How New Mexico’s Sen. Heinrich came to be NSA critic

WASHINGTON — Last May, Senate Intelligence Committee rookie Martin Heinrich was just settling into his new Senate office, five floors above the committee’s fiercely guarded headquarters, and finally wrapping his head around some of the intelligence matters he’d recently been tasked to oversee when Edward Snowden happened. Suddenly, the world was filled with news of National Security Agency surveillance programs whose scope Heinrich had only begun to grasp. “All of that came to a head very quickly,” said Heinrich, who’d attended his first intelligence briefing just six months before Snowden’s leak of documents exposed the NSA’s massive collection of Americans’ cellphone and Internet data. “I started to realize that the program was much more expansive than my assumption when I was in the House.”

It was uncharted territory for New Mexico’s junior Democratic senator, who isn’t given to bombastic statements or quick opinions. Instead, he speaks quietly with the measured precision of a former mechanical engineer.