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Americans Not Bothered by NSA Spying 1322

Posted by Zonk
from the getting-the-government-they-deserve dept.
Snap E Tom writes "According to a Washington Post poll, a majority (63%) of Americans 'said they found the NSA program to be an acceptable way to investigate terrorism.' A slightly higher majority would not be bothered if the NSA collected personal calls that they made. Even though the program has received bi-partisan criticism from Congress, it appears that the public values security over privacy."
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Americans Not Bothered by NSA Spying

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Friday May 12, 2006 @09:24AM (#15317188) Journal
    Let me guess, these polls were done by phone?

    Washington Post: Hello, do you have a minute to take a survey?
    Citizen: Of course I do!
    Washington Post: Great! We were just wondering whether you're concerned with the recent news of the NSA?
    Citizen: You mean the fact that they are collecting the phone call records made and recieved by each citizen of the United States?
    Washington Post: Yes, probably even this very phone call right now ... how do you feel about that?
    Citizen: I'm fuckin' pissed!
    Washington Post: So you're conncerned? You know, on our last poll about the NSA, the one where we covered them routing and recording phone calls [dailykos.com], people sure answered differently.
    Citizen: Wait a second ... you mean they can record transcripts of phone calls?
    Washington Post: Yes, probably even this very phone call right now ... we do use AT&T.
    Citizen: Ah, I've changed my mine. I am completely fine with this acceptable form of combating terrorism. Sic Heil Bush & all that jazz. I love my country and would sacrifice every bit of privacy for it. Goodbye!
    • Yes, it was (Score:5, Informative)

      by GillBates0 (664202) on Friday May 12, 2006 @09:28AM (#15317229) Homepage Journal
      From: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/poll s/postpoll_nsa_051206.htm [washingtonpost.com]:

      This Washington Post-ABC News poll was conducted by telephone May 11, 2006 among 502 randomly selected adults.

      • Re:Yes, it was (Score:5, Insightful)

        by GigsVT (208848) on Friday May 12, 2006 @10:13AM (#15317759) Journal
        There is no such thing as a random telephone poll.

        Here's a statistic for you, 100% of people polled by telephone said they were "willing to participate in telephone polls"!

        This is especially relevant here, since those that value their privacy are less likely to participate in telephone polls.
        • Re:Yes, it was (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          There's a further problem that was seen during the election. Telephone polling is usually limited to landlines, but many young people use a mobile exclusively. So the demographics are screwed even before you start.
        • by frieko (855745) on Friday May 12, 2006 @11:24AM (#15318557)
          The CNN Online poll tells different story. It all depends who you ask: http://edition.cnn.com/POLLSERVER/results/24900.co ntent.html [cnn.com]
        • Re:Yes, it was (Score:5, Insightful)

          by natoochtoniket (763630) on Friday May 12, 2006 @12:26PM (#15319240)
          There is no such thing as a random telephone poll.

          Here's a statistic for you, 100% of people polled by telephone said they were "willing to participate in telephone polls"!

          Here's another statistic for you: 100% of those people were also "willing to have the call recorded"!

          So, the only people who were asked if the approved of the NSA recording phone calls were the people who were both willing to have the phone call recorded, and willing to participate in a telephone poll. The people who objected to having the phone call recorded were not asked the third question.

          This isn't funny. It is just an abuse of statistics.

    • Let me guess, these polls were done by phone?

      No, they used a Diebold AccuVote-TSX touch screen system...

  • by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Friday May 12, 2006 @09:24AM (#15317189) Homepage Journal
    it appears that the public values security over privacy

    Then they'll have neither.

    • Meanwhile...
      "A Four-alarm fire in Downtown Moscow clears way for a glorious new tractor factory. ..."
    • by renderhead (206057) on Friday May 12, 2006 @10:12AM (#15317744)
      Yes, it all sounds very bad until you realize that "the public values security over privacy" is a false statement, or at least very misleading.

      The truth is that the public values a certain amount of security over a certain amount of security. Everyone has their threshhold, and it's different from person to person.

