WI senators react to NSA data collection issue

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WITI) -- The British newspaper that broke the story about the government tapping into cell phone records is now naming the man who leaked the information.

"The Guardian" says 29-year-old Edward Snowden agreed to have his identity revealed.

Snowden is a former technical assistant at the CIA and has been working at the National Security Agency for outside contractors.

Snowden told the paper "I can't in good conscience allow the U.S. government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties."

Snowden's employer calls the leak shocking, and says it violates their code of contract.

As this issue continues to develop, Wisconsin's senators will have a say in how Congress reacts. Both Republican Ron Johnson and Democrat Tammy Baldwin are on the Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs.

This weekend, both Baldwin and Johnson spoke about the NSA surveillance program that has many in the state and country concerned.

"This is not a partisan issue," Johnson said.

Just days after the program became public, Johnson reacted on FOX News Sunday.

"Across the political spectrum, people are concerned about preserving our liberties and maintaining our civil liberties," Johnson said.

Baldwin sat down with FOX6 News on Friday to discuss this issue.

"I have to say I have great concern as I hear these reports coming forward and think that they deserve great scrutiny. We have an opportunity, especially on one of my committees which is the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to use our investigative arm to learn more," Baldwin said.

"We do need Congressional oversight on this," Johnson said.

The Patriot Act is what gives the NSA the legal right to gather information from phones, computers and other electronic devices.

Baldwin voted on the law as a U.S. representative.

"I voted no on the Patriot Act. I believed that some of its provisions crossed the line that we shouldn't cross," Baldwin said.

"It's a good thing these laws come up for re-authorization. So I'm every bit as concerned with civil liberties," Johnson said.

The issue now is keeping a balance of safety and individual rights, as well as figuring out the details of the program.

"We face a very real, asymmetric threat in international terrorism and our greatest line of defense against that is our intelligence gathering capabilities," Johnson said.

"Some of this is being declassified by the administration and we will be able to have that debate in the public eye. And I think that'll be very important," Baldwin said.

Senator Rand Paul, who is also on the Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs said he intends to pursue a class action lawsuit before the Supreme Court to challenge the legality of the surveillance program.

Neither Johnson nor Baldwin have said whether they'd be for or against that.