America Is Split by the NSA, but Not Along the Usual Partisan Lines

Protestors gathered at in San Francisco on July 4. Protestors gathered at in San Francisco on July 4. Flickr user ari

Something strangely refreshing about the way the National Security Agency data-mining revelations have played out is how it has blurred the usual partisan divides. This was especially apparent Wednesday, when the House voted on an amendment to defund the NSA's spying apparatus. It was Republican-led, but backed by some Democrats. A strange grouping—including the White House; Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.; and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.—all spoke out against the measure. It lost by a slim margin, 205-217 (94 Republicans and 111 Democrats backed the amendment).

That partisan fuzziness on the Hill is also reflected in the general population, as new polling from Pew indicates. Both parties are split on the issue: 50 percent of Republicans disapprove of the program, agreeing with 36 percent of Democrats and 48 percent of independents. What appears to be growing overall is a libertarian mindset on the issue. "This is the first time in Pew Research polling that more have expressed concern over civil liberties than protection from terrorism since the question was first asked in 2004," the report states. Since 2010, the percent of Republicans who feel the government has gone "too far" in restricting civil liberties jumped from 25 percent to 43 percent (Democrats jumped as well, from 33 percent to 42 percent.) The polling also is indicative of a growing intellectual riff in the Republican Party between libertarians and traditional conservatives. And New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie isn't a fan, saying on Thursday, "This strain of libertarianism that's going through parties right now and making big headlines I think is a very dangerous thought." Christie specifically mentioned Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.,  as one of the people with such thoughts. "Do we have amnesia? Because I don't," he continued. "And I remember what we felt like on September 12, 2001."

Another thing the Pew poll captures: paranoia. From the survey of 1,480 adults, we learn that:

  • 27 percent believe that the government has been listening to their phone calls and reading their online correspondence, which is something the president has stressed doesn't happen without a FISA court order.

  • But more striking is a full 70 percent of respondents don't believe that this is all in the name of preventing terrorism, saying that the government "uses this data for purposes other than investigating terrorism"—including 2 percent of respondents who think the government is selling the data for marketing purposes.

(Image via Flickr user ari)

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.