Most Americans Are OK With the NSA Collecting Phone Records

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
June 10 2013 5:36 PM

Most Americans Are OK With the NSA Collecting Phone Records

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A new National Security Agency (NSA) data center is seen June 10, 2013 in Bluffdale, Utah. The center, a large data farm that is set to open in the fall of 2013, will be the largest of several interconnected NSA data centers spread throughout the country.

Photo by George Frey/Getty Images

The Washington Post and Pew bring us our first relevant polling data since the NSA sprung a leak the size of a 29-year-old technology contractor. The big takeaway: There's a sizeable chunk of the nation who actually wants the NSA and the rest of the intelligence community to do even more than we learned last week that it is. WaPo with the topline numbers:

Fully 45 percent of all Americans say the government should be able to go further than it is now asserting: that it should be able to monitor everyone’s online activity if this would prevent future terrorist attacks. A slender majority, 52 percent, say no such broad-based monitoring should occur. ... Overall, 56 percent of all Americans see the NSA’s accessing telephone call records of millions of Americans through secret court orders as “acceptable;” 41 percent call the practice “unacceptable.”
In 2006, when news broke of the NSA’s monitoring telephone and e-mail communications without court approval, there was initially a closer 51 percent to 47 percent divide on the practice. General priorities also are similar to 2006: 62 percent of Americans now say it’s more important for the federal government to investigate terrorist threats, even if those investigations intrude on personal privacy; 34 percent say privacy should be the focus, regardless of the effect on such investigations.
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Of course, it's impossible to say how Americans feel about the most aggressive surveillance currently being carried out by the government because no one without top-secret clearance knows exactly how far the NSA has gone in its national-security efforts. You can read the poll's full results here.

Read more on Slate about the NSA’s secret snooping programs, and follow @JoshVoorhees and the rest of the @slatest team on Twitter.

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City.