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Initial Polls Seemingly In Conflict On Public Opinion Of NSA Surveillance Programs

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Ever since the stories about surveillance and data mining by the National Security Agency started breaking last week, civil libertarians, as well as opponents have the President, have been hoping that the American people would be driven to react negatively to the idea of the NSA mining their data and working with secret courts holding secret proceedings to do so. In the past, and most especially since the September 11th attacks, polling has shown that the American people have been willing to give up privacy and liberty if it meant fighting the “war on terror” and protecting the country. However, given the length of time that has passed since 9/11 and the fact that these latest stories hit very close to home for most individuals, some people speculated that previous willingness to look the other way when the government assumed this kind of power would evaporate. Based on a new poll from The Washington Post and the Pew Research Center, however, it appears that the public is largely supportive of what the government has been doing in their name:

A large majority of Americans say the federal government should focus on investigating possible terrorist threats even if personal privacy is compromised, and most support the blanket tracking of telephone records in an effort to uncover terrorist activity, according to a new Washington Post-Pew Research Center poll.

Fully 45 percent of all Americans say the government should be able to go further than it is, saying that it should be able to monitor everyone’s online activity if doing so would prevent terrorist attacks. A slender majority, 52 percent, say no such broad-based monitoring should occur.

The new survey comes amid recent revelations of the National Security Agency’s extensive collection of telecommunications data to facilitate terrorism investigations.

Overall, 56 percent of Americans consider the NSA’s accessing of telephone call records of millions of Americans through secret court orders “acceptable,” while 41 percent call the practice “unacceptable.” In 2006, when news broke of the NSA’s monitoring of telephone and e-mail communications without court approval, there was a closer divide on the practice — 51 percent to 47 percent.

General priorities also are similar to what they were in 2006: Sixty-two percent of Americans now say it’s more important for the government to investigate terrorist threats, even if those investigations intrude on personal privacy, while 34 percent say privacy should be the focus, regardless of the effect on such investigations.

The one thing that’s most interesting about this poll is the extent to which partisans have changed their positions on these issues over the past seven years:

Sixty-nine percent of Democrats say terrorism investigations, not privacy, should be the government’s main concern, an 18-percentage-point jump from early January 2006, when the NSA activity under the George W. Bush administration was first reported. Compared with that time, Republicans’ focus on privacy has increased 22 points.

The reversal on the NSA’s practices is even more dramatic. In early 2006, 37 percent of Democrats found the agency’s activities acceptable; now nearly twice that number — 64 percent — say the use of telephone records is okay. By contrast, Republicans slumped from 75 percent acceptable to 52 percent today.

Compared with a 2002 Pew poll, Democrats are now 12 percentage points more apt to support the government’s monitoring of all e-mails and other online activity if officials say that it might help prevent terrorist attacks. On the flip side, the number of Republicans who say the government should not do this has increased by 13 points.

To be fair, the questions in 2006 and today were worded differently and were concerned with different types of NSA programs so I’m not sure how good a comparison one can make. Nonetheless, the change in opinion about these general types of programs among both Democrats and Republicans seemingly based on nothing more than who happens to be occupying the Oval Office at the time is quite revealing. As I’ve said online several times over the past week, if John McCain or Mitt Romney were President right now, conservatives would be largely silent about civil liberties and would be saying this is a necessary part of the fighting the “war on terror.” That’s the problem with partisanship in the end, it causes one to place more importance on party loyalty than an honest assessment of the facts.

For civil libertarians, this Post/Pew poll is likely seen as pretty sad news. Instead of being outraged at the fact that the Federal Government has been secretly amassing data that includes their private phone records, internet traffic, and credit card transactions, they appear to have totally bought into the “safety” side of the liberty v. safety argument. As Allahpundit notes, however, this really shouldn’t be a surprise:

I’m surprised anyone is surprised. What’s truly noteworthy about this poll, I think, is how many people felt comfortable telling a pollster that they support surveillance of phone records and e-mails. I figured every poll on this subject would be more in line with Rasmussen’s result this morning, in which 59 percent of likely voters said they oppose government collecting phone records. That’s the answer many people will sense they’re “supposed” to give when a stranger’s pressing them on their tolerance of governmental invasions of privacy. And yet here’s Pew finding 56 percent willing to tell them okay on phone records and 45 percent on e-mails. If that’s what people are willing to say out loud, how much more are they secretly willing to accept? And even if, somehow, those numbers accurately reflect opinion, how likely is it that significant policy changes will happen on a 50/50-ish issue? Not much to be happy about here if you’re a civil libertarian.

