Speaking to an industry conference in Tampa, James Clapper
detailed a litany of challenges he said have hit the $45
billion-per-year U.S. intelligence-gathering effort, from U.S.
budget turmoil and the Syrian war to leaks by former National
Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.
"The past 18 months is one of the toughest stretches for the
intelligence community I've seen in my 50-plus years in the
business," Clapper said.
Clapper, a former Air Force general who oversees 17 intelligence
agencies and is known for his sometimes-blunt language, predicted
that spending on everything from spy satellites to human agents
would continue to decline.
To critics of U.S. intelligence, he said: "You're going to have a
lot less of it to complain about."
Speaking on the first anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing,
Clapper defended the work of spy and law enforcement agencies in
that incident, saying after-action reviews had found "no smoking
guns, no real failure to connect the dots."
A report by intelligence community inspectors general released last
week found that information that may have increased scrutiny of
Boston bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev fell through the cracks in
communications among U.S. intelligence agencies and between the
United States and Russia.
Clapper's most vigorous complaints were aimed at Snowden, who
revealed highly classified details of U.S. eavesdropping programs
and other sensitive matters. Two news organizations, the Washington
Post and the Guardian newspaper, were awarded Pulitzer Prizes on
Monday for their reporting on the Snowden revelations.
Another senior U.S. official said here Tuesday that Snowden, who was
granted asylum in Russia, is now believed to have accessed about 1.5
million classified documents, not the 1.7 million previously
Speaking to a largely sympathetic audience of defense and
intelligence professionals at the GEOINT conference in Tampa,
Clapper rejected Snowden's reputation as a whistleblower, and said
he had caused enormous damage to American security.
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Because of the leaks, he said, "We're beginning to see changes in
the communications behavior of adversaries, particularly and most
disturbingly, terrorists — a trend that I anticipate will continue."
Clapper came in for his own share of criticism for telling a Senate
hearing, months before the Snowden leaks began last June, that the
United States was not collecting data on millions of American
citizens. An NSA program to gather bulk data about Americans' phone
calls was still classified at the time, and Clapper later described
his statement as the "least most untruthful" answer he could give
"It's not exactly been a fun year, a fun time for me personally,"
Clapper said on Tuesday.
The intelligence chief said, nonetheless, that he and his principal
deputy, Stephanie O'Sullivan, intend to stay until Obama's term ends
in January 2017.
Clapper said he wants to oversee completion of a multibillion-dollar
program intended to integrate intelligence agencies' numerous
separate classified information systems — and perhaps to prevent
Clapper recalled how, as a senior Pentagon official, he used to meet
with colleagues on Friday evenings and drink a martini.
"In this job," he said, "every night."
(Editing by Jonathan Oatis)
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