Bipartisan opposition to US government spying grows – poll

Lazy eyes listen


According to an AP-NORC poll released on Thursday, for the first time in over a decade, less than half of Americans (48%), say it is sometimes necessary to give up freedom to the government in exchange for security from terrorists.

Half of the 1,081 respondents in the poll responded that relinquishing one’s rights was never essential for security. When the pollster asked the identical questions in 2011, over two-thirds (64%) agreed that they might have to give up their liberty in order to fight terrorism, with one-third disagreeing.

The decline in trust in US intelligence services and their leaders looked to be a major factor in the move. Only 18% of poll respondents said they had “a great deal of confidence” in intelligence chiefs, and while 49% had “some” confidence, nearly a third (31%) had none.

Republicans had the greatest drop, with only 44% supporting trading liberty for security, compared to 55% of Democrats and 42% of independents. In 2011, 69% of Republicans prioritised security before liberty.

A growing realisation that Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), while clearly meant to spy on foreign targets, is also utilised to surveil millions of Americans has accompanied the erosion in trust. The controversial loophole allows US intelligence to wiretap any American who contacts a foreign target without a warrant. Even several Republicans and Democrats in Congress have come out against this very unpopular proposal.

The fact that the FBI unlawfully acquired FISA warrants to eavesdrop on former President Donald Trump during his 2016 campaign has only increased some Republicans’ opposition to the system.

When asked about numerous sorts of unwarranted wiretapping, 67% of poll respondents regarded eavesdropping on domestic phone calls to be the most unpleasant method. While 62% said reading domestic emails was unethical, three out of five respondents thought monitoring domestic text messaging was unethical as well.

Even in instances involving reading emails of foreign origin and listening to phone calls from outside the US, a plurality rejected government eavesdropping, with only 28% believing warrantless wiretapping was acceptable in either case. Monitoring internet searches for “suspicious activity” received greater approval, with 30% in favour, and more condemnation, with 48% opposed.

The Biden administration has encouraged Congress to reauthorize Section 702, which is set to expire at the end of the year unless Congress acts. Despite claiming that the controversial programme is critical to combating terrorism abroad, intelligence officials refused to share specifics on how they use it earlier this year, instead simply informing lawmakers that every court that has examined the FISA provision has “found it to be constitutional.”