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Al Franken defends Prism, says of leaks: "Nothing surprised me"

Franken knew things Keith Ellison didn't.
Franken knew things Keith Ellison didn't.

Keith Ellison says Congress knew "almost nothing" about Prism ahead of last week's leaks. But Al Franken says he wasn't at all surprised by The Guardian's string of reports about how the NSA monitors internet and telephone communications.

SEE ALSO: Al Franken concerned about Obama's authority to kill Americans deemed to be terrorists

In comments made to reporters today, Franken said that as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he was informed about Prism from the start. He also offered a defense of the program, which he said is ultimately about "having the data available so that if there are suspicions about foreign persons or persons that have connections with terrorist organizations, that we can connect the dots."

Here's a transcript of Franken's remarks (you can watch the video here):

These are classified briefings, so I can only discuss it in limited detail. But because I'm on the Judiciary Committee, and because the Judiciary Committee has jurisdiction on the NSA, and on FISA, and on the Patriot Act, this is something, I availed myself of these briefings. So nothing surprised me and, um, the architecture of these programs I was very well aware of.

There are certain things that [are] appropriate for me to know that it is not appropriate for the bad guys to know. [laughs] You know, so, that makes a lot of sense, so anything that the "American people" know the bad guys know. I have a high level of confidence that this is used to protect us, and I know it has been successful in preventing terrorism.

I don't believe that the American people should have to take the government's word for it. I think there should be enough transparency so that the American people understand what's happening. I think maybe they do to a greater degree now -- understand. But I can assure you that this isn't about spying on the American people. This is about having the data available so that if there are suspicions about foreign persons or persons that have connections with terrorist organizations, that we can connect the dots...

Look, I am chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law. There is probably no one on the Senate that looks at these issues in terms of Americans' privacy more than I do...

I think we haven't quite hit the exact balance [between security and freedom from government observation] we want to. That's why I've voted the way I have. There are certainly going to be, it's very proper for the Justice Department to do the investigation [into Prism and the leakers who alerted the press about it] and see whether there should be prosecutions or not.

-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at arupar@citypages.com.


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