Security experts say it will be some time before U.S. officials have an idea of the damage done by revelations about surveillance programs carried out by the National Security Agency. The programs in question involved widespread access to phone records and mining the Internet for communications from suspected foreign terrorists.
The man who says he was behind the NSA leaks, contractor Edward Snowden, has inspired some and angered others, including U.S. House Speaker John Boehner on ABC News.
“He is a traitor. The disclosure of this information puts Americans at risk. It shows our adversaries what our capabilities are and it is a giant violation of the law," said Boehner.
Disclosures about the NSA programs that combed through phone records and scanned Internet communications linked to suspected foreign terrorists worries security experts like Steve Bucci of the Heritage Foundation.
“We have now revealed to our enemies, terrorists that are out there, the way we try and monitor and anticipate their actions and that is going to be damaging to our anti-terrorism activities," said Bucci.
Bucci predicts terrorists will alter their communication methods as a result of the disclosures.
“I think the bad guys will start taking steps to dive deeper to cloak their communications and there are ways to do that on line. And as they do that the result, potentially, is that we fail to anticipate an operation and Americans or friends of ours inevitably die because these bad gays managed to pull their operation off and we were not able to anticipate it sufficiently," he said.
But many civil liberties activists have spoken out in defense of Snowden, including international security expert Jim Walsh from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“In the balance between national security and privacy, which of course there always is, the burden is on national security to show that this is important and necessary, and no one has done that," Walsh told Alhurra television.
Snowden is also seen as a hero by perhaps the most famous leaker of all time, Daniel Ellsberg, the man who disclosed the Pentagon Papers about the Vietnam War in 1971.
“As for being called a traitor that is part of the price of telling the truth that the president does not want told. I paid that price myself," said Ellsberg.
But conservative analyst Steve Bucci fears that a backlash against the NSA programs by those concerned about civil liberties could weaken national security.
“The change in confidence or the drop in confidence of the American people in our government will cause us to try and reel back these systems. So right when the bad guys are going deeper, we are going to use less scrutiny and the next thing we are going to have is some more terrorist events," he said.
Experts say a full assessment of the damage caused by the leaks could take months.