One of Congress' leading voices on legal policy has called revelations of the NSA's surveillance program "stunning."
In an interview on The Laura Ingraham Show Friday, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, expressed his concern over the government's secret programs that collect citizens' telephone and Internet data.
"The idea that they had and have to collect every telephone call made by every American -- which we don't know the answer to that yet, but it seems like it's certainly a possibility -- is, to me, stunning," Goodlatte said.
In addition to heading the Judiciary Committee, Goodlatte also served as the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition, and the Internet during the 112th Congress and co-authored the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) -- legislation that critics said would undermine the openness of the Internet. But even for SOPA's author, the NSA seems to have gone too far.
Goodlatte said he had not been briefed on the matter by law enforcement as of this morning, and had questions about the program he wants answered. "What do they have, and why do they have to have it?" he asked. "And why haven't they told the public they're doing it?"
Goodlatte's statements run counter to President Obama's assertion Friday that every member of Congress has been informed about the program. "The programs are secret in the sense that they are classified. They are not secret, in that every member of Congress has been briefed," he said in response to a question from The New York Times reporter Jackie Calmes. "These are programs that have been authored by large bipartisan majorities repeatedly since 2006 ... Your duly elected representatives have consistently been informed."
In the radio interview, Goodlatte said he thinks the heated debate raging in Washington over privacy and the legality of the issue is warranted. "If our government is going to become big brother like this, people need to know it, and decide whether that's what they want," he said.
There are circumstances, however, where the government should have limited access to people's calls and emails, he added. "The idea that the law enforcement agencies like the FBI and the intelligence agencies would have reason to access these phone records for various investigations with regard to terrorism and related matters, finding terrorists, preventing terrorist attacks, I'm all on board with that," he said.