Indeed there isn’t. If the American people are willing to accept this, what are the unwilling to accept? What would be the line that the government would have to cross for them to become outraged? Well, before we give up hope that the American people still care about their personal liberty, let’s look at a just-released poll from CBS News:

In the wake of the recent disclosure of two classified U.S. surveillance programs, most Americans disapprove of the government collecting the phone numbers of ordinary Americans, but approve of its monitoring those suspected of terrorist activity, according to a new CBS News poll.

Seventy-five percent of Americans approve of federal agencies collecting the phone records of people the government suspects of terrorist activity, but a 58 percent majority disapproves of this type of data collection in the case of ordinary Americans.

Majorities of Republicans and independents oppose the government collecting phone records of ordinary Americans; Democrats are divided.

When asked if the government’s collection of Americans’ phone call records is a necessary tool to help find terrorists, a slight majority of 53 percent say it is.

There is broad support for the government monitoring the internet activities of those living in foreign countries. Seventy-two percent of Americans approve of this practice and there is agreement on this across party lines.

A majority of Americans do not think the public revelation of the government’s collection of phone records will compromise U.S. security. Sixty percent say it will not have an impact or it will strengthen the United States’ ability to prevent future terrorist attacks, while 30 percent think the leaking of such information will weaken the country’s ability to prevent future terrorist attacks.

Arguably, the CBS poll is better than the Post/Pew poll in that it separated public opinion on the idea of using these NSA programs on ordinary Americans and the idea of using it on people suspected of terrorism. When it came to Internet traffic, the poll also sought to differentiate between monitoring domestic Internet traffic and monitoring traffic in foreign nations, especially ones known to harbor terrorism suspects. Again, that’s something that the Post/Pew poll doesn’t appear to attempt to do at all. Instead, they asked general questions about the NSA programs that arguably would combine public opinion on targeting terrorist suspects with the idea of using these programs to scoop up data on American citizens for which law enforcement has no such suspicions. When you break the issue down the way the CBS poll does, you find that people are opposed to the idea of the Federal Government monitoring the activity of “ordinary Americans,” but not similarly opposed to using those tactics against “suspected terrorists.” Quite honestly that makes more sense than the Post/Pew poll does, and it shows us how much more insightful a poll can be when the questions are less general and more specific.

One other thing that the CBS poll tells us is that,  while Americans are opposed to the idea of the NSA turning its tactics on the citizenry as a whole, they also aren’t too concerned about it:

[F]ewer Americans are concerned about their own personal communications being monitored. Just over a third is at least somewhat concerned about the government collecting their own phone records (38 percent) and monitoring their internet use (35 percent); six in 10 are not concerned.

Asked if the government has gone too far in infringing on people’s privacy in its efforts to fight terrorism, 46 percent think the balance is about right, but 36 percent say the government has gone too far. Just 13 percent think the government hasn’t gone far enough. Republicans are more likely (42 percent) than Democrats (26 percent) to say the government has gone too far.

What this suggests is that these revelations about the NSA are unlikely to have a major impact on public opinion in other areas unless we find that there is more to these stories than we’ve learned so far. President Obama’s job approval numbers are back near the historic level that they have been at for most of his Presidency, and it’s unlikely that they are going to change. Republicans themselves are divided on this entire issue, so it seems unlikely that they’re going to benefit very much from these revelations either. Unless there’s evidence of real abuses that have not come to light yet, it doesn’t seem at the moment as if these stories will have a major impact on politics as a whole.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. rachel says:

    Could it be that the citizens who have already signed away their privacy to their phone companies, credit card comanies, Internet service providers, banks, Microsoft, Apple, Google, Amazon, Yahoo, AOL, and so forth figure, “What the hell. At least the NSA has some oversight and laws regulating it.”? Or could it be that these said citizens think, “Hm, If the NSA weren’t allowed to harvest my data, they could just buy it on the open market.”?

