Director of National Intelligence James Clapper challenged UGA students to consider a job in public service-be that in intelligence services or somewhere else in government-during the Charter Lecture at the Chapel April 14.
“We need bright young women and men like you everywhere in government,” Clapper said. “Serving is better than making a ton of money or skating through a life of leisure.”
Clapper, who leads the nation’s intelligence community and serves as the principal intelligence adviser to President Barack Obama, delivered a Charter Lecture that centered on the challenges U.S. security agencies face in protecting Americans’ lives and their personal freedoms.
The intelligence director originally was scheduled to deliver the Charter Lecture last fall, but the federal government shutdown prevented his travel to Athens.
Loch Johnson, Regents Professor in the School of Public and International Affairs and a boyhood friend of Clapper, helped arrange the national intelligence director’s visit.
In his remarks, Clapper painted a dire picture for conducting national intelligence in the post-9/11 world.
“Today’s national security environment, in my view, includes the most diverse array of threats around the world that I have seen in my 50-plus years in the intelligence business,” Clapper said.
These threats include homegrown terrorism, like the Boston Marathon bombings, and international terrorism as well as cyberattacks, human trafficking, synthetic drugs and pandemic diseases.
While Clapper agrees that national security agencies need to be more transparent, he challenged the notion that Edward Snowden, the former intelligence contractor who last year leaked thousands of documents about the National Security Agency, is someone to be celebrated.
“Many leaked documents directly put American lives in danger, and we’ve lost critical foreign intelligence collection sources,” he said.
Clapper presented UGA alumnus Sean Curran as example of a public servant serving his country. Curran, who graduated from UGA in 1993, works as an intelligence officer for the NSA.
“Being an intelligence officer means sometimes you are the most junior person in the room and you still have to voice an unpopular truth to speak truth to power,” Clapper said. “At the end of the day, it’s our job to give useful intelligence to the decision-makers and policymakers, not just tell them what they want to hear.”
He then told the students in the audience, “I think a lot of you would really like working in the intelligence community. But if that’s not your cup of tea, I hope you can serve your country in some other way.”
While on campus, Clapper, a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant general, also recognized Ted Barco, director of UGA’s Student Veterans Resource Center and student military veterans.