(CNN) - Former Republican Rep. Ron Paul praised former intelligence worker Edward Snowden and journalist Glenn Greenwald for exposing details of U.S. surveillance programs, saying Americans should be "thankful" for their efforts in speaking out, "despite the risk."
"They have done a great service to the American people by exposing the truth about what our government is doing in secret," Paul said Monday in a statement.
Paul made his comment on the website for Campaign for Liberty, a political organization founded by the former congressman and three-time presidential candidate from Texas.
"The government does not need to know more about what we are doing. We need to know more about what the government is doing," he also said.
Snowden's decision to come forward this weekend has sparked an intense debate over whether the 29-year-old contractor is a hero or a criminal. While the Justice Department said Sunday night that it had begun a preliminary investigation, others have heralded Snowden's cause. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, for example, is raising money for his legal defense.
Greenwald, who works for The Guardian, published multiple articles last week on the government's monitoring of phone records and PRISM, a program that allows National Security Agency analysts to extract the details of people's online activities.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said the programs have been reviewed by courts, Congress and the administration, and are legal.
Snowden also appears to be a fan of Paul, as well. Federal Election Commission records show an "Edward Snowden" donated $250 to Paul on two different occasions last year, when the former congressman was running for president.
In the first entry (March 18), Snowden lists Dell as his employer and Columbia, Maryland as his residence. The second entry (May 6), Snowden lists his residence as Hawaii. The information falls in line with details Snowden revealed about himself this weekend when The Guardian publicly identified him as the NSA leaker.
In his interview with the news outlet, Snowden talked about his political leanings and suggested he voted for Paul as a presidential candidate five years ago.
"A lot of people in 2008 voted for Obama. I did not vote for him. I voted for a third party. But I believed in Obama's promises. I was going to disclose it [but waited because of his election]. He continued with the policies of his predecessor," he said.
Republican Sen. Rand Paul, son of Ron Paul and another staunch defender of civil liberties, has also been aggressive in condemning the government programs. The Kentucky lawmaker said Sunday he's looking into suing the federal government.
"I'm going to be seeing if I can challenge this at the Supreme Court level. I'm going to be asking the internet providers and all of the phone companies; ask your customers to join me in a class-action lawsuit," Paul said on FOX News Sunday.
- CNN's Ashley Killough, Kevin Liptak and Greg Clary contributed to this report.