    I know that’s what’s going through my mind.

    ETA: I’m not in favor of this situation, but I already agreed to go along with it when I signed up and got online. The current alternative is to go off the grid and send all my correspondence by snail mail.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  2. Tillman says:

    To be fair, the questions in 2006 and today were worded differently and were concerned with different types of NSA programs so I’m not sure how good a comparison one can make.

    I imagine making more people familiar with the specifics of the current surveillance regime would mollify a few concerns, especially if you compared it to the warrantless, checkless surveillance being conducted back in ’06.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  3. michael reynolds says:

    There are two factors beyond partisanship.

    First, setting party aside, people will be more suspicious of an administration that has demonstrated that it cannot be trusted: that of George W. Bush.

    Second, seven years is a long, long time in internet history. People don’t bother much anymore about cookies and don’t worry as much about privacy settings. We are adjusting to the new reality — unlike Doug.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 3

  4. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Tillman:

    I imagine making more people familiar with the specifics of the current surveillance regime would mollify a few concerns, especially if you compared it to the warrantless, checkless surveillance being conducted back in ’06.

    I’m inclined to think that any difference that might make would be small.

    The people who recognize the datamining as being 1) essentially harmless to them and/or 2) the inevitable product of a wired world already either approve or don’t much care about it.

    The people who are convinced that the NSA is listening to their BoringAverageCitizen phone calls in real time aren’t going to listen to anything, however revealing and concise and truthful, which challenges their paranoid delusions.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  5. bill says:

    it’s ok when a democratic admin does it, it was an abomination when w was in the house. and it woks anyway so who cares aside from a bunch of hypocrites?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 11

  6. Tillman says:

    @bill: Eh, close. More like “when a Democrat does it, he’s learned what not to do from his idiot Republican predecessor.”

    I mean, Doug’s right about the partisanship changing one’s view of things, but even objectively the Obama NSA is doing this much better than they used to. That’s just if nothing else trial-and-error over time.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  7. Ben Wolf says:

    @Doug Mataconis

    This is a culture which enthusiastically imprisoned tens of thousands for an imagined security risk and cheered while dropping nuclear weapons on cities. A culture that fills its prisons with specific racial groups and then labels itself the victim. When you accept Americans have a strong authoritarian component to their national psychology (and always have) the tepid response to these revelations isn’t a surprise at all.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 4

  8. michael reynolds says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    Really, Ben? We’e the same as we were at the start of WW2? And this is just like bombing Hiroshima? We haven’t in the intervening years had civil rights, women’s liberation and gay rights, just to hit some of the high points?

    You’re a smart guy but your paranoia does you a disservice.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 3

  9. bill says:

    @Tillman: so bush pioneered something and obama get’s the credit, that’s brilliant. i used to think obama was like jimmy carter “lite”, he’s more like bush “lite” now- not like anyone cares as long as it’s an alleged liberal leading the invasion of privacy. in fact, it’s almost comical to watch everyone circle the wagons to defend it- but not really.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 11

  10. Tillman says:

    @bill:

    so bush pioneered something and obama get’s the credit, that’s brilliant.

    Bush pioneered and failed, my dear man. He wanted the power to actually wiretap conversations without a warrant, and without Congressional or judicial oversight. He overreached, horribly. Obama, meanwhile, has skillfully maneuvered into a philosophical gray area that’ll take the courts years, if not decades, to properly parse the government’s powers in. That’s how you expand executive power in an age of rapid technological progress. (Reminds me of that talking point about taking a scalpel to the budget instead of a hacksaw.)

    Besides, Bush “pioneered” our current Great Recession and Obama got the credit on that, and I don’t see you saying that’s a bad thing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  11. Todd says:

    Two things …

    - As long as the American public demands that the only “acceptable” level of terrorism on US soil is Zero attacks, ever, the government is going to continue to push the envelope as far as they can in trying to thwart would be attackers. You can’t have it both ways. Too many people who complain about things like privacy are also among the first to blame the govt (especially if a Dem is in the White House) if a terrorist plan is even partially successful.

