Washington: US President Barack Obama`s administration is considering whether to charge a government contractor with leaking classified surveillance secrets while it defends the broad US spy program that it says keeps America safe from terrorists.
Facing a global uproar over the programs that track phone and Internet messages around the world, the Justice Department continued to investigate whether the disclosures of Edward Snowden, 29, an employee of government contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, were criminal.
Meanwhile, the European Parliament planned to debate the spy programs today and whether they have violated local privacy protections. EU officials in Brussels pledged to seek answers from US diplomats at a trans-Atlantic ministerial meeting in Dublin later this week.
The global scrutiny comes after revelations from Snowden, who has chosen to reveal his identity. Snowden has fled to Hong Kong in hopes of escaping criminal charges as lawmakers including Senate intelligence chairwoman Sen Dianne Feinstein accuse him of committing an "act of treason" that should be prosecuted.
Officials in Germany and the European Union issued calm but firm complaints yesterday over two National Security Agency programs that target suspicious foreign messages potentially including phone numbers, e-mail, images, video and other online communications transmitted through US providers.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague tried to assure Parliament that the spy programs do not encroach on UK privacy laws.
And in Washington, members of Congress said they would take a new look at potential ways to keep the US safe from terror attacks without giving up privacy protections.
"There`s very little trust in the government, and that`s for good reason," said Rep Adam Schiff, a Democrat who sits on the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee. "We`re our own worst enemy."
Republican House Speaker John Boehner, however, said he believes President Barack Obama has fully explained why the program is needed. He told ABC`s "Good Morning America" today that "the disclosure of this information puts Americans at risk. It shows our adversaries what our capabilities are and it`s a giant violation of the law." He called Snowden a "traitor."
A senior US intelligence official yesterday said there were no plans to scrap the programs that, despite the backlash, continue to receive widespread if cautious support within Congress. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive security issue.