It’s been five years since former US spy chief James Clapper lied to Congress about the NSA’s giant surveillance program, and the statute of limitations for his crime is coming to end, guaranteeing him a peaceful retirement.
On March 12, 2013, Clapper, then director of national intelligence, knowingly lied to the US Select Committee on Intelligence, when he was asked by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) whether the National Security Agency collected “any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.”
“No sir. Not willingly,” Clapper said.
The full extent of Clapper’s unabashed dishonesty was revealed to the world just three months later, when NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden leaked troves of documents detailing the agency’s vast, warrantless surveillance of American citizens.
In the years that followed, numerous lawmakers called for Clapper to be prosecuted for lying to Congress – but to no avail.
Prosecutions under the two criminal statutes that cover lying to Congress – relating to perjury and making false statements – must be brought within five years under the Statute of Limitations. This means that, as of Monday, March 12, 2018, Clapper can no longer be charged with perjury, even though he lied and everybody knows it.
Not everyone who fibs to Congress is blessed with such a curiously unresponsive Justice Department, though. Over the past 10 years, there have been at least two individuals charged with desecrating the halls of Congress with their democracy-damaging lies.
In 2007, second-ranking Interior Department official J. Steven Griles admitted to misleading the Senate about the criminal doings of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
But the US government’s insistence on the truth and nothing but…