    - As Rachel pointed out in the first comment, much of the information we’re concerned about the govt. having accesses to is already very much not “private”. I’m not a lawyer, but it seems logical to me that if you sign (even digitally) a user agreement that allows your data to be shared, you’re probably on pretty shaky ground in trying to claim you had a reasonable expectation of privacy.

    If I post anything on the Internet (including FB chats, and Gmail), I fully expect it’s possible that someone other than the intended recipient (including the govt), might have access to it. Same with phone calls. “Privacy” is an illusion these days, and the govt didn’t “take” it from us, we willingly gave it up years and years ago.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  12. Woody says:

    My two guesses regarding the polling figures:

    First, there’s no ready villain nor hero here. As the comment thread above demonstrates, both W Bush and Obama are up to their necks in citizen surveillance schemes. I do have to say it’s a bit amusing to note the muted GOP response to a scandal that can be linked to Obama!

    Second, let’s face it – what’s there to be done? We’re not going offline. And, really, is there any confidence that any institutional measure won’t be gamed / watered down into irrelevance by the time it would be passed? By this Congress?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  13. Robert C says:

    Micheal et al,

    Where do you draw the line?

    What if the NSA starts using voice recognition software to listen to our phones (cell and landline). “Only computers are listening to your conversations, not people” they’ll say. But if the software picks up one of say 500 suspicious words, well then a FISA rubber stamp will allow the NSA to listen to you conversations. Does that bother you?

    What if groups being targeted by the NSA realize that perhaps good old snail mail is a safer way to communicate? The NSA will tell us the have to periodically read our mail because those darn terrorists just won’t play by the rules. Still,ok?

    It is a oily, steep slippery slope.

    RC

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 6

  14. Jeremy R says:

    Did anyone notice the way the Guardian is describing “PRISM” in their most recent reporting? It’s completely dialed back from Greenwald’s initial piece.

    For example:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/12/microsoft-twitter-rivals-nsa-requests

    The Guardian revealed last week that seven technology companies – Google, Facebook, Skype, PalTalk, Microsoft, Apple and Yahoo – were involved in the Prism surveillance scheme run by the NSA.

    The Guardian understands that the NSA approached those companies and asked them to enable a “dropbox” system whereby legally requested data could be copied from their own server out to an NSA-owned system. That has allowed the companies to deny that there is “direct or indirect” NSA access, to deny that there is a “back door” to their systems, and that they only comply with “legal” requests – while not explaining the scope of that access.

    That’s in line with Google’s claims that they respond by using Secure FTP to transfer records when they get a FISA court order:

    http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2013/06/google-uses-secure-ftp-to-feds

    Some of Greenwald’s initial claims for comparison:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/06/us-tech-giants-nsa-data

    Companies are legally obliged to comply with requests for users’ communications under US law, but the Prism program allows the intelligence services direct access to the companies’ servers.

    The Prism program allows the NSA, the world’s largest surveillance organisation, to obtain targeted communications without having to request them from the service providers and without having to obtain individual court orders.

    With this program, the NSA is able to reach directly into the servers of the participating companies and obtain both stored communications as well as perform real-time collection on targeted users.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  15. superdestroyer says:

    @Tillman:

    What criteria are you using to say that the government is using big data better than any other administration. Did it stop the Boston marathon bomber?

    Also, it is odd that people are claiming that the government will make good use of big data when the government is doing such a poor job of limiting identity theft, limiting false tax return filings, does not notify people when others are misusing their social security numbers, and there are over 10 million illegal aliens in the U.S. using either fake or stolen identities.

    What is amazing is how badly the government is using the data that it has. But I guess as long as it is the Democrats doing a a bad job, it is OK.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 4

  16. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Robert C:

    What if the NSA starts using voice recognition software to listen to our phones (cell and landline). “Only computers are listening to your conversations, not people” they’ll say. But if the software picks up one of say 500 suspicious words, well then a FISA rubber stamp will allow the NSA to listen to you conversations. Does that bother you?

    Actually, no. That is why in every conversation on my cell phone I always insert the words “bomb”, “jihad”, and “Kill, Kill, KILL” with veins in my teeth and jumping up and down….

