Sen. Angus King evoked classic cinema on Monday in saying he was not caught off-guard by reports of highly secretive surveillance programs conducted by the U.S. government, although he does have concerns about the parameters of the snooping.
“‘I’m shocked, shocked to see gambling going on here,’” Mr. King, Maine independent, told MSNBC’s “The Daily Rundown” in paraphrasing Capt. Louis Renault’s famous line from “Casablanca.”
But Edward Snowden, a former technical assistant for the CIA who has worked at the National Security Agency and for a variety of companies, did shock the intelligence community over the weekend by revealing himself as the one who leaked information about a sweeping, Internet-based spy program known as Prism, which targets communications among foreigners.
Mr. King, who joined the Senate in January, noted that lawmakers had a chance to debate the secretive program before it reauthorized the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in December.
“I’ve been sort of playing catch-up for the past five months,” he told MSNBC. “But I knew the outlines of it. I certainly wasn’t shocked by it.”
Mr. King said he is, however, bothered by the government holding troves of phone records.
“I don’t necessarily think that data should be in the possession of the government,” he said, adding the government should only seek information from the phone companies’ databases when it needs to.
Jeremy B. Bash, who served as former CIA Director Leon Panetta’s chief of staff and helped craft surveillance laws, told MSNBC that Mr. Snowden’s attempts will “fall flat.”
“He’s not a whistle-blower,” Mr. Bash said. “You don’t break the law, steal documents and then make a run for the border. That’s not whistle-blowing. … There was no criminal activity, there was nothing inappropriate, nothing unlawful.”