President Obama should explain to the American people why the National Security Agency is apparently collecting the telephone records of tens of millions of Verizon customers, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Thursday morning. But the Republican lawmaker did not criticize the phone surveillance itself, which was first reported on by The Guardian.
"It's important for the president to outline to the American people why the tools that he has available to him are critical" in preventing a terrorist attack, Boehner told reporters at a news briefing on Capitol Hill.
Asked whether lawmakers should answer for an order that fell under the Patriot Act they passed, Boehner disagreed. "The tools were given to the administration, and it's the administration's responsibility to explain how these tools are used," he said. "I'll leave it to them to explain."
Congress's responsibility, he said, was to provide oversight, and he is "fully confident" that both the House and Senate intelligence committees are doing so.
Boehner declined to discuss what he or other House members knew about the surveillance order. "I don't discuss classified data here in front of all of you," he said.
Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) said earlier Thursday that the entire Senate has been briefed on the program, and that it is nothing new.