    I am just such an attention whore.

    Oh, and slippery slope arguments? They are really weak. You are arguing from imagined transgressions to imagined consequences. If you have a valid argument you can stick with real world situations and consequences. Which you easily enough can here, so I don’t know why you don’t.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  17. superdestroyer says:

    Just like there are the stages of grief during death and dying, there are not the established stages of handling anything that the Obama Administration does.

    1. It is not a big deal.
    2. The polls indicates that Americans do not care.
    3. The Republicans are overreaching in their reaction and are thus evil.
    4. Anyone who talks about the scandal is a racist who just does not want a strong blackman as president.
    5. repeat.

    Image who politics is going to work in the coming one party state when the media and the government stomps on anyone who questions the conventional wisdom.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 8

  18. Nikki says:

    @superdestroyer: Gee, you conservatives sure can play the victim.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

  19. Mikey says:

    @Jeremy R: Snowden really sold Greenwald a bill of goods, didn’t he?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  20. Tony W says:

    I am not surprised America is of two minds on the subject. I am too.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  21. stonetools says:

    @Jeremy R:

    That’s in line with Google’s claims that they respond by using Secure FTP to transfer records when they get a FISA court order:

    Google, Facebook, and Microsoft are asking that the NSA give them permission to publish data in order to better rebut the PRISM claim. Google’s letter.Excerpt :

    Assertions in the press that our compliance with these requests gives the U.S. government unfettered access to our users’ data are simply untrue. However, government nondisclosure obligations regarding the number of FISA national security requests that Google receives, as well as the number of accounts covered by those requests, fuel that speculation.

    We therefore ask you to help make it possible for Google to publish in our Transparency Report aggregate numbers of national security requests, including FISA disclosures—in terms of both the number we receive and their scope. Google’s numbers would clearly show that our compliance with these requests falls far short of the claims being made. Google has nothing to hide.

    Have we gotten to the stage where we can accept that the PRISM claim is discredited yet? That will still leave the phone metadata claim as accurate, but then this was reported back in 2006.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  22. Gromitt Gunn says:

    My takeaway from the CBS poll: “Well, as long as it only impacts *those people,* its okay.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  23. Ben says:

    @Todd:

    Too many people who complain about things like privacy are also among the first to blame the govt (especially if a Dem is in the White House) if a terrorist plan is even partially successful.

    I have had enough of this stupid strawman being whipped out in this debate. Either cite me a specific example of a person doing this, or stop saying it. It is just a rhetorical flourish with no validity whatsoever.

    Most of the people I know who are really concerned about their privacy are categorically NOT going to be the ones complaining that there isn’t enough security.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  24. Ben says:

    @Todd:

    much of the information we’re concerned about the govt. having accesses to is already very much not “private”. I’m not a lawyer, but it seems logical to me that if you sign (even digitally) a user agreement that allows your data to be shared, you’re probably on pretty shaky ground in trying to claim you had a reasonable expectation of privacy.

    Not one single user agreement I’ve ever heard of allows them to share either the comment or the sender/recipient/time/place data of private messages with third parties.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  25. Caj says:

    If we had another 911 God forbid, and the NSA hadn’t been doing any of this stuff would the moaners be outraged and want to know what were the NSA doing and why wasn’t President Obama doing all he could to keep us safe. You bet your life they would. You can’t have your cake and eat it as far as I’m concerned. Safety of all of us is paramount. Data being stored for security purposes poses no threat to me and I’d say most people if they have nothing to hide.
    All this over hyped fuss is getting out of hand. Some Democrats and Republicans have totally lost the plot. What happened to keeping our country safe? Apparently privacy for citizens trump that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  26. fred says:

    Most Americans want a good paying living wage and could care less about their privacy. In this electronic age we have already lost most of our privacy but many don’t even know that. Never in a million years would all of us allow any GOP and DEM administration to be a dictator or control every minute of our daily existence. If you believe this you are living on another planet. Presidents have a sacred obligation to protect the nation. If there is a huge terrorist attack today or tomorrow the topic would shift from our privacy to why did the govt do to protect us. Just think for a minute. We can’t have it both ways. This is the greatest nation on earth but is still subject to internal and external attacks from folks who hate it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  27. Ben says:

    @Caj:

    If we had another 911 God forbid, and the NSA hadn’t been doing any of this stuff would the moaners be outraged and want to know what were the NSA doing and why wasn’t President Obama doing all he could to keep us safe. You bet your life they would. You can’t have your cake and eat it as far as I’m concerned.

