Patriot Act author Rep. James Sensenbrenner just joined the list of congressmen calling for Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s resignation – and prosecution.
“Lying to Congress is a federal offense, and Clapper ought to be fired and prosecuted for it,” the Wisconsin Republican told The Hill.
During a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing in March, Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden asked Clapper if the NSA collects “any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.”
“No, sir.” Clapper replied, “Not wittingly.”
According to Sensenbrenner, who has since introduced and endorsed legislation to scale back the NSA’s permissions and capabilities, the Department of Justice should charge Clapper for testifying falsely before Congress.
“The only way laws are effective is if they’re enforced,” Sensenbrenner said. “If it’s a criminal offense, and I believe Mr. Clapper has committed a criminal offense, then the Justice Department ought to do its job.”
Shortly afterward, documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed the agency collects data from almost all domestic phone calls. He later apologized, saying he gave the “least untruthful” answer he was authorized to give.
In the wake of more leaks revealing greater depths of digital surveillance, Sensenbrenner argued NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander should also be fired, and that both men should have civilians appointed to their posts.
“I think that civilians would be able to have a better balance in seeing the distinction between security and civil liberties,” Sensenbrenner said.
Both the White House and Congress have openly discussed making changes to the top NSA leadership post since the leaks. Proposals include dividing control of U.S. Cyber Command from the NSA director position and appointing a non-military civilian.
The NSA regularly cites Sensenbrenner’s Patriot Act in its surveillance requests, but his USA Freedom Act co-authored with Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy would restrict the agency from collecting data on Americans – a violation of the Constitution, according to Sensenbrenner.