Clapper's comments refer to recent discussion over two secret counterterrorim programs that involve collecting telephone and internet user information. The Obama administration has recently defended the programs essentially to counterterrorism.

"Well, while we're having this debate, discussion, and all this media explosion-- which of course supports transparency, which is a great thing in this country, but that same transparency has a double-edged sword," Clapper said in an interview with MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell. "And that our adversaries, whether a nation state adversaries or nefarious groups benefit from that same transparency. So as we speak, they're going to school and learning how we do this. And so that's why it potentially has-- can render great damage to our intelligence capabilities."

A number of lawmakers have criticized the Obama administration for not being more transparent about the programs. Sen. Mark UdallMark Emery UdallSenate GOP rejects Trump’s call to go big on gun legislation Democratic primary could upend bid for Colorado seat Picking 2018 candidates pits McConnell vs. GOP groups MORE (D-Colo.) on Sunday said there should be a serious public discussion over the need for the surveillance programs.

"This is an important discussion," Udall said on CNN's "State of the Union." "We value our privacy as Americans. It's part of our freedoms and liberties."