Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

This Is Somewhat Interesting

A majority of Americans (56%) think what the NSA is doing is appropriate, 41% find it unacceptable.  In fact, 45% think the government should go further.

Now, polls - as Mitt Romney can attest - are tricky things, and I wouldn't put too much credence into one poll.  But if this is consistent, it does raise some interesting questions.

Critics of the NSA program have rightly targeted the lack of transparency in these programs.  And certainly everyone is waiting for another shoe to drop.  But very few people if any have said that this program is illegal.  Instead, they have raised issues of constitutionality and transparency.  Needless to say, the NSA is not the EPA or OSHA, they can't be transparent all the time, but they can report to Congress.  There is some question as whether they have done a good enough job doing that, but ultimately, these practices can only be curtailed through Congress or the Courts.  The national security apparatus is not going to walk away from these powers because Glenn Greenwald has a sad.

But if the public is willing to trade some liberty for some safety, then Congress simply isn't going to move on this.  Witness the spectacle of cowardice involving the closing of Gitmo.  The risk of moving the detainees from Gitmo to a Supermax in the US is close to zero.  But 99 Senators voted against it, including Bernie Sanders and Russ Feingold.  If the public's position is "keep us safe" and we're willing to tolerate the collection of phone records and peeking into international emails, then lawmakers aren't going to touch this with a ten foot microphone (except Rand Paul, who has another agenda).

It would be nice to see some sort of firewall put in place between what the NSA is doing and any non-lethal crimes committed here in the US.  I have no idea if that exists, but the rules of a FISA court are different than those of a civil court and the FBI shouldn't be able to use the NSA database to target pot dealers.

So while there are certainly concerns about what we don't know, looking at what we know the public's response has been "meh".

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