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Sen. John Thune (R-SD) said Monday that "most members of Congress" were likely unaware of the breadth of the National Security Agency's surveillance programs that have come to light over the last week.
Following the revelations of the NSA's activities, a bipartisan contingent of lawmakers — from President Barack Obama to Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) — have asserted that elected officials on Capitol Hill were cognizant of the surveillance programs. But during an apperance on MSNBC, Thune, while largely defending the effectiveness of the programs, seemed to suggest otherwise.
"I think the times that this program's been reauthorized, much of this operates in levels where there are not that many people — members of Congress — who are fully engaged in what's going on. You know, the intelligence committees obviously are involved and homeland security, I think, to some degree but most members of Congress are given a piece of legislation to vote on and I don't believe that most members of Congress, perhaps, going into this were fully aware of how broad this program was and so yes, you vote because you're obviously concerned about protecting the country," Thune said. "You know, many of these tools have been used and have been effective in preventing terrorist attacks but I think now as more of these details are starting to come out, there are going to be additional questions raised and asked and hopefully some answers given that will give us a better understanding, not only of how this program works today, but how we might proceed with it in the future and the way that protects individual privacy but also gives us the necessary tools that we need to fight terrorism and to protect Americans."