'Not Good for a Democracy': An Interview with James Clapper.

AuthorLueders, Bill

In 1953, when James Clapper was twelve, he discovered that his grandparents' black-and-white TV could pick up audio dispatches from the Philadelphia Police Department. He used this data to discern district boundaries, identify call codes, and build a database on index cards. His father, an Army intelligence officer, was delighted: "My God, I've raised my own replacement!"

Clapper went on to a career in intelligence, both in the military and as a civilian. He began as a Marine Corps reservist and ended up as an Air Force lieutenant general with three stars on his shoulder. He served as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency under George H. W. Bush and as Director of National Intelligence under President Barack Obama.

In his new book, written together with Trey Brown, Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence, Clapper, now seventy-seven, explains how his belief in the importance of facts compelled him to speak out against President Donald Trump, "whose first instincts are to twist and distort truth to his advantage."

In May 2017, Clapper told Jake Tapper on CNN that he believed the nations institutions were "under assault," both externally and internally. "Internally from the President?" Tapper asked. "Exactly," Clapper replied.

Now a CNN analyst, Clapper writes in his book that he believes Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election "swung the election to a Trump win"--an astonishing claim to come from one of the nations top intelligence officials.

Clapper has been branded "a bumbling idiot" by Laura Ingraham of Fox News and a "lying machine" in a tweet from Trump himself--setting off seismic rumblings of the "Look Who's Talking" meter. He spoke to The Progressive by phone in late June from his home in suburban Virginia.

Q: You write in your book about the devaluation of truth and rise of "alternative facts." Explain why you feel this is dangerous for our democracy.

James Clapper: The Russians played to that narrative in the course of meddling in our campaign for the elections of 2016. This is a very insidious thing. Doubt is cast in peoples minds about whether the truth is even knowable. "Well, it could be this way, it could be that way, and you can never know"--that is one of the techniques that the Russians have long used to sow disinformation.

Q: The President has lied about you personally, like when he tweeted that you found "no evidence" of collusion between his campaign and Russians or that you confirmed Obama had...

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