S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

How do Americans view domestic spying?

Curiosity about the impact of the big story, of spying on Americans without court authorization, caused me to do a little digging. How has public opinion changed over time? Here are a few things I discovered:

Before the NYT story broke,
Declan McCullagh reports in his listserv <>, on a Zogby International opinion poll (12/13/05).

Quoting McCullagh,

The Zogby poll indicates that 54 percent of Americans favor allowing telephone conversations to be monitored; 80 percent favor allowing video surveillance of public places such as street corners; 67 percent favor roadblock searches of vehicles, and 67 percent favor having their mail monitored.

December 13, NBC News broke the story of spying on American groups, according to Reuters.

The Pentagon has a secret database that indicates the U.S. military may be collecting information on Americans who oppose the Iraq war and may be also monitoring peace demonstrations, NBC reported on Tuesday. The database, obtained by the network, lists 1,500 "suspicious incidents" across the United States over a 10-month period and includes four dozen anti-war meetings or protests, some aimed at military recruiting, NBC's Nightly News said.

December 16, the NYT broke the story of National Security Agency spying on Americans.

Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials.

Zogby International opinion poll (12/21/05)

A narrow plurality of likely voters nationwide believe President Bush acted within his Constitutional powers when he authorized the interception of international communications without the approval of a federal judge, but the public is closely divided on the issue, a new Zogby Interactive poll shows. Nearly half – 49% - said they think he has the power to authorize the intercepts, while 45% said he does not, the survey showed.
The interactive survey of 1,929 likely voters nationwide, conducted Dec. 20-21, carries a margin of error of plus or minus 2.3 percentage points.
Asked if the President’s actions made Americans more safe or less safe, 50% said the nation was safer because of his actions, while 18% said the actions put the country more at risk and 26% said it made no difference in our level of safety. However, 44% said they were concerned that the communication intercepts were a step toward stripping Americans of their privacy. Another 23% said they believe the secret intercepts are important in rare cases to fight terrorism, and 29% said they were necessary to combat enemies.

Today's Lewiston Imtribune interactive poll has much the same results .

These same NYT reporters reported on December 23 that the NSA spying effort was much larger and more widespread than first reported. To quote,

The National Security Agency has traced and analyzed large volumes of telephone and Internet communications flowing into and out of the U.S. as part of the eavesdropping program that President Bush approved after the Sept. 11 attacks to hunt for evidence of terrorist activity, according to current and former government officials. The volume of information harvested from telecommunication data and voice networks, without court-approved warrants, is much larger than the White House has acknowledged, the officials said.
It seems to me that as time goes by and the American public learns more about this matter, they will become more opposed to being spied upon by their own government, losing precious civil liberties. Do I dare to hope this is the case?


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