What Does Director of National Intelligence James Clapper Need to Do to Get Fired?
by RYAN MAURO
November 16, 2011
The International Atomic Energy Agency’s incriminating report on Iran’s nuclear weapons program should be the last straw—not just for Iran, but for Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. The country simply cannot afford to have him in charge of overseeing our entire intelligence community any longer.
In March, Clapper stood by the controversial National Intelligence Estimate of 2007 that concluded that Iran suspended its nuclear weapons work in 2003 and expressed “moderate confidence” that Iran had not restarted it. He admits that his influence was “all over” it. In February, he said that Iran was creating the capacity to build nukes, but had not decided to actually do so. The IAEA discredits the NIE by unequivocally concluding that “some activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device continued after 2003.”
This includes work on creating a nuclear warhead, secret uranium enrichment sites, development of the triggers to set off nuclear explosions and even preparations for an underground nuclear test. The temporary halt came because of, in the IAEA’s words, “growing concerns about the international security situation in Iraq and neighbouring countries at the time.” In other words, Iran didn’t want to push its luck after it saw how the U.S. overthrew Saddam Hussein. The nuclear weapons work then continued under a new organization. It is reasonable to assume that Iran restarted its program after it saw the U.S. in trouble in Iraq and Afghanistan (partially because of Iranian and Syrian support for the enemy) and concluded that it didn’t need to worry anymore.
The director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies says that the U.S. intelligence community, which Clapper oversees, already knew about the IAEA’s findings before the publication of its report. That means that Clapper knew of the incriminating proof that Iran is developing nuclear weapons and still stood by the much-criticized NIE of 2007.
This is just the most recent reason Clapper has given us to demand his firing.
We all remember when he described the Muslim Brotherhood as “a very heterogeneous group, largely secular, which has eschewed violence and has described Al-Qaeda as a perversion of Islam” when he testified to Congress. He said its many affiliates do not have an “overarching agenda.”
It was a remarkable moment where literally everything he said was incorrect. The Muslim Brotherhood is an Islamist organization that is quite openly dedicated to establishing Sharia-based governance around the world as its overarching agenda. It vocally supports terrorism and Hamas is its Palestinian branch. It condemns9/11 and Al-Qaeda’s attacks on Muslims, but supports its attacks on Western military forces and its leader in 2007 praised Bin Laden as an Islamic hero with good intentions.
Clapper later clarified to say that he meant that the Muslim Brotherhood operates within Egypt’s secular political system. Even if that is what he meant, it doesn’t account for his other descriptions of the group. And most worryingly, it doesn’t explain the overall point of his testimony: That the Muslim Brotherhood isn’t that bad. That, more than anything, should disqualify him from his post.
But there’s more. In December 2010, Dianne Sawyer interviewed the administration’s top officials about how they were handling a possible terrorist attack around Christmas time. The headline of the morning was that the British had arrested a dozen terrorists planning attacks. Clapper had no clue what she was talking about when she asked him about it.
The administration’s excuse was that the arrests did not directly deal with the U.S. homeland so he didn’t need to immediately know. Even if that was a good excuse, and it isn't, the fact remains that he went into a high-profile interview about terrorism and did not know about the biggest terrorism-related development of the day.
Clapper has also shown himself to be completely unprepared for the public stage. In March, Senator Lindsey Graham demanded his firing after he publicly said that Russia and China are the biggest “mortal threats” to the country. Clapper’s point that these are the two countries that could do the most damage to the U.S. is valid, but calling them “mortal threats” can have severe international repercussions.
After the Libyan civil war broke out, Clapper publicly said that the rebels would lose. This was an honest opinion and came as Qaddafi’s forces were taking cities back from the rebels, but expressing it was still ill-advised to say the least. Statements like that are immediately published overseas and have a serious impact on the morale of those being doubted. If you were a Libyan soldier considering defecting and heard the top U.S. intelligence official saying the winning side is Qaddafi’s, then you will pick that winning side.
It appears that the Obama Administration now views Clapper as a liability. After Bin Laden was killed, Clapper was nowhere to be found. Since his major gaffe regarding the Muslim Brotherhood, very little has been heard from him. The administration recognizes the risks of having him talk in public. If Obama is re-elected, it’s unlikely he’ll return for a second term, but the American people shouldn’t have to wait until 2013 to get rid of him. America deserves a Director of National Intelligence it can trust and be proud of.