My bad. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper apologized yesterday for telling Congress his agency did not spy on American citizens. In a letter to Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Clapper described his statements as “clearly erroneous.” I’ll say. Despite his apparent (current) honesty, Clapper’s mea culpa probably came too late for most of his critics. Former intelligence analyst Edward Snowden leaked documents detailing a program to collect phone records and internet traffic almost a month ago. Clapper just now got around to apologizing for his erroneousness. In his letter to Feinstein, Clapper said he thought questions about the agency’s data collection programs referred to the contents of emails, rather than the metadata of phone records, which includes quantity and duration of calls but not recordings of conversations.
Speaking of Snowden … Without apparently trying this time, the analyst-on-the-run caused an international incident yesterday. Bolivian President Evo Morales was flying home from Moscow when his plane was diverted on suspicion Snowden might be on board. Morales claims several countries—France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal—denied the plane access to their airspace when they learned the reason for the unscheduled landing. He ended up touching down in Vienna, where airport personnel searched the aircraft but found no sign of Snowden. Morales says he plans to file a complaint with the U.N. and wants Unasur, the group of South American nations, to hold an emergency meeting to discuss the matter. Morales insists his plane was kept in the air for hours on White House orders, effectively kidnapping him: “It’s not an offense against the president, it is an offense against the country, against the whole of the Latin American region,” he said before leaving Vienna en route to Bolivia. Officials from France and Spain denied they closed their airspace. Portuguese officials said they refused the plane’s request to land for unspecified technical reasons.
Competent but not fit. Earlier today, a Cleveland court found suspected kidnapper Ariel Castro competent to stand trial on charges he held three women captive for almost a decade. Castro also faces murder charges in the death of several of his unborn children. He allegedly caused one of his captives, Michelle Knight, to miscarry by severely beating her. Although Castro is fit to stand trial, the judge declared him unfit to see the 8-year-old daughter he fathered with another captive, Amanda Berry. “I just don’t think that would be appropriate,” the judge said. The state’s capital review committee will meet next week to determine whether to seek the death penalty in the case.
Painful news. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released findings yesterday that could help bolster efforts to curtail use of narcotic painkillers. Fatal prescription painkiller overdoses among women have increased 400 percent since 1999. About 15,300 women died from overdoses of all kinds in 2010, more than from car accidents or cervical cancer. CDC Director Tom Frieden said doctors are relying too much on narcotic painkillers to treat symptoms that could be lessened by physical therapy and other remedies: “These are dangerous medications, and they should be reserved for situations like severe cancer pain. … Prescribing an opiate may be condemning a patient to lifelong addiction and life-threatening complications.”