It seems that Americans have finally awakened to the abuses of their civil liberties. Two new polls show that a solid majority of the public isn’t happy about revelations that the National Security Agency has been collecting their phone data for datamining purposes (emphasis mine):
At first blush, it seemed, most Americans haven’t gotten too exercised about the revelation that the National Security Agency has been secretly tracking everyone’s phone data, in the name of protecting national security.
That was the take-away from a Washington Post/Pew Research Center poll released Tuesday. But two new polls out Wednesday – one by Gallup, another by YouGov taken for The Economist – paint a difference picture. Both find that a majority of Americans disapprove of the NSA data-mining programs.
In the Gallup poll, conducted June 10 and 11, 53 percent of Americans disapprove of the programs, while 37 percent approve. YouGov found that 59 percent disapprove of the programs, and only 35 percent approve.
Americans are also skeptical that the snooping is doing much good. Per YouGov, only 35 percent say it’s likely the information has prevented a terror attack, while 54 percent doubt it has. And while President Obama insists that “nobody is listening to your phone calls,” it turns out only 17 percent of Americans think that’s true, according to the YouGov poll, taken June 8 to 10.
These two polls are on top of CBS News/New York Times and Rasmussen polls showing that 58% and 59% of Americans, respectively, oppose the broad surveillance of Americans who are not suspected of terrorist activity. The CBS News/New York Times poll also showed that 57% of Americans don’t believe that the NSA leak will have any impact on national security.
The NSA scandal isn’t just giving President Barack Obama problems with the general public, but also some of his most hardcore supporters. Writing at The Atlantic, Molly Ball explained that “[p]rogressives aren’t going to give the president a pass on civil liberties anymore.” To this point, only a handful of progressive Democrats had been willing to take on the White House on civil liberties, with Sens, Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Mark Udall (D-CO) immediately coming to mind. It appears that they’ve finally realized that Obama hasn’t at all lived up to his strong rhetoric for civil liberties and against the surveillance that occured during the Bush Administration. In fact, he’s doubled down on it.
Indeed, it’s not only concerning for civil liberties, but it also creepy that the government is claiming authority to spy on Americans to this degree. As Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) explained earlier this week at the Wall Street Journal, “Big Brother certainly is watching and it’s not hyperbolic or extreme to say so.”
“No one objects to balancing security against liberty. No one objects to seeking warrants for targeted monitoring based on probable cause. We’ve always done this. “What is objectionable is a system in which government has unlimited and privileged access to the details of our private affairs, and citizens are simply supposed to trust that there won’t be any abuse of power. This is an absurd expectation.”
Paul went onto compare the potential for abuse of the NSA datamining operation, comparing it to the IRS’s target of Tea Party and conservative groups and the Justice Department’s war on the media. “Americans should trust the National Security Agency as much as they do the IRS and Justice Department.” he wrote.
It’s too early to tell whether the Congress will finally enact proposed reforms to the PATRIOT Act, the law that gives intelligence agencies the authority to spy on innocent Americans, but the is the best chance that we’ve had in some time to protect civil liberties.