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What James Clapper Doesn't Understand About Edward Snowden

• http://www.theatlantic.com, Conor Friedersdorf
 If you've been wondering how James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, experienced the Edward Snowden leaks, look no further than Eli Lake's latest. The sympathetic profile, published Sunday at The Daily Beast, is interesting throughout. Two of its passages struck me as particularly noteworthy. 

1) The first passage to consider is alluded to in the headline, "Spy Chief James Clapper: We Can’t Stop Another Snowden." The article reports the following:

Clapper also acknowledges that the very human nature of the bureaucracy he controls virtually insures that more mass disclosures are inevitable. “In the end,” he says, “we will never ever be able to guarantee that there will not be an Edward Snowden or another Chelsea Manning because this is a large enterprise composed of human beings with all their idiosyncrasies.”

Consider the implications of that admission.
 
The NSA has collected information about the communications of millions of Americans. Nefarious actors, given access to metadata from the phone dragnet alone, could blackmail countless citizens and quietly manipulate the political process. The NSA doesn't deny that. They just insist that they're not nefarious actors, that safeguards are in place, and that we should trust them as stewards of this data. 

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