A federal court complaint filed on Wednesday indicated the FBI began monitoring 20-year-old Christopher Cornell after his Twitter posts indicated his support for the Islamic State.
Cornell then told an FBI informant that he planned to place pipe bombs inside US Capitol buildings and shoot employees and officials inside, according to the court documents.
Boehner spoke at a press conference in Hershey, Pennsylvania on Thursday where he and Republican colleagues are meeting to discuss items on this year's legislative agenda, including reauthorizing the surveillance law known as FISA.
When asked about the foiled plan to attack the Capitol, Boehner said, "The first thing that strikes me, we would have never known about this had it not been for the FISA program and our ability to collect information on people who pose an imminent threat."
Given that court papers showed on Wednesday that Cornell's activities were initially flagged by his postings on Twitter rather than some form of deeper surveillance, Boehner was asked whether he knew something about the case that the press did not.
Boehner's response was less than clear: "We'll let the whole story roll out there. He was far more than just that."
Boehner said that in coming months there will be a lot of talk about FISA as Congress tries to reauthorize it. Revelations about broad surveillance practices in 2013 by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden have fueled controversy about what critics have labeled domestic spying.
But Boehner dismissed those concerns.
"Our government does not spy on Americans unless there are Americans who are doing things that tip off our law enforcement officials to an imminent threat. It was our law enforcement officials and those programs that helped us stop this person before he committed a heinous crime in our Capitol," Boehner said.
Cornell was arrested in Cincinnati, Ohio on Wednesday after purchasing two firearms and over 600 round of ammunition, which he allegedly planned to use to kill people inside the Capitol.
© Thomson Reuters 2015