama made the official announcement on June 5, 2010 saying Clapper “possesses a quality that I value in all my advisers: a willingness to tell leaders what we need to know even if it's not what we want to hear.”
On August 5, 2010, the Senate confirmed Clapper in an unanimous vote. Lawmakers approved his nomination after the Senate Intelligence Committee backed him with a 15–0 vote. During his testimony for the position, Clapper pledged to advance the DNI’s authorities, exert tighter control over programming and budgeting, and provide oversight over the CIA’s use of predator drones in Pakistan.
In August 2010 Clapper announced a new position at the DNI called the deputy director for intelligence integration, to integrate the former posts of deputy director for analysis and deputy director for collections. Robert Cardillo, the deputy director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, was tapped to fill the new post.
In an agreement between Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Clapper his office assumed administrative control over the National Intelligence Program. Previously the NIP was itemized within the Defense Department budget to keep the line item and dollar amount from public view. In late October 2010 Clapper's office disclosed the top line budget as $53.1 billion, which was below the $75 billion figure circulated in 2010, in the belief the budget change would strengthen the DNI's authority.
in February 2012, Clapper told the Senate that if Iran is attacked over its alleged nuclear weapons program, it could respond by closing the Strait of Hormuz to ships and launch missiles at regional U.S. forces and allies. Former Defense Intelligence Agency chief Lt. Gen. Ronald Burgess told senators Iran is unlikely to initiate or intentionally provoke a conflict. Clapper said it’s “technically feasible” that Tehran could produce a nuclear weapon in one or two years, if its leaders decide to build one, “but practically not likely.” Both men said they do not believe Israel has decided to strike Iran.
Clapper made "intelligence integration" across the Intelligence Community the primary mission of the ODNI. In 2012 the office announced an initiative to create a common information technology desktop for the entire Intelligence Community, moving away from unconnected agency networks to a common enterprise model. In late fiscal 2013 the shared IT infrastructure reached operating capability with plans to bring on all intelligence agencies over the next few years.
On March 12, 2013, during a United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing, Senator Ron Wyden quoted NSA director Keith B. Alexander’s keynote speech at the 2012 DEF CON. Alexander had stated that “Our job is foreign intelligence” and that “those who would want to weave the story that we have millions or hundreds of millions of dossiers on people, is absolutely false.... From my perspective, this is absolute nonsense.” Wyden then asked Clapper, “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” He responded, “No, sir.” Wyden asked “It does not?” and Clapper said, “Not wittingly. There are cases where they could inadvertently, perhaps, collect, but not wittingly.”
When Edward Snowden was asked during his January 26, 2014, TV interview in Moscow what the decisive moment was or why he blew the whistle, he replied: “Sort of the breaking point was seeing the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, directly lie under oath to Congress. ... Seeing that really meant for me there was no going back.”
On June 5, 2013, The Guardian published the first of the global surveillance documents leaked by Edward Snowden, including a top secret court order showing that the NSA had collected phone records from over 120 million Verizon subscribers. The following day, Clapper admitted the NSA collects telephony metadata on millions of Americans’ telephone calls. This metadata information included originating and terminating telephone number, telephone calling card number, International Mobile Station Equipment Identity (IMEI) number, time, and duration of phone calls, but did not include the name, address, or financial information of any subscriber.
On June 11 Senator Ron Wyden accused Clapper of not giving a “straight answer,” noting that Clapper’s office had been provided with the question a day in advance of the hearing and was given the opportunity following Clapper’s testimony to amend his response.
On June 12, 2013, Representative Justin Amash became the first congressman to openly accuse Director Clapper of criminal perjury, calling for his resignation. In a series of tweets he stated: “It now appears clear that the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, lied under oath to Congress and the American people,” and “Perjury is a serious crime ... [and] Clapper should resign immediately,” Senator Rand Paul said "The director of national intelligence, in March, did directly lie to Congress, which is against the law." Paul later suggested that Clapper might deserve prison time for his testimony.
On June 27, 2013, a group of 26 senators sent him a complaint letter opposing the use of a “body of secret law.”
On July 1, 2013, Clapper apologized, saying that “my response was clearly erroneous—for which I apologize.” On July 2, Clapper said that he had forgotten about the Patriot Act and therefore had given an “erroneous” answer.
On July 2, 2013 journalist Glenn Greenwald accused the U.S. media of focusing on Edward Snowden instead of focusing on wrongdoing by Clapper and other U.S. officials. Jody Westby of Forbes argued that due to the revelations, the American public should ask Clapper to resign from office, arguing that “not only did Mr. Clapper give false testimony to Congress, even his June 6 statement was false. We now know—since the companies identified by the Washington Post have started fessing up—that lots more than telephony metadata has been collected and searched.” Fred Kaplan of Slate also advocated having Clapper fired, arguing "if President Obama really welcomes an open debate on this subject, James Clapper has disqualified himself from participation in it. He has to go." Andy Greenberg of Forbes said that NSA officials along with Clapper, in the years 2012 and 2013 “publicly denied–often with carefully hedged words–participating in the kind of snooping on Americans that has since become nearly undeniable.” John Dean, former White House Counsel for President Nixon, has claimed that it is unlikely Clapper would be charged with the three principal criminal statutes that address false statements to Congress: perjury, obstruction of Congress, and making false statements. David Sirota of Salon said that if the U.S. government fails to treat Clapper and Alexander in the same way as it did Roger Clemens, “the message from the government would be that lying to Congress about baseball is more of a felony than lying to Congress about Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights” and that the “message would declare that when it comes to brazen law-breaking, as long as you are personally connected to the president, you get protection rather than the prosecution you deserve.”
