“I probably shouldn’t say this, but I will," Clapper said in an interview with the Daily Beast published Monday. "Had we been transparent about this from the outset right after 9/11—which is the genesis of the 215 program—and said both to the American people and to their elected representatives, we need to cover this gap, we need to make sure this never happens to us again, so here is what we are going to set up, here is how it’s going to work, and why we have to do it, and here are the safeguards… We wouldn’t have had the problem we had."
Clapper was heavily criticized after documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden showed the NSA collected Americans' phone log records. The director had told the Senate Intelligence Committee last year that the NSA didn't "wittingly" collect intelligence on Americans in bulk, a statement he later apologized for in writing.
He told the Daily Beast that Snowden's first disclosures were what "did us in here," adding that he believed Americans would have supported the program if it was publicly introduced after 9/11.
"But had we been transparent about it and say here’s one more thing we have to do as citizens for the common good, just like we have to go to airports two hours early and take our shoes off, all the other things we do for the common good, this is one more thing," he said.