Director of National Intelligence James Clapper peppered his Thursday speech to an intelligence community summit with humor, drawing laughter from his audience nearly a dozen times. Clapper began his talk to the Intelligence National Security Alliance (INSA)/Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA) meeting by telling the crowd he was "somewhat of an 'INSA hipster' I was into INSA before it was cool." But later in his talk, Clapper spoofed the federal government's data collection and privacy controversies of the past few years with a long set up and punchline:
By the way, the culmination of all the turbulence that has beset the Intelligence Community over the past year or so is a new set of imperatives, which has spawned a new approach to the practice of intelligence, which I’m going to roll out here. Let me try to describe this new approach.
We are expected to keep the nation safe and provide exquisite, high-fidelity, timely, accurate, anticipatory, and relevant intelligence; and do that in such a manner that there is no risk; and there is no embarrassment to anyone if what we’re doing is publicly revealed; and there is no threat to anyone’s revenue bottom line; and there isn’t even a scintilla of jeopardy to anyone’s civil liberties and privacy, whether U.S. persons or foreign persons. We call this new approach to intelligence: “immaculate collection.”
After the audience laughed, Clapper continued with a swipe at budget concerns:
Sorry, I couldn’t resist. And by the way, we have to conduct “immaculate collection” on the cheap too.
The director also drew some humor from more serious subjects. As Clapper ran through the seven "Principles of Professional Ethics for the Intelligence Community" that he helped institute, he said:
[O]ur fourth Principle... says, “We demonstrate integrity in our conduct, mindful that all our actions, whether public or not, should reflect positively on the IC at large.”
This one is very personal for me, and became even more-so after I was accused of lying to Congress. It’s been very disappointing to me, after half-a-century of service, to be questioned about my integrity because of a mistake in trying to answer, on the spot, a question about a specific classified program in a generalized unclassified setting.
But again, our mission is to seek truth and speak truth to power. That’s what I’ve always done, and what I intend to keep on doing until I’ve got both feet in assisted living.
Here the audience laughed and then Clapper added:
And hey, as President Truman said, “You want a friend in Washington? Get a dog.”
The Washington, D.C. audience laughed appreciatively at this as well. And twice during his remarks, Clapper drew laughs by wryly observing that his term in his position as DNI would last just "another 122 weeks, or 855 days, but who’s counting?"
Clapper's remarks included many serious moments as well. He took the opportunity to announce the publication and release of the 2014 National Intelligence Strategy (NIS), which was updated from 2009 partly as a results of the controversies of the past several years. A unique aspect of this NIS is that there is only one version: an unclassified one. Clapper explained:
One of my big takeaways from the past 16 months is that we need to be more transparent. And, if we’re going to profess transparency, we need to practice transparency, whenever we can. So, there’s no "secret" version of the NIS. Our oversight committees, our partners, the public, and for that matter even our adversaries are all seeing the very same strategic direction I’m giving to the Intelligence Community.
Showing things to our adversaries, by the way, is the other side, the down-side of transparency... [N]obody else on the planet does that, except us.
The director noted that the NIS is even being placed on the agency's Facebook page and announced on Twitter. But he added some sober words of warning about this new "transparency":