Former President George W. Bush defended PRISM, the Internet spying program that began under his administration but remained secret until The Washington Post and The Guardian revealed its existence last month.
"I put that program in place to protect the country. One of the certainties was that civil liberties were guaranteed," Bush told CNN in an interview airing Monday. "I think there needs to be a balance, and as the president explained, there is a proper balance."
PRISM began under Bush in 2007 and has continued under the Obama administration. The program allows the National Security Administration to collect internet and email data from the nation's biggest technology companies.
Bush spoke with CNN from Zambia, where he and his wife, Laura, are renovating a health clinic. The comments were his first since news about PRISM was made public, and his reflexive, nonspecific defense of the program will likely add to critics' case that it was approved with little oversight or debate.
Bush also said that Edward Snowden, who leaked the existence of the program to the newspapers and is currently believed to be in the transit zone of the Moscow airport, had harmed national security.
When asked if he is a traitor, Bush said, "I know he damaged the country."