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Americans Reject Phone, E-Mail Surveillance

Angus Reid Global Scan | September 10 2006

Many adults in the United States are not willing to allow government agencies to regularly monitor their telephone calls and e-mails, according to a poll by CBS News. 59 per cent of respondents reject the idea.

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." 68 per cent of respondents think Americans will have to give up some of their personal freedoms in order to make the country safe from terrorist attacks.

Last week, U.S. District judge Garr M. King became the third magistrate to rule against the dismissal of a lawsuit challenging the NSA program. King said the federal government has revealed "enough information publicly" about the case to allow the plaintiffs to go forward.

Polling Data

In order to reduce the threat of terrorism, would you be willing or not willing to allow government agencies to monitor the telephone calls and e-mails of ordinary Americans on a regular basis?

Aug. 2006
May 2006

Willing
38%
30%

Not willing
59%
68%

Not sure
3%
2%


Do you think Americans will have to give up some of their personal freedoms in order to make the country safe from terrorist attacks, or not?

Aug. 2006
Jan. 2006

Yes
68%
65%

No
29%
31%

Not sure
3%
3%


Source: CBS News
Methodology: Telephone interviews with 1,206 American adults, conducted from Aug. 17 to Aug. 21, 2006. Margin of error is 4 per cent.

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