Former Vice President Al GoreAl GoreTrump’s isolationism on full display at international climate talks Overnight Energy: Trump officials defend fossil fuels, nuclear at UN climate summit | Dems commit to Paris goals | Ex-EPA lawyers slam 'sue and settle' policy Al Gore: A new president in 2020 could keep US in Paris agreement MORE strongly criticized the National Security Agency's secret telephone data collection program saying it violates the Constitution.

"I quite understand the viewpoint that many have expressed that they are fine with it and they just want to be safe but that is not really the American way," Gore told The Guardian. "Benjamin Franklin famously wrote that those who would give up essential liberty to try to gain some temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

Gore's comments contrast from those from a number of national security officials and lawmakers, including President Obama, who have said the program is constitutional and necessary to national security. But Gore disagreed.

"This in my view violates the Constitution. The Fourth Amendment and the First Amendment – and the Fourth Amendment language is crystal clear," Gore continued. "It is not acceptable to have a secret interpretation of a law that goes far beyond any reasonable reading of either the law or the constitution and then classify as top secret what the actual law is."

"This is not right," Gore added.

Gore's comments come as Obama plans to defend the program to European officials during trips to Germany and Ireland next week.

A recent Washington Post/Pew Research poll found a majority of adults say they find the program acceptable. Gore brushed off those findings.

"I am not sure how to interpret polls on this, because we don't do dial groups on the bill of rights," Gore said.

In a separate interview with Bloomberg TV, former President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonMueller’s probe doesn't end with a bang, but with a whimper Mark Mellman: History’s judgment Congress should massively ramp up funding for the NIH MORE said Director of National Intelligence James Clapper was correct when he said the NSA program was used to "protect our nation from a wide variety of threats." Clinton said with the NSA and other similar programs, law enforcement officials were just trying to keep track of who was communicating with whom.

"That's essentially what most of these government programs are now trying to do in monitoring telecommunications and e-mail," Clinton said. "And I think that the head of the NSA said it correctly yesterday.  They have prevented a very large number of harmful actions."

Updated at 6:43 p.m.