Before he accepted his appointment by President Obama as Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper wrote in a letter to the President:
“I have always sought to be ‘below the radar;” I do not like publicity.”
The big payday of a large book contract seems to have overcome Clapper’s reticence. In addition to his paid appearances on CNN, Clapper this week is ubiquitous on the talk shows flogging his heavily-spun memoir. Clapper claims his natural reserve was overcome, not by a financial windfall but a wish to defend the intelligence community against the “assaults” (his word) from President Trump. It is certainly true that after the leak of what James Comey described as the “salacious and unverified” Steele Dossier, an irate President-Elect Trump denounced the leak as “disgraceful” and “something Nazi Germany would do.”
However, Clapper doesn’t talk about the source of Trump’s ire, the leak itself. No one so far has gotten Clapper to reveal how the leak of the dossier occurred. Given his subsequent employment by CNN, the beneficiary of the leak, Clapper himself is a prime suspect. He admitted under oath talking to Jake Tapper who reported the story about the dossier, although he says the conversation was much later. In the ways of the Washington bureaucracy, the leak would have been arranged more circuitously.
I wrote about the leak at the time in “CNN’s “Fake News” and the origins of the dossier in the Clinton campaign and its use to justify spying on the Trump campaign in “The “Russian Collusion” Investigation Takes an Unexpected Bounce,” and “The House Intelligence Memo: Damning Details”
Complaints of spying on the Trump campaign have been loudly denied by the intelligence community and Clapper in particular. When it was recently revealed that a named professor had actually spied on the Trump campaign, Clapper indignantly insisted the individual was not a spy but an informant.
“I took aversion to the word spy, it was the most benign version of information gathering. The important thing is the whole reason the FBI was doing this was concern over what the Russians were doing to infiltrate the campaign, not spying on the campaign.”
If Clapper were truly concerned about a Russian effort “infiltrate” the Trump campaign, you’d think he would have warned the campaign. So far, the only proven successful effort to infiltrate the Trump campaign was by the FBI.
In the post-9/11 world our democracy has granted great power, exercised in secret, to the intelligence community to protect us from terrorism. It is not “assaulting” the intelligence community to hold them to account for their use of that power. For two years the Congress has been stonewalled in its efforts to investigate the abuse of those powers. Materials redacted on “national security” grounds include the revelation that FBI Assistant Director Andrew McCabe spent $70,000.00 for his conference table.
Clapper acts as if the criminal leak of the Steele Dossier were some kind of natural weather event, unconnected to him. Perhaps some interviewer will make him solve the real mysteries in his Magical Mystery Tour –why he doesn’t think Trump should have harshly criticized the intelligence community for that leak and why he didn’t inform the campaign that he thought it might be infiltrated.