      For example, I'd object greatly to having surveillance cameras mounted in my home if the conditions were "the cameras are a permanent fixture so the government can better protect our nation from terrorists". On the other hand, I wouldn't object at all to the same cameras if the conditions were "they are a temporary fixture so that we can track down and arrest a serial killer who was recently spotted entering your house." Heck, I'd help them install the things!

      In that case, the security issue (my life was in immediate danger from a murderer) outweighed the privacy issue (I might get caught picking my nose on camera).

      In the case of the phone record issue, the 63% cited have weighed the loss of privacy in this case (the government knows who you've called, when, and how many times, but not what you said) against the perceived security threat (the chances of averting a terrorist attack are improved by the government having this data).

      Disagree if you want - observe that 37% of those surveyed did. But don't accuse the other 63% of being stupid sheep unless you know what reasoning they applied to their opinion. What are they personally giving up (in more specific terms than just "privacy")? What are they personally gaining?
      • In your example, there is already a perfectly functional system in place for dealing with a murderer in your house - calling the police and getting the blue hell out of there. I doubt hanging around for several hours installing cameras or picking your nose will do much for you, unless perhaps he or she is kind enough to hold the ladder steady, or loan you a handkerchief.

        If the murderer isn't there now but the police say one might show up at some point today, are you still as willing to surrender your priva

    • by Myrrh (53301) <matthew@NosPaM.mcclearyconsulting.net> on Friday May 12, 2006 @09:38AM (#15317349)
      I've come up with a way to reduce—perhaps even eliminate—our dependence on foreign oil as an energy source.

      As more and more civil liberties are trampled upon, faster and faster will the Founding Fathers spin in their respective graves.

      If we attach magnets to each Founding Father, then wrap copper wire around each of them, we should have a potentially unlimited energy source. Well, at least until the Libertarians get elected in significant numbers—so yeah, come to think of it, it truly is unlimited.

      The AC frequency, of course, might be unpredictable. In fact, I'd suspect it will be ever-increasing, which could create some technical issues to overcome. But we're smart people, I'm sure we can figure it out.

      What do you all say? Shall we write up a grant proposal?
    • Benjamin Franklin must be spinning in his grave...
      If we could somehow harness this perpetual spinning motion of the founding fathers we could probably power america for centuries to come! Thus weakining our dependence on foreign oil, and dealing a blow to teh terr'sts! Let the attack on personal liberties continue!!!
    • by cybercobra (856248) on Friday May 12, 2006 @09:41AM (#15317388)
      They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
      - Benjamin Franklin

      When you don't teach people about the importance of civil liberties, it's no wonder they don't defend them. Bring back civics classes!
    • by lucabrasi999 (585141) on Friday May 12, 2006 @09:47AM (#15317461) Journal
      Benjamin Franklin must be spinning in his grave...

      This morning on NPR [npr.org], they interviewed a guy from the CATO institute [cato.org] (not exacty a bastion of left-wing liberalism) who said that while the NSA program, on initial review, appeared to meet the letter of the law, it certainly wasn't implemented in the "spirit" of the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution [wikipedia.org].

      I completely agree with this thought. It may or may not be a legal program, but whatever the legality, it is wrong on so many levels.

  • by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Friday May 12, 2006 @09:25AM (#15317194)
    from the getting-the-government-they-deserve dept.

    Nuff said.
  • Phonesex (Score:5, Funny)

    by WebfishUK (249858) on Friday May 12, 2006 @09:26AM (#15317206)
    ...A slightly higher majority would not be bothered if the NSA collected personal calls that they made...

    Just so long as they spoke dirty and pretended to be a girl

    "Hi my name is Agent Sexbitch and I'm not wearing my regulation black suit. I'm a naughty agent...."

