America's top intelligence official has apologized to the US Congress for providing incorrect information during a recent Congressional hearing on its secretive telephone and internet surveillance programme.
In a letter to chairman Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Senator Dianne Feinstein, director of National Intelligence James Clapper said that he was mistaken during a March 12 hearing that the United States did not collect data on millions of Americans.
Now that the metadata programme has been declassified, he can openly correct that error, he wrote in a letter to Feinstein. The letter dated June 21 was released to the press on Tuesday.
"My response was clearly erroneous - for which I apologize," he said.
"While my staff acknowledged the error to Senator Wyden's staff soon after the hearing, I can now openly correct it because the existence of the metadata collection program has been declassified," Clapper said.
Before the secretive internet and telephone surveillance programme was leaked, Clapper told the lawmakers during Congressional hearing that the National Security Agency does not collect data on millions of Americans.
Clapper said he is now writing because of the "charged rhetoric and heated controversy" over his response, so he could "set the record straight."