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Amash: Snowden a whistle-blower, 'told us what we need to know'

Rep. Justin Amash said Sunday that Edward Snowden is a whistle-blower -- adding to the debate about whether the American should be considered a traitor for leaking National Security Agency secrets while working as a federal contractor.

Amash, R-Mich., acknowledged that Congress was aware that U.S. intelligence agents could gather information on Americans under the post-9/11 Patriot Act but not to the extent Snowden revealed this spring.

“Members of Congress were not really aware … about what these programs were being used for, the extent to which they were being used,” Amash told “Fox News Sunday. “He’s a whistle-blower. He told us what we need to know.”

Official federal whistle-blower status protects  from retaliation those who work for the U.S. government and who report alleged misconduct.

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Republicans and others in Congress continue to weigh whether to continue to authorize such spying to protect Americans, while also trying to preserve their privacy.

Amash’s statement follows two recent Quinnipiac University polls that show 55 percent of Americans think Snowden is a whistle-blower, not a traitor.

“Count me in the other 45 percent,” Michael Hayden, a former NSA and CIA leader, said on the show.

Eleven percent of the other 45 percent did not respond or did not have an opinion, according to the poll.

Hayden argues that Snowden’s revelations -- including that the federal government collects data on Americans’ phone calls and Internet activities -- will make U.S. intelligence gathering more difficult.