Menu
Survey finds most US residents want changes to Patriot Act surveillance

Survey finds most US residents want changes to Patriot Act surveillance

An ACLU study concluded there's broad concern about government surveillance among U.S. residents

The U.S. National Security Agency's headquarters are at Fort Meade in Maryland.

The U.S. National Security Agency's headquarters are at Fort Meade in Maryland.

U.S. residents have major problems with government surveillance, and six in 10 want to see the records collection provisions of the Patriot Act modified before Congress extends it, according to a survey commissioned by a civil rights group.

Just 34 percent of survey respondents said they'd like to see the Patriot Act preserved as a way to keep the U.S. safe from terrorists, according to the survey commissioned by the American Civil Liberties Union. Sixty percent either strongly or somewhat agreed with a statement saying Congress should modify the Patriot Act to "limit government surveillance and protect Americans' privacy."

The section of the Patriot Act that the National Security Agency has used to collect U.S. telephone records in bulk expires on June 1. Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to limit the scope of the NSA's phone and business records collection inside the U.S., but Republican leaders in the Senate are pushing to extend the surveillance law without any changes. Some civil liberties groups have criticized the USA Freedom Act as too weak, with the ACLU calling it "modest" reform.

Support for amending the Patriot Act cut across party lines and age groups. Fifty-eight percent of Democrats, 59 percent of Republicans, and 71 percent of independent voters expressed support for changes to the law. Changes in the Patriot Act have strong support across the political spectrum, and politicians should take notice, said

Neema Singh Guliani, the ACLU's legislative counsel.

There's a "large divide" in Congress about whether to modify, kill, or renew the Patriot Act without changes, Guliani said. The polling numbers show "how disconnected members of Congress are from the feelings of a lot of the public," she said.

Another 82 percent of the 1,001 likely voters in the survey said they were extremely, very or somewhat concerned that the U.S. government is collecting "personal information" like phone records, emails and bank statements. Section 215 of the Patriot Act allows the NSA to collect any U.S. business records relevant to an antiterrorism investigation.

The survey went beyond the current Patriot Act debate and asked questions about other surveillance programs, including the NSA's surveillance of overseas email and other electronic communications. Tens of thousands of U.S. residents' communications are swept up in that program every year, according to some lawmakers, and the FBI can search the content of those U.S. communications.

Seventy-nine percent of respondents said they found an argument for more privacy protections very or somewhat convincing because the government reportedly has access to personal conversations between husbands and wives, doctors and patients and pastors and congregants. "The government has no business interfering in these relationships," reads the statement that most people found convincing.

"There was real concern about what the government was accessing in your personal life," said Greg Strimple, pollster with G² Public Strategies, one of the firms that conducted the survey.

Another 83 percent found it extremely, very or somewhat concerning that the government has access to any of their personal communications without a judge's permission. The same number found it concerning that the government uses information collected without a warrant for things other than stopping terrorist attacks.

The U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence didn't immediately respond to a request for a comment on the survey.

The survey, conducted between April 6 and 12 by the Democratic Global Strategy Group and the Republican-aligned G², has a margin of error of 3.1 percent.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is grant_gross@idg.com.

Follow Us

Join the New Zealand Reseller News newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags American Civil Liberties UnionNeema Singh GulianiG² Public StrategiessecurityGreg StrimpleU.S. National Security AgencyGlobal Strategy Groupgovernmentprivacy

Slideshows

Top 50 defining moments of the New Zealand channel in 2016

Top 50 defining moments of the New Zealand channel in 2016

Reseller News looks back on a tumultuous 12 months for the New Zealand channel, assessing the fallout from a year of sizeable industry change. Whether it be local or global mergers and acquisitions, distribution deals or job changes, the channel that started the year differs somewhat to the one set to finish it - Reseller News assesses the key moments that made 2016.​

Top 50 defining moments of the New Zealand channel in 2016
​Hewlett Packard Enterprise honours high achieving NZ channel

​Hewlett Packard Enterprise honours high achieving NZ channel

Hewlett Packard Enterprise honoured its top performing Kiwi partners at the second running of its HPE Partner Awards in New Zealand, held at a glitzy ceremony in Auckland. Recognising excellence across eight categories - from distributors to resellers - the tech giant celebrated its first year as a standalone company, following its official split from HP in 2015.

​Hewlett Packard Enterprise honours high achieving NZ channel
Nutanix treats channel partners to Christmas cruise

Nutanix treats channel partners to Christmas cruise

Nutanix recently took to the seas for a Christmas Cruise around Sydney Harbour with its Australia and New Zealand staff, customers and partners to celebrate a stellar year for the vendor. With the sun out, they were all smiles and mingled over drinks and food.

Nutanix treats channel partners to Christmas cruise
Show Comments