Senator cites contradiction in national intelligence director's eavesdropping answer

By Lara Jakes

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, June 11 2013 11:57 a.m. MDT

The Justice Department is weighing whether to charge the American man who claims to have given documents about the classified programs to journalists. The whereabouts of Edward Snowden, 29, were not immediately known. He was last in Hong Kong, where he hopes to avoid being extradited to the United States for prosecution.

The NSA contractor for whom he worked, Booz Allen Hamilton, announced Tuesday that they had fired Snowden after less than three months on the job.

Meanwhile, the European Parliament planned to debate the spy programs Tuesday and whether they have violated local privacy protections. EU officials in Brussels pledged to seek answers from U.S. diplomats at a trans-Atlantic ministerial meeting in Dublin later this week.

The global scrutiny comes as other lawmakers including Senate intelligence chairwoman Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California accuse Snowden of committing an "act of treason" that should be prosecuted.

Officials in Germany and the European Union issued calm but firm complaints Monday over two National Security Agency programs that target suspicious foreign messages — potentially including phone numbers, email, images, video and other online communications transmitted through U.S. providers. The chief British diplomat felt it necessary to try to assure Parliament that the spy programs do not encroach on U.K. privacy laws.

And in Washington, members of Congress said they would take a new look at potential ways to keep the U.S. safe from terror attacks without giving up privacy protections that critics charge are at risk with the government's current authority to broadly sweep up personal communications.

"There's very little trust in the government, and that's for good reason," said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who sits on the House Intelligence Committee. "We're our own worst enemy."

House Speaker John Boehner, however, said he believes President Barack Obama has fully explained why the program is needed. He told ABC's "Good Morning America" Tuesday that "the disclosure of this information puts Americans at risk. It shows our adversaries what our capabilities are and it's a giant violation of the law." He called Snowden a "traitor."

Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he was considering how Congress could limit the amount of data spy agencies seize from telephone and Internet companies — including restricting the information to be released only on an as-needed basis.

"It's a little unsettling to have this massive data in the government's possession," King said.

Snowden is a former CIA employee who later joined Booz Allen, where the papers said he gained access to the surveillance. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine said, it was "absolutely shocking" that a 29-year-old with limited experience would have access to this material.

FBI agents on Monday visited the home of Snowden's father, Lonnie Snowden, in Upper Macungie Township, Pa. The FBI in Philadelphia declined to comment.

The first explosive document Snowden revealed was a top secret court order issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that granted a three-month renewal for a massive collection of American phone records. That order was signed April 25. The Guardian's first story on the court order was published June 5.

Snowden also gave the Post and the Guardian a PowerPoint presentation on another secret program that collects online usage by the nine Internet providers. The U.S. government says it uses that information only to track foreigners' use overseas.

It was unclear when or if Snowden would be extradited.

"All of the options, as he put it, are bad options," Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, who first reported the phone-tracking program and interviewed Snowden extensively, told The Associated Press on Monday. He said Snowden decided to release details of the programs out of shock and anger over the sheer scope of the government's privacy invasions.

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