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The leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees on Sunday said that the leaker who disclosed the National Security Agency’s phone and internet surveillance programs should be prosecuted.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said that the leak could endanger the security of Americans during an interview on ABC’s “This Week.”
“I absolutely think they should be prosecuted,” he added.
Rogers said that if the leaker had concerns about the policy they should have used another approach to bring about change.
“I argue that there's other methods. He could come to the committees, if they had concern. We have IGs that they can go to in a classified way if they have concern,” he said.
Asked if she agreed with Rogers’s calls for the leaker to be prosecuted, Feinstein said “I do.”
A report in the Guardian last week revealed that the NSA had obtained information on phone numbers, and the location and duration of calls to help identify potential terror threats. A separate program, PRISM, received information on foreign Internet users from American tech companies.
A U.S. official told Reuters on Saturday that federal law may force the administration to launch a probe into the leaked information.
The administration’s investigations into leaks has attracted criticism after the Justice Department acknowledged that it had seized reporter’s phone and email records in two other probes.
Hours after the interview with Rogers and Feinstein, The Guardian newspaper released a video of an interview with the whistleblower, where he came forward. The NSA leaker, Edward Snowden, is a 29-year old employee of Booz Allen Hamilton, the security and tech contracting firm.
The disclosures of the NSA programs unleashed a firestorm of criticism at the Obama administration’s record on civil liberties, but Feinstein and Rogers defended the programs, saying they were essential to national security.
Feinstein said efforts were made to protect the privacy of American citizens, including relying on a secret intelligence court for authorization.
“If there is strong suspicion that a terrorist outside of the country is trying to reach someone on the inside of the country, those numbers then can be obtained,” Feinstein said Sunday. “If you want to collect content on the American, then a court order is issued.”
"Here's the rub, the instances where this has produced good -- has disrupted plots, prevented terrorist attacks is all classified, that's what's so hard about this," Feinstein added. "So that we can't actually go in there and other than the two that have been released give the public an actual idea of people that have been saved, attacks that have been prevented, that kind of thing."
Rogers said the leaks are dangerous because they impact the way enemies of the U.S. "do business" and criticized a reporter, The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald, who helped disclose the NSA programs.
"I know your reporter that you interviewed, Greenwald, says that he's got it all and now is an expert on the program," Rogers said.
"He doesn't have a clue how this thing works. Neither did the person who released just enough information to literally be dangerous."
This story was last updated at 6:08 p.m.