    As I just said two comments up, this is a pure strawman. I’d like to see some support for this statement. Because I disagree with you. I think the people who are outraged by the privacy implications would not be the first ones to complain about a security lapse.

    Safety of all of us is paramount.

    Speak only for yourself, please. Because it isn’t paramount to me.

    Data being stored for security purposes poses no threat to me and I’d say most people if they have nothing to hide.

    Really? You’re going with “you have nothing to worry about if you have nothing to hide”? Come on, you can do better than that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  28. @Tillman:

    Obama, meanwhile, has skillfully maneuvered into a philosophical gray area that’ll take the courts years, if not decades, to properly parse the government’s powers in.

    Apparently “it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission” applies to electronic surveillance.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  29. michael reynolds says:

    I’m seeing it slowly dawn on people that they long ago voluntarily gave up privacy. And we’ve moved beyond that initial shock to acknowledging that they’re really just fine with things the way they are, they are not going to crawl into a tech-free hole. Which is what I’ve been saying from Day 1 of this: it’s 2013, this is reality, it’s not going to change.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  30. Ben says:

    Oh by the way, not that I think it matters in the argument, but the claim that PRISM foiled a terror plot that would have occurred if they weren’t monitoring all of our emails? Not so much. Maybe we shouldn’t take their word for it on things like this anymore.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  31. stonetools says:

    @Ben:

    Most of the people I know who are really concerned about their privacy are categorically NOT going to be the ones complaining that there isn’t enough security.

    I haven’t done it, but if you trawl the Internet, you certainly will find people who say this. You will definitely find LOTS of people-a majority-who are more concerned with security than with privacy. Now, do you defend Mr. Snowden’s thesis that we should dismantle the whole system of surveillance? And if not, what should we do?
    I’m getting a bit irritated with folks who yell, “PRIVACY!” and yet don’t come up with suggestions of what should be done. At least Snowden is clear.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  32. Tillman says:

    @superdestroyer:

    Also, it is odd that people are claiming that the government will make good use of big data when the government is doing such a poor job of limiting identity theft, limiting false tax return filings, does not notify people when others are misusing their social security numbers, and there are over 10 million illegal aliens in the U.S. using either fake or stolen identities.

    These things aren’t threats to national security, and wouldn’t really be the purview of the NSA. Hell, the IRS and SSA budgets have been slashed in the past couple of Congresses as I understand it, so they can’t just decide to build a shiny new data center in Bumsquat, Nowhere to do this sort of data-mining. No, not even if the IRS canceled its stupid conferences.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  33. Tillman says:

    @Ben:

    Not one single user agreement I’ve ever heard of allows them to share either the comment or the sender/recipient/time/place data of private messages with third parties.

    …have you been reading them? They tend to use broadly-interpretative language.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  34. Ben says:

    @stonetools: @stonetools:

    I haven’t done it, but if you trawl the Internet, you certainly will find people who say this.

    Really? You found an example of someone who was complaining about invasion of privacy by the government, and then after a terror attack, wants to know why the government didn’t do enough to stop it? Because that is what this stupid argument claims.

    You will definitely find LOTS of people-a majority-who are more concerned with security than with privacy.

    Interesting, because that CBS poll that Doug cites above seems to show that a majority of people DISAGREE with suspicionless surveillance of all Americans.

    Now, do you defend Mr. Snowden’s thesis that we should dismantle the whole system of surveillance? And if not, what should we do?
    I’m getting a bit irritated with folks who yell, “PRIVACY!” and yet don’t come up with suggestions of what should be done. At least Snowden is clear.

