In Defense of James Clapper

I've learned over many years that you miss so much when you're overseas (mainly obituaries, but also other news); you apparently can miss important stories as well when you are in Washington, serving the President as his director of national intelligence. Apparently, DNI James Clapper came up short when asked in a television interview about the recent London bomb plot:

In an interview that aired Tuesday but was taped on Monday, ABC's Diane Sawyer chatted with Clapper, Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano, and John Brennan, the president's assistant for homeland security and counterterrorism.

She asked Clapper about the incident.

"First of all, London," Sawyer said. "How serious is it? Any implication that it was coming here? ... Director Clapper?"

Clapper was initially bewildered and Brennan jumped in to acknowledge the arrests.

Sawyer said to Clapper she was "a little surprised" that he "didn't know about London."

He replied "I'm sorry, I didn't."

This isn't actually that surprising, and it is, in fact, fairly excusable. It is not surprising because the sheer amount of information a DNI, or a CIA chief, has to master each day is overwhelming. No single human could master the torrent of data that comes the intelligence community's way, which is why there is more than one person in the intelligence community. The reason this is excusable is that the London plots apparently were not directed against American targets. I'm reasonably sure Clapper is juggling in his mind ten or 15 or 20 (or God knows how many) active plots against American targets. Yes, someone should have briefed him about the London plot before he went on television, but this little incident doesn't rise to the level of the Chertoff/Brownie spectacle, not by a long shot.