Newark Mayor Cory Booker — a leading Democratic Party star and a front-runner for Senate seat from New Jersey — said he’s glad the nation is discussing the issues of domestic surveillance raised by leaks of classified documents from the National Security Agency.

“When I see this real fear out there, we obviously as a country have not had the discussion that we need to have about the balance between privacy and security,” Booker said at a lunch hosted by Bloomberg View in Manhattan. Booker also suggested that the source of the documents, Edward Snowden, could be seen as a “whistle-blower” — going beyond what many current federal legislators of both parties will say, and suggesting a new strain of Democratic politics that is headed for Washington.

Booker said he has spoken to friends “who say they’re afraid of searching on the internet for fear of triggering government intrusions.”

“Their very curiosity, which is the seed of innovation, is being stifled because of fear,” he said.