James R. Clapper

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James R. Clapper
James R. Clapper official portrait.jpg
Director of National Intelligence
In office
August 9, 2010 (2010-08-09) – January 20, 2017 (2017-01-20)
President Barack Obama
Deputy Stephanie O'Sullivan
Preceded by David Gompert (Acting)
Succeeded by Dan Coats
Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence
In office
April 15, 2007 – June 5, 2010
President George W. Bush
Barack Obama
Preceded by Stephen Cambone
Succeeded by Michael Vickers
Director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
In office
September 2001 – June 2006
President George W. Bush
Preceded by James C. King
Succeeded by Robert Murrett
Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency
In office
November 1991 – August 1995
President George H. W. Bush
Bill Clinton
Preceded by Dennis Nagy (Acting)
Succeeded by Kenneth Minihan
Personal details
Born James Robert Clapper, Jr.[1]
(1941-03-14) March 14, 1941 (age 77)
Fort Wayne, Indiana, U.S.
Alma mater University of Maryland, College Park
St. Mary's University, Texas
National Defense University
Air University
Awards Legion of Merit (3)
Bronze Star (2)
Air Medal (2)
Military service
Service/branch  United States Air Force
Years of service 1963–1995
Rank US-O9 insignia.svg Lieutenant General
Battles/wars Vietnam War

James Robert Clapper, Jr. (born March 14, 1941)[2][3] is a retired lieutenant general in the United States Air Force and former Director of National Intelligence. He served as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) from 1992 until 1995. He was the first Director of Defense Intelligence within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and simultaneously the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence.[4] Clapper has held several key positions within the United States Intelligence Community. He served as the director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) from September 2001 until June 2006.

On June 5, 2010, President Barack Obama nominated Clapper to replace Dennis C. Blair as United States Director of National Intelligence. Clapper was unanimously confirmed by the Senate for the position on August 5, 2010.[5][6]

Two U.S. representatives accused Clapper of perjury for telling a Congressional committee in March 2013, that the NSA does not collect any type of data at all on millions of Americans. One senator asked for his resignation, and a group of 26 senators complained about Clapper's responses under questioning. Media observers have described Clapper as having lied under oath, having obstructed justice, and having given false testimony.

Early life

Clapper was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, the son of Anne Elizabeth (née Wheatley) and First Lieutenant James Robert Clapper.[7][8] His maternal grandfather, James McNeal Wheatley, was an Episcopalian minister.[9]

Military career

Lieutenant General James R. Clapper, USAF circa 1995

After a brief enlistment in the United States Marine Corps Reserve, General Clapper transferred to the US Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps program. He was commissioned in 1963 as a distinguished military graduate from the University of Maryland. He commanded a signals intelligence detachment based at a listening post in Thailand's Udon Thani Province where he flew 73 combat support missions in EC-47s; a signals intelligence SIGINT wing at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland, and the Air Force Technical Applications Center, Patrick Air Force Base, Florida.

Clapper became Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in November 1991 and retired from active duty in September 1995.[10] He then spent six years in private industry. From 2001 to June 2006 he was Director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency as member of the Defense Intelligence Senior Executive Service (DISES).

Private sector career

From 2006-2007 Clapper worked for GeoEye (satellite company) and was an executive on the boards of three government contractors, two of which were doing business with the NGA while he was there: In October 2006 as chief operating officer for the British military intelligence company Detica, now DFI and US-based subsidiary of BAE Systems, also SRA International and Booz Allen Hamilton.[11] Clapper defended the private sector's role in his 2010 confirmation hearings: "I worked as a contractor for six years myself, so I think I have a good understanding of the contribution that they have made and will continue to make."[12]

Appointment as Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence (USD(I))

For the 2006-2007 academic year, Clapper held the position of Georgetown University’s Intelligence and National Security Alliance Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Intelligence.[13] While teaching at Georgetown, he was officially nominated by President George W. Bush to be Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence (USD(I)) on January 29, 2007 and confirmed by the United States Senate on 11 April 2007.[14] He was the second person ever to hold this position, which oversees the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), the National Security Agency (NSA), the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and works closely with the Director of National Intelligence (DNI).