  • Well... (Score:3, Funny)

    by flynt (248848) on Friday May 12, 2006 @09:26AM (#15317210)
    Knowing that their answers may be monitored, what do you think they'd say? These, after all, were done over the phone.
  • Of course. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Sj0 (472011) on Friday May 12, 2006 @09:27AM (#15317214) Homepage Journal
    We're talking about Americans here. They're much better at rhetoric about how great and free they are than actually getting upset when their leaders turn out to be blatantly trampling rights enshrined in the constitution.
    • Re:Of course. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ScentCone (795499) on Friday May 12, 2006 @09:47AM (#15317463)
      We're talking about Americans here. They're much better at rhetoric about how great and free they are than actually getting upset when their leaders turn out to be blatantly trampling rights enshrined in the constitution.

      No, they're much better at using pundits on TV to bitch at the administration for not "connecting the dots" about people sitting in the country gearing up to kill a few thousand people, and using phones to chat with each other, keep their finances flowing, call their flight schools after getting off the phone with their buddy in Jordan (who just talked to his buddy in Germany, who earlier that day was talking to his buddy in Boston about renting that car that they left in the parking lot when they got on the plane).

      People watch endless news and popular entertainment that involves cross referencing dumped telco records to see who someone talked to, the better to bust up a criminal relationship or follow some other money trail. Of course it's a lot harder when you have to dig up disparate data from multiple providers, but it's there, whenever prosecutors need it - always has been. The difference, right now, is that when some twit in, say, Madrid, decides to blow up his apartment rather than be caught... and one of the scraps of paper left over includes a phone number assigned to disposable phone bought near the Mexico border... well, there's a certain amount of urgency in having a quick way to at least see if there's a red-hot pattern of calls swirling around the related numbers.

      I'm all for the privacy that requires judicial oversight on doing anything with that information. But what I don't want to hear is a bunch of witless complaining (from the same "We're talking about Americans here") about how the FBI (on Bush's watch! that lazy bastard!) didn't see an attack, an arms shipment, etc., coming ... just like on 9/11! Because the phone records are going to be there. After-the-fact quarterbacking is always going to show that there were obvious signs of coordination between the groups of people it takes import/export mayhem. Pattern detection is a pretty damn obvious tool - it's what you DO with it that matters. I wonder how the people who bitch about this feel about the cops they're driving next to surfing their license plate numbers on their dash-mounted laptops in traffic. You know - the people that say that's intrusive, and then shout scathing complaints when they hear that someone wanted for something heinous has been driving through toll booths every day for a year.

      Can't have it both ways, and while I'm inclined to err on the side of collecting and only judiciously (and judicially) using information, I'm really dis-inclined to later agree with anyone who complains that law enformcement didn't do enough to stop something that's otherise only obvious after the fact.
      • Re:Of course. (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Sj0 (472011)
        If you're referring to 9/11, I think the problem people have is that intelligence gathering services DID their job, and discovered what was going to happen, and reported it to the higher ups, and the higher ups ignored it.

        That fact, combined with the massive vacations of a certain sitting president, and a certain video of "My Pet Goat" taking precidence over jetliners running into skyscrapers, certainly should give anybody a moments pause.

        However, that's a red herring beyond the scope of the current discuss
  • Three things: (Score:4, Informative)

    by TripMaster Monkey (862126) * on Friday May 12, 2006 @09:30AM (#15317242)

    1. The poll questions say absolutely nothing about the current illegality of this sort of data-mining on U.S. citizens.
    2. The second to last question from the poll:
      46. If you found out that the NSA had a record of phone numbers that you yourself have called, would that bother you, or not? IF YES: Would it bother you a lot, or just somewhat?

      -----------Yes------------
      NET A lot Somewhat No No opin.
      34 24 10 66 *


    3. The last question from the poll (emphasis mine):
      47. Do you think it is right or wrong for the news media to have disclosed this secret government program?

