DNI Clapper Says There Are Positives Coming Out of Snowden Case
“As loath as I am to give any credit for what has happened here, which is egregious, some of the conversations that it has generated, some of the debate, is probably needed,” he said at an Intelligence and National Security Alliance conference in Washington, D.C.
“We have to be more transparent about how we do our business, what it takes to do it, and also transparent about the output of what we do,” he said.
Transparency is a “doubled-edged sword” he said. Adversaries may take advantage of it.
“I am convinced we have to err on the side of more transparency, because we won’t have any of this if we don’t have the trust and the confidence of the citizens and their elected representatives,” he added.
Clapper spoke in the wake of almost daily revelations about National Security Agency programs. The latest reports alleged that raw intelligence data on Americans was handed over to Israelis. There have also been allegations that NSA has built backdoors into encryption software.
Chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., said at a panel earlier in the day that some of the published stories had gone beyond revelations about privacy issues. They had revealed techniques, which in turn has given terrorist organizations valuable insights.
"We have already seen one al-Qaida affiliate completely change the way it does business, which means that we have a gap in our ability to stop something bad from happening,” Rogers said.
The damage caused in this case was described to him by a member of the intelligence community as “significant and irreversible.”
Ranking member on the committee, Rep. C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger, D-Md., said, the media is printing stories “that will eventually cause the death of Americans.”
Clapper said the Snowden case is pushing his office, which oversees 17 intelligence agencies, to make reforms that were heretofore slow in coming.
“There is more focus on insider threat detection, which we were into, but probably not with the energy and emphasis that we are now,” he said.
Security clearance reform — a long-standing desire — is also coming along quicker. “We are going to have to step up the pace on that,” he said. Investigations of cleared personnel that take place every five years will take advantage of new technologies and change that to continuous evaluations, he said.
An information-sharing program called the Intelligence Community Information Technology Enterprise is also going to be sped along. If it had already been in place, it might have detected Snowden earlier, he said. That system envisions bringing together databases from all the different intelligence agencies and disciplines and leveraging cloud technology to allow them to be more efficient and secure, but in a way that will promote sharing, he said.
“We are well past the euphoria of ‘what a great idea this is’ and now we are into the passive-aggressive resistance phase that we are all familiar with,” he quipped. “But we are all committed to this, and the Snowden issue kind of emphasized the importance of us doing it.”