National Intelligence director James Clapper stepping down in January

His legacy will be marked by PRISM and Snowden's revelations.
Billy Steele
B. Steele|11.17.16

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REUTERS/Carlos Barria
REUTERS/Carlos Barria

While it doesn't come as a surprise, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has submitted his resignation effective at the end of the Obama administration in January. Clapper said multiple times over the last year that he planned to resign at the end of President Obama's second term and today he made it official. The intelligence chief has explained that after 50 years of service, it was time for him to step down.

Clapper was appointed by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate in 2010. Since then, he oversaw the United States' 17 intelligence agencies, including the CIA, FBI, NSA and DEA. His tenure will be mostly remembered for the 2013 revelations of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden who revealed the US government collected phone records on over 120 million people.

After details of the so-called PRISM program were reported by The Guardian and The Washington Post, Clapper declassified some information on the initiative and maintained that it was only used to gather foreign intelligence info under court supervision. Earlier this year, Clapper's personal email, phone and internet accounts were accessed by hackers using the name "Crackas With Attitude." Authorities in the UK and in the US later arrested four people in connection with the hacking of a number of government officials, including Clapper.

When making his resignation official on Thursday, Clapper tried to reassure the American people that after a crazy election cycle, things would turn out just fine. "I know a lot of people have been feeling uncertain about what will happen with this Presidential transition," he said. "There has been a lot of catastrophizing, if I can use that term, in the 24-hour news cycle and social media. So, I'm here with a message: It will be okay."

In a lengthy interview with Wired published today, Clapper discusses his decade-spanning career with the US government. He speaks about Snowden and how much the world of intelligence is different than it was decades ago. "Sometimes I long for the halcyon days of the cold war," Clapper tells Wired's Garret M. Graff. "We had a single adversary and we understood it."

Clapper's resignation comes on the heels of reports that President-elect Donald Trump and his transition team are struggling to piece together a cabinet. All of those new officials in high-ranking positions will likely coincide with a change in national security strategy after Trump takes office in January.

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