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Most Americans want NSA powers restricted – poll

Published time: January 17, 2014 11:55

A demonstarator holds up a sign at the "Stop Watching Us: A Rally Against Mass Surveillance" march near the U.S. Capitol in Washington, October 26, 2013.(Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

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The majority of Americans oppose keeping the NSA’s current surveillance programs the way they are, with 57 percent of respondents in a new poll saying they have “no confidence” that the government won’t abuse the collected data.

In the poll, published by Anzalone Liszt Grove Research on Thursday, 59 percent of respondents also said they totally opposed keeping the federal government's current surveillance programs in place without any changes, while nearly three-quarters support the creation of an independent advocate to help protect the public’s privacy. Almost two-thirds (63 percent) said that more oversight is needed over the federal government’s surveillance programs.


The poll, which questioned 803 adults in November on what they thought about the bulk collection of data, summed up its findings in a report entitled: “Americans Strongly Support Reining in NSA Surveillance Programs.

The biggest concern the NSA leaks have caused among the public is that their personal data is easily accessible to government workers. Seventy percent of respondents found it “very concerning” that the NSA workers or contractors had access to their personal financial information and their emails.

The anti-NSA feelings are, according to survey, even stronger in among younger people, who appear to be particularly sensitive to possible privacy violations.

Americans under 50 are even more opposed to maintaining the status quo when it comes to the NSA’s surveillance programs (63 percent oppose) than those over 50 (54 percent oppose),” the pollster said in a statement.

The poll results were published a day before President Barack Obama was due to make a speech Friday in which he is expected to announce changes to some of the surveillance programs operated by the NSA.

Jesselyn Radack, a campaigner for government accountability, said she does not believe that the anticipated changes will make a big difference.

So far what has been telecast through government leaks look a lot like cosmetic changes. In other words, it does not appear that the president will be reining in the largest controversy which is probably the bulk collection of American data, nor will he be adopting any recommendation to house and store that data in for example a telephone company, rather than by the National Security Agency,” Radack told RT.

US Democratic Congressman Rush Holt is more optimistic though – he told RT about a bill that he proposed for capping the NSA spying.

[The bill] does several things. It grants whistleblower protection to members of the intelligence community. It would prevent the NSA or any similar agency from installing back doors to hardware or software. The bill would also remove the justification the NSA has invoked for seizing the metadata of virtually everyone, saying “we will treat it with care, we won’t abuse people’s civil liberties unless we suspect them. We don’t want those who do the surveillance be the very same ones who decide who the bad guys are.”

A presidential taskforce that had been reviewing intelligence-gathering in the wake of Edward Snowden’s leaks on bulk surveillance released a report in December, recommending that President Obama consider 46 changes changing the way the NSA and other US intelligence services operate.

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