Director of National Intelligence


On June 4, 2010, multiple news agencies reported that United States President Barack Obama was planning to nominate Clapper as the next Director of National Intelligence.[6][15] Despite the report that Clapper was suggested to President Obama by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, both Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein and Vice-Chairman Kit Bond of the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence had offered reservations regarding his appointment.[6]

President Obama made the official announcement on June 5, 2010 saying Clapper "possesses a quality that I value in all my advisers: a willingness to tell leaders what we need to know even if it's not what we want to hear."[16]

On August 5, 2010, Clapper was confirmed by the Senate in a unanimous vote.[5] Lawmakers approved his nomination after the Senate Intelligence Committee backed him with a 15-0 vote. During his testimony for the position, Director Clapper pledged to advance the DNI's authorities, exert tighter control over programming and budgeting, and provide oversight over the CIA's use of predator drones in Pakistan.[17]

Creating position of deputy director for intelligence integration

In August 2010, Clapper announced a new position at the DNI, designed to integrate the former posts of Deputy Director for Analysis and Deputy Director for Collections, now called the "deputy director for intelligence integration". Robert Cardillo, the deputy director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, was tapped as the first person to fill this new post.[18][19][20]

Budget authority over US Intelligence community

In an agreement reached between Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Clapper, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence assumed administrative control over the National Intelligence Program (NIP). Previously the NIP was itemized within the Defense Department budget to keep the line item and dollar amount from public view. Clapper's office disclosed the top line budget as $53.1 billion late October 2010, which is below the $75 billion figure circulated in 2010.[21] in the belief the budget change will strengthen the DNI's authority.[22][23][24][25]


Giving evidence to the Senate in February 2012 Clapper told Congress that if Iran is attacked over its alleged nuclear weapons program, it could respond by closing the Strait of Hormuz to ships and launch missiles at regional U.S. forces and allies. Former Defense Intelligence Agency chief Lt. Gen. Ronald Burgess told senators Iran is unlikely to initiate or intentionally provoke a conflict. Clapper said it’s “technically feasible” that Tehran could produce a nuclear weapon in one or two years, if its leaders decide to build one, “but practically not likely”. Both men said they do not believe Israel has decided to strike Iran.[26]

Common information technology enterprise and desktop

Clapper has made "intelligence integration" across the Intelligence Community the primary mission of the ODNI.[27] In 2012, the office announced an initiative to create a common information technology desktop for the entire Intelligence Community, moving away from unconnected agency networks to a common enterprise model. The shared IT infrastructure reached operating capability in late fiscal 2013, with plans to bring on all intelligence agencies over the next few years.[28]

False testimony to Congress on NSA surveillance programs

File:Ron Wyden and James Clapper - 6 June 2013.webm
Excerpt of James Clapper's testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence

On March 12, 2013, during a United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing, Senator Ron Wyden quoted the keynote speech at the 2012 DEF CON by the director of the NSA, Keith B. Alexander. Alexander had stated that "Our job is foreign intelligence" and that "Those who would want to weave the story that we have millions or hundreds of millions of dossiers on people, is absolutely false…From my perspective, this is absolute nonsense." Senator Wyden then asked Clapper, "Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?" He responded "No, sir." Wyden asked "It does not?" and Clapper said "Not wittingly. There are cases where they could inadvertently, perhaps, collect, but not wittingly."[29]

When Edward Snowden was asked during his January 26, 2014 TV interview in Moscow what the decisive moment was or why he blew the whistle, he replied: "Sort of the breaking point was seeing the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, directly lie under oath to Congress. … Seeing that really meant for me there was no going back."[30]

Admission and responses

On June 5, 2013, The Guardian published the first of the global surveillance documents leaked by Edward Snowden, including a top secret court order showing that the NSA had collected phone records from over 120 million Verizon subscribers.[31] The following day, Director Clapper released a statement admitting the NSA collects telephony metadata on millions of Americans' telephone calls.[32] This metadata information included originating and terminating telephone number, telephone calling card number, International Mobile Station Equipment Identity (IMEI) number, time, and duration of phone calls, but did not include the name, address or financial information of any subscriber.[33]

On June 7, 2013, Clapper was interviewed by Andrea Mitchell on NBC. Clapper said that "I responded in what I thought was the most truthful, or least untruthful manner by saying no" when he testified.[34]

On June 11, Sen. Wyden accused Clapper of not giving a "straight answer", noting that Clapper's office had been provided with the question a day in advance of the hearing and was given the opportunity following Clapper's testimony to amend his response.[35]

On June 12, 2013, United States House of Representatives member Justin Amash became the first Congressman to openly accuse Director Clapper of criminal perjury, and calling for his resignation. In a series of tweets he stated: "It now appears clear that the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, lied under oath to Congress and the American people," and "Perjury is a serious crime ... [and] Clapper should resign immediately,"[36] Senator Rand Paul said "The director of national intelligence, in March, did directly lie to Congress, which is against the law."[37] Paul later suggested that Clapper might deserve prison time for his testimony.[38]

On June 27, 2013 a group of 26 senators sent him a complaint letter opposing the use of a "body of secret law".[39][40] On July 1, 2013, Clapper issued an apology, saying that "My response was clearly erroneous – for which I apologize."[41] On July 2, Clapper said that he had forgotten about the Patriot Act and therefore had given an "erroneous" answer.[42]

