New poll finds support for warrantless wiretaps

The usual suspects will spin this into a negative for Bush but a new NYT/CBS News poll shows 53% of Americans support warrantless wiretaps when used to fight terrorism:

Americans are willing to tolerate eavesdropping without warrants to fight terrorism, but are concerned that the aggressive antiterrorism programs championed by the Bush administration are encroaching on civil liberties, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

In a sign that public opinion about the trade-offs between national security and individual rights is nuanced and remains highly unresolved, responses to questions about the administration’s eavesdropping program varied significantly depending on how the questions were worded, underlining the importance of the effort by the White House this week to define the issue on its terms.

The poll, conducted as President Bush defended his surveillance program in the face of criticism from Democrats and some Republicans that it is illegal, found that Americans were willing to give the administration some latitude for its surveillance program if they believed it was intended to protect them. Fifty-three percent of the respondents said they supported eavesdropping without warrants “in order to reduce the threat of terrorism.”

The results suggest that Americans’ view of the program depends in large part on whether they perceive it as a bulwark in the fight against terrorism, as Mr. Bush has sought to cast it, or as an unnecessary and unwarranted infringement on civil liberties, as critics have said.

In one striking finding, respondents overwhelmingly supported e-mail and telephone monitoring directed at “Americans that the government is suspicious of;” they overwhelmingly opposed the same kind of surveillance if it was aimed at “ordinary Americans.”

I’m sure the results of this poll alarmed the editorial staff at the NYT, who recently pushed forth the belief that the NSA wiretapping “scandal” was worse than the WWII Japanese internment camps. I’m sure the rest of the war underminers won’t be pleased to hear this, either, because if the President and his administration continue to stay on the offensive with respect to this issue, it’ll be a ‘dog that won’t hunt’ in the coming elections. Which is what all this is about to them, anyway – not ‘national security’, as they want you to believe.

Related Toldjah So posts on the NSA wiretapping “scandal”:

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