    In the previous comment thread, someone offered a compromise that we amend the law on minimization procedures so that the collected data must not be shared unless it is evidence of a crime relating to terrorism or espionage (currently it can be shared if it evidence of any crime). I said that that compromise eliminated most of my fears with how this particular program can be misused and I would probably accept that as a compromise. So there you go, there’s a solution I’m proposing. If NSA is going to collect all of this freaking data, I don’t want it to be usable as evidence of a crime unless that crime is terrorism or espionage.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  35. Ben says:

    @Tillman: @Tillman:

    …have you been reading them? They tend to use broadly-interpretative language.

    Actually yes, I do read the great majority of them. I’m kind of a stickler about crap like that. And I’ve never seen one say that they will share the content or data from private messages with third parties. Now, public postings are fair game. But private messaging is ostensibly protected in every corporate privacy statement I’ve ever read.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  36. stonetools says:

    @Ben:

    SCOTUS has weighed in on this, and the court held that we don’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy in phone company records of our call histories.

    Smith vs Maryland

    So user agreements don’t matter, for purposes of government surveillance of phone metadata.

    In the previous comment thread, someone offered a compromise that we amend the law on minimization procedures so that the collected data must not be shared unless it is evidence of a crime relating to terrorism or espionage (currently it can be shared if it evidence of any crime). I said that that compromise eliminated most of my fears with how this particular program can be misused and I would probably accept that as a compromise. So there you go, there’s a solution I’m proposing. If NSA is going to collect all of this freaking data, I don’t want it to be usable as evidence of a crime unless that crime is terrorism or espionage.

    I was that someone. Sounds like you are OK with the current system. You just want a tweak in the law. Guess we’ve found agreement then.

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  37. Ben says:

    @stonetools:

    I was that someone. Sounds like you are OK with the current system. You just want a tweak in the law. Guess we’ve found agreement then.

    I wouldn’t say that I’m “OK with the law”, not in the slightest. But I recognize that what I want would never make it through Congress, so I would accept that compromise as the best deal I could hope for.

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  38. James in Silverdale, WA says:

    @Caj: Data being stored for security purposes poses no threat to me and I’d say most people if they have nothing to hide.”

    This is not freedom. It is intimidation. “Nothing to hide”? Really?

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  39. James in Silverdale, WA says:

    @michael reynolds: ” it’s 2013, this is reality, it’s not going to change.”

    Be careful. Moore’s Law has made an idiot of lesser people than you.

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  40. Ben says:

    @stonetools:

    SCOTUS has weighed in on this, and the court held that we don’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy in phone company records of our call histories.

    Smith vs Maryland

    So user agreements don’t matter, for purposes of government surveillance of phone metadata.

    I’m well aware of Smith v Maryland, I was talking about the Internet snooping more than the phone call data.

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  41. michael reynolds says:

    @Ben:

    I like that proposal. That sounds realistic and do-able and right.

    Ever thought of running for office?

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  42. Robert C says:

    @Ozarkhillbilly,

    Imagine voice recognition software listening to John Doe calling his brother Steve Doe talk about a football game: “Man I hate Washington. I was hoping Dallas would kill them. Did you see the bomb RGIII threw? He has got a gun! “. The software will pick up Washington, kill, bomb, gun. The FISA rubber stamp will come out, phones will be tapped.

    Vis-a-vis slippery slope ?

    How about mothers forced to drink breast milk by TSA; Non judicial killings of American citizens overseas the USG. Your faith in our leaders is amazing if not gullible.

    RC

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  43. Ben says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I’d consider it, but I don’t think either party would have me.

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  44. bill says:

    @Tillman: he’s weak, get over it already. obama has been held to minimal damage thanks to congress. lame stuff y’all squawked about before his election became ok whence he deemed it so- it’s ok to compliment someone you disagree with- i’m glad obama didn’t screw up everything too. but really, he didn’t “skillfully” do anything, he’s in the dark about it all for a good reason- “plausible dependability” is more like it.

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  45. simonjames says:

    The NSA has been collecting the telephone records of hundreds of millions of Americans each day, conceiving a database through which it can discover if terror supposes have been in communicate with persons and take action through Public Opinion in the U.S.

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  46. The NSA has inquired the fairness Department to open a lawless person inquiry, and Snowden could face decades in jail if convicted on espionage or treason charges.

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