U.S. Sen. Al Franken said on Monday that, given his previous briefings, he was unsurprised by the existence of National Security Agency data-gathering programs, which were publicly disclosed last week.
"I’m on the Judiciary committee and the Judiciary committee has jurisdiction (over) N.S.A. and on (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) and the Patriot Act," he said. "I availed myself of these briefings so nothing surprised me and the architecture of these programs I was very well aware of."
Last week, as the first disclosures were coming out about the N.S.A.'s collection of phone data, Franken said that: "The American public can't be kept in the dark about the basic architecture of the programs designed to protect them."
On Monday, he said, "I think there should be enough transparency that the American people understand what is happening...But I can assure you that this isn’t about spying on the American people."
Franken, chairman of the Judiciary subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law, also said there are aspects of security programs that he should be aware of but the public should not.
"There are certain things that are appropriate for me to know that’s not appropriate for the bad guys to know," he said. "Anything that quote the American people know, the bad guys know so there's a line here, right? And there's a balance that has to be struck between the responsibility of the federal government to protect the American people and then people’s right to privacy. We have safeguards in place …The American people can’t know everything because everything they know then, the bad guys will know."
He said that the data the security agency has collected have kept Americans safe.
"I have a high level of confidence, that it is used…to protect us and I know that it has been successful in preventing terrorism," he said.
The senator, who is running for re-election, said, however, that he is not confident that the proper balance has been struck between privacy and safety concerns.
"We haven’t quite hit the exact balance we want to," he said. "I have been for more transparency and I actually co-sponsored legislation to require the FISA court to release their opinions on why they’ve decided the way they have."