James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, was taping an interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer when she asked him about the high-profile arrest of a dozen men in Britain, one of the largest counter-terrorism busts in that country’s history. It became uncomfortably obvious that Clapper didn’t know anything about the story. He had to ask White House adviser John Brennan, one of his fellow guests on the program, to explain it to him.
Scrambling to defend Clapper, Brennan explained he’d been busy dealing with “tension on the Korean peninsula and congressional negotiations over a nuclear treaty with Russia to pick up on widespread reporting” about events in London, as reported by Fox News. It seems Clapper’s staff neglected to tell him about the event. See, I knew that START treaty was a bad idea. It’s already distracting our Director of National Intelligence from briefly glancing at the front pages of any major newspaper.
Brennan says “steps are being taken to ensure he’s not kept in the dark on such significant developments in the future.” One good step would be getting him a smartphone, and having him subscribe to the free news alert emails Fox, CNN, and most other networks. You can even set those phones up to make funny noises when important emails are received. For example, Clapper could have his phone make that swoosh… dong noise you get when a Fox News Alert comes on TV. Granted they abuse the heck out of that noise, and pump out Fox News Alerts to tell you it’s raining or Lindsey Lohan got arrested again, so there’s a danger people will just tune it out, like car alarms in the big city.
There’s no way to put a smiley face on this absurd and disturbing incident. I love the standard bureaucratic response put forth by Brennan: (1) blame the staff, and (2) over-praise the guy who screwed up. Brennan went on to call Clapper “the consummate Director of National Intelligence.” I’m pretty sure the consummate one would have known about something like the London terror raids. Actually, the consummate intelligence director would wear an eyepatch and work out of a gigantic flying aircraft carrier, tirelessly battling subversive evil around the world with a crew of colorful super-agents. I guess we’ll have to make do with James Clapper, and the staff that sent him to face Diane Sawyer without thinking about the sort of questions she was likely to ask him.