On December 19, 2013, seven Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee called on Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate Clapper, saying that "witnesses cannot be allowed to lie to Congress." In January 2014, Robert Litt, the general counsel to the Office of the DNI, stated that Clapper did not lie to Congress, and in May 2015 clarified that Clapper "had absolutely forgotten the existence of" section 215 of the Patriot Act.
In January 2014 six members of the House of Representatives wrote to President Obama urging him to dismiss Clapper for lying to Congress, but were rebuffed by the White House. Caitlin Hayden, a White House spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement that Obama has “full faith in Director Clapper’s leadership of the intelligence community. The Director has provided an explanation for his answers to Senator Wyden and made clear that he did not intend to mislead the Congress.”
In March 2014 Clapper banned employees of the intelligence community from unauthorized contact with reporters. The next month he implemented a new prepublication review policy for the ODNI’s current and former employees that prohibits them from citing news reports based on leaks in their unofficial writings.
On March 10, 2015, Wikimedia Foundation filed a lawsuit against Clapper and several other defendants in an attempt to stop the “large-scale search and seizure of internet communications.”
In June 2015 the United States Office of Personnel Management (OPM) announced that it had been the target of a data breach targeting the records of as many as 18 million people. The Washington Post has reported that the attack originated in China, citing unnamed government officials. Speaking at a forum in Washington, D.C., Clapper warned of the danger posed by a capable adversary like the Chinese government and said, “You have to kind of salute the Chinese for what they did.”
The CENTCOM’s intelligence staff was pressured to promote “good news” about the struggle against the Islamic State in Iraq and the civil war in Syria, despite evidence to the contrary. In September 2015, The Guardian reported that Clapper “is in frequent and unusual contact with a military intelligence officer (Army brigadier general Steven Grove) at the center of a growing scandal over rosy portrayals of the war against ISIS.” The report came amid a Pentagon investigation into accusations that top military officials have pressured analysts into conforming their reports to the Obama administration’s narrative of the fight against ISIS. More than 50 intelligence analysts at CENTCOM, the Pentagon agency covering security interests in nations throughout the Middle East and Central Asia, have supported a formal, written complaint sent to the Defense Department alleging that senior intelligence officers have insisted on changing ISIS reports to make them reflect more positively on U.S. efforts in the region. With Clapper closely communicating with officials who have been implicated in the scandal, questions will arise about how much President Barack Obama—who once suggested that ISIS was a JV team wearing Lakers uniforms—knew about any possible intelligence altering.
In November 2016, Clapper resigned, effective at the end of President Obama's term in January 2017.
James R. Clapper AO, will commence in June with an initial four-week term at the Australian National University (ANU) National Security College in Canberra that will include public lectures on key global and national security issues including the future of Australia's alliance with the United States.
Mr Clapper will engage with policymakers and security practitioners, as well as academics, students and private sector partners in the College's work on issues such as cyber security and analysing future strategic challenges. He will also take part in the ANU Crawford Australian Leadership Forum, the nation's pre-eminent dialogue of academics, parliamentarians and business leaders.
ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt AC said the University was privileged to host Jim Clapper as part of its commitment to the highest levels of engagement with the world's critical policy challenges. The Head of the ANU National Security College, Professor Rory Medcalf, said that hosting global figures like Jim Clapper was an important way for the College to contribute to the quality of Australian policymaking in an uncertain world.
In 2003, Clapper, then head of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, attempted to explain the absence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq by asserting that the weapons materials were “unquestionably” shipped out of Iraq to Syria and other countries just before the American invasion, a “personal assessment” that Clapper’s own agency head at the time, David Burpee, “could not provide further evidence to support.”
In an interview on December 20, 2010, with Diane Sawyer of ABC News, Clapper indicated he was completely unaware that 12 alleged terrorists had been arrested in Great Britain earlier that day.
The Obama administration took the rare step later that day of correcting its own intelligence chief after the statement drew scrutiny among members of Congress.
In March 2011, Clapper was heard at the United States Senate Committee on Armed Services commenting on the 2011 Libyan civil war that “over the longer term” Gaddafi “will prevail.” This position was loudly questioned by the White House, when National Security Adviser Thomas E. Donilon qualified his statement as a “static and one-dimensional assessment” and argued that “the lost legitimacy [of Gaddafi] matters.” During the same hearing he was also questioned when he neglected to list Iran and North Korea among the nuclear powers that might pose a threat to the United States.
In March 2017 Clapper denied on NBC's "Meet the Press" the existence of a FISA court order allowing the FBI to tap Trump Tower. Clapper also said that he saw no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. He stopped receiving briefings on January 20 and was "not aware of the counterintelligence investigation Director Comey first referred to during his testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee for Intelligence on the 20th of March". CNN stated that Clapper had "taken a major defense away from the White House."
In 1965 Clapper married his wife, Sue, who herself was an NSA employee. They have a daughter, Jennifer, who is a principal of an elementary school in Fairfax County, Virginia, and is married to Jay, a high school teacher.
He has a brother, Mike Clapper from Illinois, and a sister, Chris. He introduced them at the Senate confirmation hearings July 20, 2010.
Clapper also holds an honorary doctorate in strategic intelligence from the Joint Military Intelligence College, Washington, D.C., where he taught as an adjunct professor.
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