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When the good guys lie

FILE - In this March 12, 2013, file photo Director of National Intelligence (DNI), James Clapper, listens to testimony at the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, where he testified about worldwide threats. When answering questions about NSA surveillance before congress, Clapper admitted he was being "too cute by half." (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

The Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, went before Congress and took this question from Senator Ron Wyden, “Does the NSA collect any type of data on millions of Americans?”

And then he gave an answer he knew would mislead people.

“No sir,” responded Clapper.

“It does not?”

“Not wittingly,” said Clapper.

We now know the NSA is collecting huge amounts of data on phone calls and internet activity. But he explained his answer to NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, “I responded in what I thought was the most truthful, least untruthful manner by saying ‘no.'”

“Least untruthful” – it’s like being “incompletely honest.” It’s the answer men give to the question “Does this dress make me look fat?”

But here’s the other part of the interview, where he admits he was playing with words. That he was being cute.

Said Clapper, “Perhaps, some would say too cute by half.”

Because the spy business is not about the truth. It’s about deception. Which is a major part of every country’s military arsenal. Edward Snowden, the whistle-blower, thinks it’s gone too far. And so he’s announced his next revelation that the United States has been hacking into Chinese computers since 2009!

Edward Snowden wants to show us that we’re not the good guys we think we are. But I don’t think that’s going to shock people the way he thinks it will. Because we are in a war here – a cyberwar. And as in other wars – truth is always the first casualty, and no one is the good guy. The only thing you need to decide when war breaks out is which side will you be on. And with any luck, you’ll find yourself on the least untruthful side.


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