      Right Wrong No opin.
      56 42 1


  • by flynt (248848) on Friday May 12, 2006 @09:32AM (#15317263)
    Those who attempt to gain karma by trying to summarize a complex issue with a one-line quote will have have done neither.
  • by Peter Trepan (572016) on Friday May 12, 2006 @09:32AM (#15317266)
    Anyone who utters the words: "If you've done nothing wrong, then what are you afraid of?" should immediately be put on the no-fly list.
  • by sparkz (146432) on Friday May 12, 2006 @09:32AM (#15317271) Homepage
    In other news, a survey found that the majority of Americans don't understand why the rest of the world view them as dumb, mindless sheep.
  • by porkThreeWays (895269) on Friday May 12, 2006 @09:32AM (#15317275)
    Scaring Americans into giving up their privacy is really getting old. A large scale terrorism attack is still very much possible today. Mistake after mistake has shown this. It's a dog and pony show. The presentation has changed, but gaping holes still exist. Amercians somehow believe losing their rights is helping terrorism, but in reality its not. Before 9/11 terrorism was almost non-existant in America. After 9/11 it's almost non-existant. Looking at raw numbers, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of things you should be more worried about killing you than a terrorist. Statistically I'd be more worried about being killed by a shark in the US.

    And I can't believe people are actually fooled into thinking somehow terrorism is a major threat. If you want to save the most amount of lives with the least amount of effort, fight obesity. It accounts for most of the top killers in America today.

    But obesity isn't patriotic. You can't hang a flag outside your house supporting the war on fat.

    Get a fucking clue people. Terrorism isn't a threat to your daily lives. If you actually think it is, then you've been emotionally manipulated by people who want your money and/or votes.
    • by HairyCanary (688865) on Friday May 12, 2006 @10:35AM (#15318012)
      What is especially sad to me is that we have allowed the terrorists to win. What they did directly caused a statistically insignificant amount of damage to this country.

      What we did to ourselves in response, however, is far more impressive.

  • by ghostlibrary (450718) on Friday May 12, 2006 @09:33AM (#15317284) Homepage Journal
    Okay, the NSA is just making correlations between calls. However, if any actor can be tied to Kevin Bacon in 6 steps, and any person to the President in 6 steps, doesn't this mean the NSA can tie any phone user to a terrorist at will in 6 steps or less?

    "I called my auto mechanic, who called a customer, who once called a lawyer friend, who represented a terrorist. So now I'm flagged as 'communicating with a terrorist'".

    Worse, the only way to weed out such 'spurious connections' is, of course, to get more detailed records of exactly who was called, and why, and what was said. So the concept is inherently flawed and can only be fixed by further privacy violations.
    • by King_TJ (85913) on Friday May 12, 2006 @10:03AM (#15317647) Journal
      Substitute "Communist" for terrorist, and you'll quickly see that we've been through this B.S. before.

      Good night, and good luck.
    • by lawpoop (604919) on Friday May 12, 2006 @10:15AM (#15317788) Homepage Journal
      I think it's a little more sophisticated than that.

      If you have a list of how has called who, when, and for how long, you can diagram out connections between people and see who are the most influential. Have a look at this image [hellomynameisscott.com].

      My guess is that they are looking for people who have influence, who are at the center of social hubs. These people are leader-like; they are charismatic and people want to listen to them. They have a lot of connections. They aren't consciouly trying to build an organization or influence people; they are just popular and social.

      If you want to put the kabash on any fomenting organization, or group of people that are causing your problems, just 'take out' the few charismatic leaders. If you look at the image above, if you put 'Ron' and 'Patti' under house arrest, you would pretty much kill any communication between the red and green groups.

      It's a way of keeping information from tavelling between people, so then people must rely on official news sources.
  • by stinerman (812158) <nathan...stine@@@gmail...com> on Friday May 12, 2006 @09:35AM (#15317314) Homepage
    As we all know "terrorism" is the root password to the Constitution. This question asks only about terrorism. I wonder what their answers would be if the question was:

    "Do you find the NSA program to be an acceptable way to investigate drug use?"

    or

    "Do you find the NSA program to be an acceptable way to investigate copyright infringment?"

