Former Vice President Al GoreAl GoreCNN to host town hall featuring Nancy Pelosi Tucker Carlson: Calling others 'racist' used to be a 'big deal' West Coast states eye early presidential primaries   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 ClintonBill ClintonAll five living former presidents to attend hurricane relief concert The Hill's 12:30 Report The Hill's 12:30 Report 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.