A new and comprehensive poll by respected US think-tank organization Pew Research was released over the weekend, which shows that public opinion is shifting heavily away from support for the sort of heavy handed security and blanket surveillance measures used by the United States National Security Organization, that were exposed by whistleblower Edward Snowden.
For the first time since the Patriot Act was rushed into legislation following 9/11, a large percentage of Americans (47%) ‘say their greater concern about government anti-terrorism policies is that they have gone too far in restricting the average person’s civil liberties’, with 44 per cent saying they disapproved of the NSA’s PRISM program.
Other interesting findings include that 70% of Americans believe ‘the government uses this data for purposes other than investigating terrorism’, that ‘63% think the government is also gathering information about the content of communications’ and that ‘a majority of Americans – 56% – say that federal courts fail to provide adequate limits on the telephone and internet data the government is collecting as part of its anti-terrorism efforts.’
Unfortunately, a slim majority of US citizens support the NSA surveillance program, but this poll shows sharp divisions in the way that Americans view the current situation, as well as exposing a dramatic shift of opinions since the recent scandal hit the headlines.
An interesting element of this shift in public opinions is the rather unlikely alliance between the heavily right-leaning Tea Party, and liberal minded Democrats: an alliance that was given tangible form last week when the House of Congress defied the White House and voted on an amendment sponsored by Tea Candidate Justin Amish, which sought to end funding of the PRISM program.
Although the amendment was defeated, it was only by 12 votes – a shockingly close call when you consider how radical the move to de-fund a major government program is, and despite being defeated, many are seeing the vote symptomatic of a sea-shift how domestic bulk spying is viewed.
We can only hope so, and in the meantime recommend that internet users everywhere take robust measures to protect their privacy and make the job of the NSA as hard as possible.