Americans Are Okay with Government Violating 4th Amendment Rights

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Photo: You’re not paranoid, they are watching you

Americans believe it is acceptable for the government to get secret court orders to track phone calls of any and all Americans to investigate terrorism by a margin of 56%. It is okay if the government listens in on American’s phone calls and reads their e-mails if the government “suspects” there is a threat according to 51%. Secret court orders are okay say 56%. The government should be able to monitor everyone’s every Internet communication if the government perceives it will keep us safe say 45% of us.

These results come from a Pew poll conducted with the Washington Post June 6 – 9. The latest revelations about government snooping has had no effect on public opinion. The public is willing to give up their privacy rights for whatever promises of security the government offers.

Chances are many don’t understand how much information one can obtain about us through phone records since 56% of Americans have no problem with the government spying on everyone’s phone records. It’s hard to believe that well-informed people wouldn’t see the need for more transparency on this issue.

The public’s views on this are largely unchanged since the 9/11/01 terror attack.

Metadata from phone records can track a person’s every move. In fact, Internet providers monitor you regularly for advertising purposes with great success. If you plug your smart phone into a jack at night, it can watch you.

It is likely that people are ignorant of the fact that the FISA court has approved almost every request by the federal government to spy on people because 56% say it is acceptable that the NSA “has been getting secret court orders to track telephone calls of millions of Americans in an effort to investigate terrorism.”

It is more important for the federal government to investigate possible terrorist threats, even if that intrudes on personal privacy according to 62% of respondents. The breakdown is: 62% Democrats, 62% Republicans, 59% Independents support the concept.

It is acceptable for the NSA to investigate “people suspected of involvement with terrorism by secretly listening in on telephone calls and reading e-mails between some people in the United States and other countries, without first getting court approval to do so.” That is according to 51% of respondents to the survey.

This is a partisan issue. In January 2006, Republicans approved by 75% but that is down to 52% today. Democrats in January 2006 approved by 36% and that is up to 61%.

Democrats are okay with snooping as long as the Republicans and Conservatives are the targets. Republicans appear to be a bit better on the issue.

The public is divided over the government’s monitoring of internet activity in order to prevent possible terrorism: 45% say the government should be able to “monitor everyone’s email and other online activities if officials say this might prevent future terrorist attacks.” About as many (52%) say the government should not able to do this. These views are very close to those held in 2002.

Think about this: 45% want to give the government unrestrained access to every American’s communications on the Internet.

Younger Americans are more likely than older age groups to prioritize protecting personal privacy over terrorism investigations.

Only one in four are actually following the NSA news closely. The majority of those following the NSA results closely disagree with the program.

People want to feel safe, they want to trust their government, and the idea of snooping seems remote until you or someone you know becomes the victim.

Americans are putting the Constitution and the rule of law well behind government rule and it will be the death of the Republic, if we can even call ourselves a Republic any longer.

Read the research results at Pew Research

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