    We all know these programs will not be used for only terrorism, but for everyday crimes. Will people care then?
  • Correction (Score:5, Insightful)

    by digitaldc (879047) * on Friday May 12, 2006 @09:37AM (#15317331)
    Americans who have given up on caring about anything truthful being discussed in today's world are not bothered by NSA spying.

    Seriously, if the NSA will not give security clearances (thereby stopping the investigation) to the Federal Prosecutors trying to investigate this alleged spying on Americans, does the US actually have ANY checks and balances on uncontrolled power?

    More importantly, does anyone even care?
  • by Alpha27 (211269) on Friday May 12, 2006 @09:38AM (#15317345)
    They are not all of Americans. They are those Americans who read their paper. Come on seriously now. 63% is a high number of people who would agree to this. I see this number being more representative of higher-middle class conservative individuals.
  • IRS anyone? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lester67 (218549) <ratels72082@m[ ]cks.net ['ypa' in gap]> on Friday May 12, 2006 @09:44AM (#15317412)
    If you think what the NSA is collecting is bad, why not take a look at what you send the IRS every year. (Assuming you're living in America.)

    So big whoop....

    • Re:IRS anyone? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by protohiro1 (590732) on Friday May 12, 2006 @10:31AM (#15317974) Homepage Journal
      That information is something I send to the IRS. I know what it says, and it doesn't include my private phone calls. Just my income. And any spending I choose to deduct. A little harder to use that info for evil. Also, in order for tax collection to work, they must have that info. But, to protect our privacy there are many things they cannot do with that data. Just like the NSA isn't allowed to do what they are doing. Because when we give the government powers we create laws to check those powers. This administration has claimed that they don't have to obey those laws. And that is the problem. The government asserts the right to break any law they see fit. This is a problem, don't you think?
  • by i_want_you_to_throw_ (559379) on Friday May 12, 2006 @09:44AM (#15317416) Homepage Journal
    It's time to start using an encrypted VoIP that doesn't use DES (which NSA owns the patent on). Besides the problem is that all of this "security" is reactive and doesn't really stop anything.

    Bipartisan backlash is to be expected. Democrats hate it for obvious reasons and Republicans hate it because many of them aren't getting relected this fall thanks to their disastrous policies that have run America into the dirt these last 6 years (Sorry folks "the truth" means nothing..only the facts).
  • by TheConfusedOne (442158) <the.confused.one@ g m a i l.com> on Friday May 12, 2006 @09:49AM (#15317488) Journal
    You realize that the phone companies are already collecting all of this information in order to produce your phone bill?

    Do you further realize that the phone companies share this information with their business partners and use it internally to try to upsell you phone and related services?

    So is it worse that the NSA does this or that big business does it?
  • by marlinSpike (894812) on Friday May 12, 2006 @10:09AM (#15317714)
    The fact that Americans can be led to support just about any conclusion is an unfortunate matter of fact. Just hurl the flag around enough, and there you have it -- like sheep we bleat in acquiescence.

    I'm appalled at how President Bush has gotten away with extending Presidential Power to such limits that he has effectively put himself above the law. The administration has refused to answer specific questions about the NSA Spying program, while denying Congress the right to question administration officials in an open forum, thus effectively putting the spying program beyond ANY oversight. How scary is that?!

    And this... from a President from the Republican party?! This is the party of less government? HA! This party has so enraged traditional Republicans and terrified Americans of every other stripe that I'm inclined to believe (hope), that the neo-cons are banished once and for all in 2008.

