Survey Says: Let's Swap Freedom for Safety (Or Illusion of Same)


Update: For an earlier and more extensive discussion of this very poll, go to Dave Weigel's post here.

According to a new Wash Post/ABC News poll, about two-thirds of Americans agree that it "is more important right now…for the federal government to investigate possible terrorist threats, even if that intrudes on personal privacy"… than for the goverment "for the federal government not to intrude on personal privacy, even if that limits its ability to investigate possible terrorist threats."

The good news: Back in June 2002, almost 80 percent of Americans felt that way. So the percentage is receding as time goes on.

The bad news: Sixty-three percent don't have a problem with the NSA phone surveillance program. And 66 percent wouldn't be bothered to learn that the NSA has recorded their calls. Because, of course, as with all other goverment programs, this one will stay narrowly focused on its stated goal and not expand in other ways and directions (such as, say, to drug interdiction, because we know terrorism is really a front for drug trafficking, right?).

Poll results here.

And let's not automatically buy in to the embedded equation in the first poll question listed above: that somehow rule-of-law procedures keep the government from being able to get the bad guys. If the Moussaoui trial should have taught us anything, it was that the FBI and other elements of the U.S. law enforcement industry had what they needed to stop the 9/11 attacks. As Jeff A. Taylor wrote, it wasn't procedural roadblocks that let the killers pull off mass murder, but something far less sexy: "Dull, common, gross incompetence is again at the heart of a deadly government cluster-hump." Read "How the FBI Let 9/11 Happen" here.