“He’s a traitor.”
That’s how Speaker of the House John Boehner describes NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the man who blew the cover on the NSA’s phone-spying and Internet-tapping practices.
Boehner made his thoughts clear in an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. But he didn’t stop at “traitor.” Boehner also went on to quote — and side with — the president who has said leaks put national security in jeopardy.
“The president outlined last week that these are important national security programs to help keep Americans safe and give us tools to fight the terrorist threat that we face,” he said. “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.”
“I’ve been briefed on all of these programs,” he added. “There is no American whose going to be snooped on in any way unless they’re in contact with some terrorist around the world.”
Those comments put Boehner at odds with many conservatives, Republicans, and even Democrats who have expressed concern over the program.
Still, Boehner did not side with Obama on all the recent scandals. He renewed his criticism of the administration regarding the IRS’s targeting of conservatives, saying that the claim that the president didn’t know about it “doesn’t pass the straight-face test.”
You can watch the comments below:
A transcript of the NSA part from ABC is below:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Speaker, thank you for doin’ this. Let’s talk first about these– revelations about the National Security Agency. Edward Snowden has come forward, said he brought the documents into the public eye. His supporters say he’s– a whistle-blowing patriot. His critics say he’s betrayed the country, broken the law. Where do you stand?
JOHN BOEHNER: He’s a traitor. The president outlined last week that these were important national security programs to help keep Americans safe, and give us tools– to fight the terrorist threat th– that we face. The president also outlined that there are appropriate safeguards in place– to make sure that– there’s– there’s no– snooping, if you will– on Americans– here at home. But– 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.
STEPHANOPOULOS: As you point out, the president has said these programs are effective. They’re fully constitutional, fully approved by Congress, and limited. Do you agree with all that?
BOEHNER: I do. I’ve been briefed on all of these programs. Remember, this is all past– and– and broad bipartisan majorities in both the House and Senate. And– and when you look at these programs, there are clear safeguards. There’s no American who’s gonna be snooped on in any way– unless they’re in contact– with some terrorists somewhere around the world.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So even though all of these phone records, not phone calls, but all these phone records are being scooped up– you believe that Americans’ privacy is still protected?
BOEHNER: Absolutely. And every time– that I’ve been in a briefing, nine of the ten people in a room are lawyers– there to protect– the privacy of the American people. George, throughout our history we’ve had this– we’ve had this tug– between our principle responsibility as the government to– to keep Americans safe– and at the same time, protect their privacy.
And so there’s this balancing act– that goes on. And I believe– that when you look at this program and what it does– we– you’ll find– that we protect the privacy of the American people– while at the same time, giving us tools– to keep Americans safe and to go after the terrorist.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator John McCain– I think he agrees with you in large measure. But he said that there should be an open hearing so the American public can be reassured about the program. Senator Feinstein, chair of the Intelligence Committee also says she’s open to that. Do you think that’s a good idea?
BOEHNER: Well, I’ll let– the– the chairs of the Intelligence Committees– make that decision. But there is heavy oversight of this program– by the House Intelligence Committee on a bipartisan basis and the Senate Intelligence Committee. And that’s why I feel comfortable– that– that we can operate this program and protect the privacy rights of– of our citizens.
Those comments come on the heels of an Associated Press report citing a government official that says the U.S. has no plans to scrap the NSA program.
This story has been updated.