Friday, May 12, 2006

Public concern over the NSA: greater than expected

If you'd asked me what percentage of Americans cared about having the NSA listen in on their phone calls, I'd have guessed less that 20%. So 37% is good news:
Slashdot | Americans Not Bothered by NSA Spying

Snap E Tom writes "According to a Washington Post poll, a majority (63%) of Americans 'said they found the NSA program to be an acceptable way to investigate terrorism.' A slightly higher majority would not be bothered if the NSA collected personal calls that they made. Even though the program has received bi-partisan criticism from Congress, it appears that the public values security over privacy.
Whatever their rhetoric, Americans, like other humans, greatly value security over privacy. Alas, they don't realize that privacy is not the only thing they'll lose. They will also lose freedom, justice, and, ironically, security.

As long as the punishments for failing to stop an attack are high, and the punishments for false action are relatively low, humans will choose false action -- false accusation, false blacklists, false punishment.

It would be inhuman for a government, unrestrained by law, not to abuse its powers. Our government is manifestly human, and it will abuse this power as surely as night follows day. The most dangerous and terrible illusion we can have is to imagine we are "better" than those who've come before us. We are as they were, we need the safeguards that evolved to protect citizens from government as well as from each other.

Is there reason for optimism? Yes. The number that are concerned about the NSA's actions is higher than I'd have expected at this point in our history.

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