The House speaker, John A. Boehner, offered harsh criticism of the man who leaked classified information on the government’s Internet and telephone monitoring programs, and gave his strongest defense of the surveillance efforts on Tuesday.
“He’s a traitor,” Mr. Boehner said in an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Tuesday. He added: “The disclosure of this information puts Americans at risk. It shows our adversaries what our capabilities are. And it’s a giant violation of the law.”
Last week, as revelations about the National Security Agency’s electronic surveillance programs were still unfolding, Mr. Boehner was more circumspect, saying it was incumbent on President Obama to defend the efforts to the American people. But the leaders of both political parties have now closed ranks around the Internet and telephone surveillance programs, especially with the emergence of Edward J. Snowden, a former N.S.A. contractor, as the source of the leak.
“When you look at these programs, there are clear safeguards,” Mr. Boehner said. “There’s no American who’s going to be snooped on in any way, unless they’re in contact with some terrorists somewhere around the world.”
The speaker added: “There is heavy oversight of this program by the House Intelligence Committee on a bipartisan basis and the Senate Intelligence Committee. And that’s why I feel comfortable that we can operate this program and protect the privacy rights of our citizens.”
Mr. Snowden claims he is a truth teller. In an interview in The Guardian, he said the American people had a right to know about government abuses that were hidden from them.
Mr. Boehner’s strong stand makes a legislative response to curtail the programs or declassify aspects of them even more unlikely. Some liberal Democrats and libertarian-minded Republicans have said Congress should respond with more public debate and legislation to explicitly prohibit the search for phone and Internet records of any individual without a warrant showing probable cause.
But so far, such calls have not expanded beyond the small number of lawmakers who have been expressing such concerns for the past three years – to little effect.