  • by surfingmarmot (858550) on Friday May 12, 2006 @10:12AM (#15317749)
    The Founders were very concerned about freedom of assembly--the curtailment of that freedom was one the methods dictators, in this case King George and the Tories, use to suppress dissent. If the 'government' could monitor the revolutionary meetings and find out who attended, they could then quietly round the participants up one by one later. In the modern age, the telephone is used to arrange many meetings. If any government wants to repress freedom of assembly and quash dissent, what better way than to have a list of a dissenter's contacts to round up for questioning? A few police dragnets and stakeouts and the matter is closed. They don't need to know the content of the call--association is 'guilty' and you are on the call list so you are brought in for quesitoning. Sure, there is a remote possibility the NSA _might_ find find some terrorists in this net, but this brute force drift net is going to trap and drown as a 'side kill' our freedom with much more certainty. The fact that this escapes the average American is no surprise--most of them have never read the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, or the Constitution and many don't recognize paragraphs from them when given in a poll. Freedom is too important to be trusted to the uneducated mob.--they won't miss it until they need it and then it will be too late.
  • by erroneus (253617) on Friday May 12, 2006 @10:15AM (#15317798) Homepage
    This is by design. From the beginning of public training (education) we're not taught anything but conformity, compliance and propaganda. It is extremely rare when anything is new, original or inspired any more. Asking children why we're in Iraq yeilds short answers like "freedom" and "democracy." Adults speak the same way. Most people would see that as a sign of brainwashing.

    The public at large is half-asleep. We're annoyed by higher gas prices... it's waking some of us up, but still most are content simply by complaining and comiserating as an outlet... takes too much effort to actually DO anything. There will come a tipping point and I have to wonder if "they" are smart enough to stop before it reaches that point or if the backlash from the public will be a total surprise?
  • Wrong Question (Score:3, Insightful)

    by thecitruskid (468923) on Friday May 12, 2006 @10:25AM (#15317905)
    The question is too abstract for most Americans. Instead of "do you care if the NSA has access to the numbers you call?" they should do some digging and ask "why did you call 555-6789 six times last week?". Somehow I feel this would generate a completely different emotional response.
  • Is it any wonder? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by edbarbar (234498) on Friday May 12, 2006 @10:26AM (#15317914)
    After years of the government providing "safety nets" in the form of massive social welfare programs, after years of socialists telling people "Government is the answer," you wonder why this result. After years of the smartest and best making law after law to protect give special protection to each minority group they can pander to, is it any wonder? The lawmakers tell what you can and can not say at work, the lawmakers talk about crimes of hate, the lawmakers make you give them money so they can give old people drugs, social security, etc.

    Is it any wonder we fear terrorism. After years of our press telling us we can't understand anything, and hiding truth in euphamisms, is it any wonder we fear it. After years of making criminals into victims, and terrorists into criminals, is there any wonder why we fear we aren't being told the truth?

    It's odd to me the same group of people worried about call lists in the NSA database are the same ones who create this massive nanny state.
  • by l3v1 (787564) on Friday May 12, 2006 @10:36AM (#15318024)
    Asked 502 people ? And draw conclusions about what the American people think about NSA's activity ? What is that, 1.6e-4 percent ? And half of them support the NSA's actions ?

    This isn't even worth to say anything else about it.

  • Two points (Score:3, Insightful)

    by petrus4 (213815) on Friday May 12, 2006 @10:43AM (#15318104) Homepage Journal
    a) I'm guessing the practical negative implications of this have not yet begun to materialise. Whenever I hear anyone offer the rationale that "only wrongdoers have anything to worry about," I remind the speaker that it's the government that holds the definition of wrongdoing, (in a legal sense) and who can thus change it. Hence, you might be going about your business, doing something which previously wasn't considered wrong at all, and you'll suddenly get a visit from a government worker wanting you to answer some questions. Hold on...You're not doing anything wrong, right? Well, you see sir, there's been this new legislation passed recently...

    b) People obviously must not have much faith in the pre-existing legal framework...either that, or they're entirely willing to ignore it, which is perhaps even more alarming. The point though is that...hasn't anyone stopped to consider that maybe the reason why wiretapping has been completely illegal up to this point is *because* it's so dangerous? Although it hasn't happened recently, there was a time when laws existed for valid reasons. ;-)

    Either way though...this is an indication that things are nicely on track for the expected naked coup de tat/subsequent revolution in 2008. Although it may seem unbelievable, as I said above, the negative ramifications of everything Bush has been doing still haven't entirely registered with a good portion of the population yet...they're still not hurting enough. Eventually that will change, however...and when it does, there's going to be complete chaos.

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