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Views on NSA Surveillance Shift in U.S.

Angus Reid Global Scan | September 5 2006

More Americans think their federal administration should be able to use wiretaps to listen to telephone calls and read e-mails between suspected terrorists in other countries and people in the United States without a court order, according to a poll by the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. 51 per cent of respondents agree with the surveillance program, up nine points since March.

Last December, U.S. president George W. Bush defended a secret domestic electronic surveillance program that includes the wiretapping of the telephone calls and e-mails of Americans suspected of having terrorist ties. The president’s remarks came in response to media reports that, since 2002, Bush has authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to operate this program without any judicial oversight.

In May, USA Today reported that the NSA program includes a database with tens of millions of phone call records. Bush defended the activities, saying, "We’re not mining or trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans. Our efforts are focused on links to al-Qaeda and their known affiliates. So far we’ve been very successful in preventing another attack on our soil."

On Aug. 17, U.S. District Court judge Anna Diggs Taylor ruled that the secret domestic electronic surveillance program violates both a 1978 law—which requires warrants from a secret court for intelligence wiretaps involving people in the U.S.—and the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

On Aug. 28, U.S. vice-president Dick Cheney predicted that the ruling would be reversed, adding, "It’s hard to think of any category of information that would be more important to the safety and security of the United States."

Polling Data

President George W. Bush says the government can use wiretaps to listen to telephone calls and read e-mails between suspected terrorists in other countries and some people in the United States without a court order. Others say such wiretaps require a court order. Which comes closer to your view?

Aug. 2006
Mar. 2006

Without court order
51%
42%

Court order required
47%
55%

Not sure
2%
4%

Source: Quinnipiac University Polling Institute
Methodology: Telephone interviews with 1,080 registered American voters, conducted from Aug. 17 to Aug. 23, 2006. Margin of error is 3 per cent.

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