Fallout over NSA leaks mounts with calls for investigations

Story highlights

  • House Majority Leader Eric Cantor promises an investigation into "potential wrongdoing"
  • Rep. Peter King of New York says he believes journalists involved should be investigated
  • Kings says if journalists knew it was classified material, action should be taken
  • Edward Snowden provided documents on NSA data collection to newspapers

House members from both political parties raised concerns Wednesday with administration officials who briefed the entire chamber on the government's recently revealed top secret surveillance programs.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor promised "serious investigations into potential wrongdoing."

"Over the past few weeks there have been stories after stories that have eroded the trust in our government," he said. "And Americans shouldn't really have to worry whether their government is going to hold their political beliefs against them, as it seems the IRS is doing, or whether their government is telling them the truth."

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The briefing stemmed from revelations over the weekend that the National Security Agency had secret programs to collect records of domestic telephone calls in the United States and the Internet activity of overseas residents. Edward Snowden, 29, a former employee of government contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, provided documents about the programs to newspapers The Guardian and The Washington Post.

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House has tough questions about secret surveillance

Another Republican, Rep. Peter King of New York, said he believed the journalists involved in reporting stories about the surveillance programs should be investigated.

"If they willingly knew that this was classified information, I think actions should be taken, especially on something of this magnitude," King, who leads the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterintelligence and Terrorism, told CNN's AC360 on Tuesday.

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"There is an obligation both moral, but also legal, I believe, against a reporter disclosing something which would so severely compromise national security," he said. "As a practical matter, I guess there have been in the past several years a number of reporters who have been prosecuted" under the Espionage Act.

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Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian columnist who was the lead writer of the articles based on Snowden's disclosures, said Monday that as an American citizen, he is guaranteed freedom of the press by the First Amendment.

"I intend to take the Constitution at its word and continue to do my job as a journalist," he said.

As for Snowden, King said there's no doubt he should face charges.

"I think what he's done has been incredible damage to our country. It's going to put American lives at risk," he said.

The congressman did not provide specific examples of how the leaked information damaged national security but argued that it helps enemies of the United States.

But others, including liberal activist and filmmaker Michael Moore and conservative commentator Glenn Beck, have said Snowden is a hero for revealing the secret programs.

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