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Boehner surprised at weak White House defense of NSA

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday said he was surprised the White House had not offered a stronger defense of two National Security Agency programs leaked to the public last week. [WATCH VIDEO

Boehner, who called the man who leaked the programs a “traitor” this week, has touted the programs as key to stopping terror threats.

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"I’m a little surprised that the White House hasn’t stood up and made clear on an ongoing basis over this last week just how important these programs are,” he said at his weekly press briefing on Thursday.

“For those of us who have been briefed on these programs, we’re aware how much safety they’ve brought us. And we’re also aware of many examples where they’ve helped us eliminate terrorist threats,” he said.

President Obama last spoke about the NSA programs on Friday. He defended them, arguing authorities had sought to find a line between security and privacy, but has not spoken about them since.

NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander on Wednesday told a Senate panel that the two programs have thwarted dozens of terrorist plots.

One program collected data on U.S. telephone records, while another monitored Internet use overseas, but likely also picked up information on some Americans.

Lawmakers have been debating the programs since they were revealed, with some on the left and right offering harsh criticism.

Leaders in both parties, however, have generally defended the two NSA programs and attacked former government contractor Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old man who said he leaked them to the press.

Boehner has sparred with lawmakers in his own party who have concerns about the nature of the program that is legal under Section 215 of the Patriot Act — and whether there has been enough oversight of it.

The Speaker defended the level of congressional oversight in his comments on Thursday, saying “there’s been a lot of oversight over these programs and I expect it to continue.”