When he stepped down in January 2017 as the fourth United States Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper had been President Obama’s senior intelligence advisor for six and a half years, a period that included such critical events as the discovery of Osama bin Laden, the leaks of Edward Snowden, the Benghazi attack, and Russia’s influence on the 2016 U.S election. In Facts and Fears Clapper traces his career through his rise in ranks of the military, the history of several decades of national intelligence operations, the growing threat of cyberattacks, his relationships with presidents and Congress, and the truth about Russia’s role in the presidential election. He describes, in the wake of Snowden and WikiLeaks, his efforts to make intelligence more transparent and to push back against the suspicion that Americans’ private lives are subject to surveillance.
Clapper considers such difficult questions as, is intelligence ethical? Is it moral to use human sources to learn secrets, to intercept communications, to take pictures of closed societies from orbit? What are the limits of what we should be allowed to do? What protections should we give to the private citizens of the world, not to mention our fellow Americans? Is there a time that intelligence officers can lose credibility as unbiased reporters of hard truths by asserting themselves into policy decisions?