The journalist Glenn Greenwald accused the media in the U.S. of focusing on Edward Snowden instead of focusing on wrongdoing by Clapper and other U.S. officials.[43] Jody Westby of Forbes argued that due to the revelations, the American public should ask Clapper to resign from office, arguing that "Not only did Mr. Clapper give false testimony to Congress, even his June 6 statement was false. We now know — since the companies identified by the Washington Post have started fessing up — that lots more than telephony metadata has been collected and searched."[44] Fred Kaplan of Slate also advocated having Clapper fired, arguing "if President Obama really welcomes an open debate on this subject, James Clapper has disqualified himself from participation in it. He has to go."[45] Andy Greenberg of Forbes said that NSA officials along with Clapper, in the years 2012 and 2013 "publicly denied–often with carefully hedged words–participating in the kind of snooping on Americans that has since become nearly undeniable."[29] John Dean, former White House Counsel for President Nixon, has claimed that it is unlikely Clapper would be charged with the three principal criminal statutes that address false statements to Congress: perjury, obstruction of Congress, and making false statements.[46] David Sirota of Salon said that if the U.S. government fails to treat Clapper and Alexander in the same way as it did Roger Clemens, "the message from the government would be that lying to Congress about baseball is more of a felony than lying to Congress about Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights" and that the "message would declare that when it comes to brazen law-breaking, as long as you are personally connected to the president, you get protection rather than the prosecution you deserve."[47]

On December 19, 2013 seven Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee called on attorney general Eric Holder to investigate Clapper, saying that "witnesses cannot be allowed to lie to Congress."[48] In January 2014, Robert Litt, the general counsel to the Office of the DNI, stated that Clapper did not lie to Congress,[49] and in May 2015 clarified that Clapper "had absolutely forgotten the existence of" section 215 of the Patriot Act.[50]

In January 2014, six members of the House of Representatives wrote[51] to President Obama urging him to dismiss Clapper for lying to Congress,[52][53] but were rebuffed by the White House.[54] Caitlin Hayden, a White House spokesperson, said in an e-mailed statement that Obama has "full faith in Director Clapper’s leadership of the intelligence community. The Director has provided an explanation for his answers to Senator Wyden and made clear that he did not intend to mislead the Congress."[54]

Ban on employee contacts with the media

In March 2014, Clapper banned employees of the intelligence community from unauthorized contact with reporters.[55] The next month he implemented a new pre-publication review policy for the ODNI's current and former employees that prohibits them from citing news reports based on leaks in their unofficial writings.[56]

Wikimedia Foundation lawsuit

On March 10, 2015, Wikimedia Foundation filed a lawsuit against Clapper and several other defendants in an attempt to stop the "large-scale search and seizure of internet communications."[57][58]

ISIS intelligence scandal

The CENTCOM’s intelligence staff has been pressured to promote “good news” about the struggle against the ISIS (also known as Islamic State, ISIL, and Daesh) in Iraq and the civil war in Syria, despite much evidence to the contrary. On September 10, 2015, The Guardian reported that Clapper "is in frequent and unusual contact with a military intelligence officer (Army Brigadier General Steven Grove) at the center of a growing scandal over rosy portrayals of the war against ISIS".[59] The report came amid a Pentagon investigation into accusations that top military officials have pressured analysts into conforming their reports to the Obama administration's narrative of the fight against ISIS. More than 50 intelligence analysts at CENTCOM, the Pentagon agency covering security interests in nations throughout the Middle East and Central Asia, have supported a formal, written complaint sent to the Defense Department alleging that senior intelligence officers have insisted on changing ISIS reports to make them reflect more positively on US efforts in the region.[60] With Clapper closely communicating with officials who have been implicated in the scandal, questions will arise about how much President Barack Obama — who once suggested that ISIS was a JV team wearing Lakers uniforms — knew about any possible intelligence altering.[61]

In the media

In 2003, Clapper, then head of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, attempted to explain the absence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq by asserting that the weapons materials were "unquestionably" shipped out of Iraq to Syria and other countries just before the American invasion, a "personal assessment" which Clapper's own agency head at the time, David Burpee, "could not provide further evidence to support".[62]

In an interview on December 20, 2010 with Diane Sawyer of ABC News, Clapper indicated he was completely unaware that twelve alleged would-be terrorists had been arrested in Great Britain earlier that day.[63][64]

In February, 2011, when mass demonstrations were bringing down Mubarak's presidency in Egypt, Clapper told a House Intelligence Committee hearing that:

"The term 'Muslim Brotherhood'...is an umbrella term for a variety of movements, in the case of Egypt, a very heterogeneous group, largely secular, which has eschewed violence and has decried Al Qaeda as a perversion of Islam," ... "They have pursued social ends, a betterment of the political order in Egypt, et cetera.....In other countries, there are also chapters or franchises of the Muslim Brotherhood, but there is no overarching agenda, particularly in pursuit of violence, at least internationally."[65]

The Obama administration took the rare step later that day of correcting its own intelligence chief after the statement drew scrutiny among members of Congress.[66]

In March 2011, Clapper was heard at the United States Senate Committee on Armed Services commenting on the 2011 Libyan civil war that "over the longer term" Gaddafi "will prevail." This position was loudly questioned by the White House, when National Security Advisor Thomas E. Donilon qualified his statement as a "static and one-dimensional assessment" and argued that "The lost legitimacy [of Gaddafi] matters."[67] During the same hearing he was also questioned when he neglected to list Iran and North Korea among the nuclear powers that might pose a threat to the United States.

Personal life

In 1965 Clapper married his wife Sue, who herself was an NSA employee. They have a daughter Jennifer, principal of an elementary school in Fairfax County, married to Jay, a high school teacher. He has a brother Mike Clapper from Illinois, and a sister, Chris. He introduced them at the Senate confirmation hearings July 20, 2010.[68]


Clapper also holds an honorary doctorate in strategic intelligence from the Joint Military Intelligence College, Washington, D.C., where he taught as an adjunct professor.

Major awards and decorations

Effective dates of promotion

  • Second Lieutenant Jun 8, 1963
  • First Lieutenant Jan 8, 1965
  • Captain Mar 16, 1967
  • Major Nov 1, 1973
  • Lieutenant Colonel Apr 1, 1976
  • Colonel Feb 11, 1980
  • Brigadier General Oct 1, 1985
  • Major General Sep 1, 1988
  • Lieutenant General Nov 15, 1991[10]

Military assignments

  • May 1963 – March 1964, student, Signal Intelligence Officers Course, Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas
  • March 1964 – December 1965, analytic branch chief, Air Force Special Communications Center, Kelly Air Force Base, Texas
  • December 1965 – December 1966, watch officer and air defense analyst, 2nd Air Division (later, 7th Air Force), Tan Son Nhut Air Base, South Vietnam
  • December 1966 – June 1970, aide to the commander and command briefer, Air Force Security Service, Kelly Air Force Base, Texas
  • June 1970 – June 1971, commander, Detachment 3, 6994th Security Squadron, Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand
  • June 1971 – August 1973, military assistant to the director, National Security Agency, Fort George G. Meade, Md.
  • August 1973 – August 1974, aide to the commander and intelligence staff officer, Headquarters Air Force Systems Command, Andrews Air Force Base, Md.
  • August 1974 – September 1975, distinguished graduate, Armed Forces Staff College, Norfolk, Va.
  • September 1975 – June 1976, chief, signal intelligence branch, Headquarters U.S. Pacific Command, Camp H.M. Smith, Hawaii
  • June 1976 – August 1978, chief, signal intelligence branch, J-23, Headquarters U.S. Pacific Command, Camp H.M. Smith, Hawaii
  • August 1978 – June 1979, student, National War College, National Defense University, Fort Lesley J. McNair, Washington, D.C.
  • June 1979 – January 1980, Washington area representative for electronic security command, deputy commander, Fort George G. Meade, Md.
  • February 1980 – April 1981, commander, 6940th Electronic Security Wing, Fort George G. Meade, Md.
  • April 1981 – June 1984, director for intelligence plans and systems, Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C.
  • June 1984 – May 1985, commander, Air Force Technical Applications Center, Patrick Air Force Base, Fla.
  • June 1985 – June 1987, assistant chief of staff for intelligence, U.S. Forces Korea, and deputy assistant chief of staff for intelligence, Republic of Korea and U.S. Combined Forces Command
  • July 1987 – July 1989, director for intelligence, Headquarters U.S. Pacific Command, Camp H.M. Smith, Hawaii
  • July 1989 – March 1990, deputy chief of staff for intelligence, Headquarters Strategic Air Command, Offutt Air Force Base, Neb.
  • April 1990 – November 1991, assistant chief of staff for intelligence, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C.
  • November 1991 – 1995, director, Defense Intelligence Agency and General Defense Intelligence Program, Washington, D.C.

See also

  • Michael Hayden, retired Air Force general and former director of the NSA (1999-2005) and CIA (2006-2009)


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External links

Military offices
Preceded by
Dennis Nagy
Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency
Succeeded by
Kenneth Minihan
Political offices
Preceded by
James C. King
Director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
Succeeded by
Robert Murrett
Preceded by
Stephen Cambone
Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence
Succeeded by
Michael Vickers
Preceded by
David Gompert
Director of National Intelligence
Succeeded by
Dan Coats