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  (Source: CNN)
Sen. Paul says Gen. Clapper lied to Congress, the nation under oath; Rep. King says it was an innocent mistake

Under the (literally) crumbling dome of the Congress Building in Washington, D.C., the question/revelation of spying on Americans by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) is producing deep, and some would say revealing division within both ruling parties.
 
I. A Civil War in Both Parties
 
We've already highlighted how a pair of Democratic proposals are dueling in the Senate -- one of which seeks to institutionalize the nation taxing the law-abiding masses so that it may spy on them, the other which looks to put an end to this mass-spying.
 
The debate over these proposals, the legal fate of leaker Edward Snowden, and the legal fate of the NSA officials -- who some say illegally overstepped their authorities -- is proving an equally divisive issue among the Democratic National Party (DNP).

Feinstein
A party divided: by unlikely allies like Sen. Rand Paul, Sen. Leahy (left) is fighting to push a bill that does the opposite of Sen. Feinstein's (right) bill. [Image Source: AP]

And it is equally divisive among the Republican National Party (RNP).  Many powerful Republicans -- such as the Speaker of the House, Rep. John Andrew Boehner (R-Ohio, 8th District) and Rep. Peter Thomas King (R-N.Y., 2nd District) -- claim that taxing and spying, along with appropriate "adjustments" to weaken the Constitution's fourth and sixth amendments, is the only route to the "safer" America they envision.  To these elected officials, leaker Edward Snowden is a "traitor", "defector", and the face of "treason". 
 
They embrace President Barack Obama's (D) expansion of the spying on Americans, saying it is both prudent and legal, under a new era in U.S. law.

We The People
There's warring feelings on the relevance of the Constiution in the digital age within both parties.
[Image Source: Jason Mick/DailyTech LLC]

On the other side of the fence are Republicans like Rep. Justin A. Amash (R-Mich., 3rd District) and Senator Rand Paul (R-Kent.).  They say that the NSA's leadership has behaved criminally and should be held accountable.  They argue that while Mr. Snowden violated the law, he is increasing appearing like a national hero who only violated the law in order to protect the Constitution -- a distinction that may make him eligible for whistleblower protections.
 
They're contemplating amnesty or a pardon for him, in light of the activity he blew the whistle on.  They point to the fact that despite the tremendous cost of harvesting everyone's data/metadata, testimony by top intelligence officials indicates that the information has rarely, if ever been used to successfully stop a terrorist plot.
 
And it is on that topic that one of the biggest civil wars of strong rhetoric within the Republican Party is being waged upon.
 
II. Sen. Paul vs. Rep. King
 
The issue revolves around sworn testimony that retired Gen. James Clapper, now the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), gave under oath to Congress.  Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) in a March 2013 National Security hearing asked the DNI, "Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?"
 
Director Clapper responds, "No sir."
 
He later seemed to backtrack slightly, saying, "Not wittingly."

James Clapper
Director Clapper, seen here with President Obama, admit to misstatements under oath, but calls them "mistakes", not lies.  [Image Source: AP]

With the revelation from Edward Snowden that the intelligence agencies, led by the NSA, were deliberately and purposefully harvesting the data of millions of Americans a day, critics say that Gen. Clapper lied under oath, even with his final disclaimer.
 
In a discussion with CNN's "Situation Room" this Wednesday Sen. Paul blasted Gen. Clapper's complicit role in the spying scandal, remarking:
 
I do think what your government is doing is unconstitutional, and I really think that in order to restore confidence in our intelligence community, I think James Clapper should resign.
 
I find that really, that Clapper lying to Congress is probably more injurious to our intelligent capabilities than anything Snowden did because Clapper has damaged the credibility of the entire intelligence apparatus, and I'm not sure what to believe anymore when it comes to Congress.


Gen. Clapper has already apologized to the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), which Sen. Wyden -- as well as Sen. Dianne Goldman Berman Feinstein (D-Calif.) (sponsor of the aforementioned pro-spying Democratic bill) -- sits on.  In a letter in June, following the early leaks, he wrote:

I have thought long and hard to re-create what went through my mind at the time," he said, adding that "my response was clearly erroneous - for which I apologize.

