An oath is an oath. It is not an option. You swear to tell the truth, we expect you to do so and failure to do so has consequences….or at least is supposed to have consequences.
If you lie under oath about something material (not something inconsequential), you commit perjury. That is a felony.
It is that plain and simple.
The process is also plain.
If someone is suspected of lying under oath, that person is referred to a grand jury where the grand jury considers the evidence and decides whether the person should be indicted for perjury.
If indicted, the defendant will have an opportunity to defend himself / herself at trial.
Here is what transpired on March 12, 2013 at a Senate hearing where DNI Clapper was under oath and swore to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth:
Senator Wyden then asked Clapper, “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” He responded, “No, sir.” Wyden asked “It does not?” and Clapper said “Not wittingly. There are cases where they could inadvertently, perhaps, collect, but not wittingly.” [from Wikipedia]
The above response by DNI Clapper is false. No one denies it is false – even Clapper himself admits now that it is false.
Here is the catch: DNI Clapper, as a courtesy, was not put under oath. It is considered an insult to put high level government officials under oath (don’t get me started on that!) But does Clapper still get a pass? No. It is a felony to lie to Congress even if not under oath. CLICK HERE.
So should he be indicted? for perjury or for lying? A grand jury should make that decision. The US Senate and Attorney General owe it to the American people to refer this matter to a grand jury for investigation and, if indicted, for prosecution.
It is troubling that DNI Clapper gets a pass when it comes to an investigation for lying before the US Senate. His falsehood should be investigated. If he is not, what message does that send to everyone else testifying, whether it be the US Senate, or a trial for a kid accused of stealing an iPad?
I worry about the damage to our nation’s sense of right and wrong, of justice and fairness when people at the top are treated so vastly differently. Make no mistake about it, it undermines our democracy.
PS You can bet if Clapper is investigated and if indicted, other Senate witnesses who work for the US government will think long and hard before lying – under oath or not under oath. Deterrence is important.
(And to answer the question of some…and to quote Fox’s THE FIVE – one more thing - DNI Clapper knew the question was coming…and, if he thought he should not answer publicly, he could have asked to go into ‘closed session’ so the world did not hear his answer……)