How do Americans feel about NSA surveillance? Ambivalent
When terrorists strike, intelligence agencies are faulted for failure to 'connect the dots.' If that's what the NSA is trying to do with its mass surveillance of phone records and Internet use, how do Americans feel about that?
Every time foreign-influenced attackers successfully strike the United States – the mass shooting at Ft. Hood, the Boston Marathon bombing – government agencies are faulted for failure to “connect the dots.”Skip to next paragraph
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Why weren’t US Army Maj. Nidal Hasan’s e-mail contacts with radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki (the American-born imam later killed in a US drone attack in Yemen) seen as reason enough to possibly head off Hasan’s killing 13 people at the Army post in Texas?
Why weren’t the Tsarnaev brothers’ possible links to radical Islam – including older brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s six-month trip to Russia, where he spent considerable time in the Islamic republics of Chechnya and Dagestan – enough to tip off the FBI to investigate further? Shortly after that trip, Tamerlan began posting YouTube videos exhorting jihad.
RECOMMENDED: Quiz: How much do you know about terrorism?
Connecting the dots is exactly what the National Security Agency says it’s trying to do with the now-revealed programs vacuuming up billions of bits of “meta-data” on telephone calls and Internet use.
How do Americans feel about this?
With the latest revelations just days – in some cases, hours – old, it’s too soon to know for sure.
But since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the public has been generally supportive of national security efforts – sometimes finding those more important than any concern about privacy and other things dear to civil liberties advocates.
“Voters give government leeway to snoop” reads the headline on James Hohmann’s piece on Politico.com.
“Privacy is sort of like the deficit: In the abstract, voters rate it a serious concern,” Mr. Hohmann writes. “But drill down, and they don’t want to cut the entitlements that balloon federal spending – or end programs that have prevented terrorist attacks. Especially if Americans don’t believe their own computers and phones are being monitored, they are willing to give the government a long leash.”