I can now openly correct it because the existence of the metadata collection program has been declassified.

Senator Paul adds, "I don't think [the NSA] should be spying on Americans, I think they should be spying on terrorists."

He says that Mr. Snowden may have obeyed a "higher law" in his leaks.  He said Gen. Clapper's violations of the law were more damaging than Mr. Snowden's violations.

Sen. Rand Paul
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kent.) called Gen. Clapper's actions criminal. [Image Source: The NYT]

Some like Sen. Paul -- an expected 2016 Republican Presidential nominee -- say that Gen. Clapper should resign or be charged. Others like Rep. King call him a hero.
 
Rep. King -- also an expected Republican Presidential challenger for 2016, commented -- said that Sen. Paul had "disgraced" his office by criticizing Gen. Clapper's inaccuracies and the NSA spying program.  Appearing on the same CNN program the next day, he commented:

For Senator Paul to compare that patriot, General Clapper, with someone like Snowden, who is a traitor, who has put American lives at risk - Senator Paul should be ashamed of himself,

It's an absolute disgrace. He disgraced his office and he owes General Clapper an apology immediately.


He says that he is "very opposed" to reform suggestions, claiming, "There is no NSA scandal."

Rep. Peter Kin
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) says that Sen. Paul is a "disgrace" to the party and that journalists should face charges just like Snowden.  He also says NSA reform is a bad idea. [Image Source: CNN]

He also characterized Sen. Paul as an extremist for opposing spying, stating, "[Sen. Paul is part of] the isolationist wing of the [Republican] party."
 
He views himself and Rep. Boehner as representative of the pro-spying "mainstream" Republican Party.
 
The New York Republican has also controversially suggested criminal charges should be filed against journalists involved with publishing to the public classified information on spying programs that target them -- programs that they are paying for.  Such charges appear explicitly prohibited under the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees freedom of the press.  But as with the fourth and sixth amendments, the Congressman's opinion is that the Constitution needs to be eroded somewhat to protect Americans.
 
Specifically, he suggested that journalists who provide such information to the public might be eligible for treason and espionage charges, under the  -- the same act Mr. Snowden is being charged with.
 
III. Gen. Alexander Also Appeared to Lie to Congress
 
Departing NSA Director, General Keith Alexander might also be facing potential calls for charges from Sen. Paul, had he not agreed to retire, a move his critics are calling a resignation.
 
In a recent Senate hearing he retracted testimony to Congress he made under oath, commenting that the monitoring efforts had stopped 54 assassination attempts or terrorist plots, saying that he believed they "possibly" stopped two.  But he was unable to produce any evidence -- on the record -- that these plots would not have been discovered and stopped without spying on Americans.

Gen. Alexander
NSA chief, Gen. Keith Alexander agreed to step down, some say to avoid charges.
[Image Source: Fox News]

Again, there's a vast difference in opinion between Sen. Paul and Rep. King.  To Sen. Paul, these kinds of words are the true treason and they should be held accountable.  To Rep. King, while regular Americans are often sent to prison for lying under oath, intelligence officials should be shielded from such charges as they may make "mistakes".
 
On thing is for certain.  The NSA has been spying on Americans.  And according to internal audits agents broke the law up to 3,000 times a year, accessing these records (which they're supposed to delete).  So far there have been no charges against the NSA employees and their supervisors who by their own accounts, break the law (on an agency scale) nearly a dozen times on any given week.

The NSA
The NSA by its own accounting breaks the law about a dozen times a week. [Image Source: NYPost]

While the agency claims these violations were minor -- mostly due to "typographical" whoopsies and such, it's reason to take such claims with a bit of skepticism, given how many times the NSA and DNI have change their story -- changes that some call innocent, and others call criminal.

Sources: Rep. Peter King on CNN/YouTube, Sen. Rand Paul on CNN/YouTube, CNN





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