On Wednesday, the Obama administration released several newly declassified intelligence documents in a damage control attempt over the growing NSA snooping scandal. On the same day, the Guardian reported on the NSA tool XKeyscore, which can track everything people do online, including emails, Facebook activity, online chats and browser histories. The White House just can’t keep ahead of the bad news.
The administration maintains that these programs are necessary for the fight against terrorism, but the American people are not convinced. A new survey released by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press finds that 56% of Americans believe that “federal courts fail to provide adequate limits on the telephone and internet data the government is collecting as part of its anti-terrorism efforts.” And for the first time in the 10 year history of this poll, more people (47%) say the government has gone too far in restricting civil liberties than those who say it has not gone far enough to protect the country (35%).
This decisive change in attitude crosses the political spectrum. Republicans, Democrats and Independents have all seen double-digit shifts towards concern for liberty over security between October 2010 and July 2013. The shift is most pronounced among Tea Party members; in 2010 only a fifth of them believed the government had gone too far in restricting liberties, while 63% believed it should do more. In the new survey, the number of Tea Partiers concerned with government intrusion jumped to 55%, while those saying the state should keep ramping things up dropped more than half. The only group that showed no significant change in attitude was moderate to conservative Democrats, though the more interesting question is how the Pew Center located any members of this nearly extinct species.