Ahead of a scheduled presidential announcement on NSA practices, fears are growing that Barack Obama will allow the agency to retain its bulk databases on U.S. phone call information despite polls showing substantial public support for restriction.
A poll by the Anzalone Liszt Grove Research firm, released Thursday, finds 59% of Americans oppose keeping the NSA’s widespread collection of data unchanged. Twenty-six percent of respondents “strongly” oppose keeping NSA current surveillance in place.
A majority of respondents, 57%, say they have “not much” confidence in the government’s ability to prevent abuse of the NSA’s troves of US phone records. Similarly, 58% doubt that the government can keep the data safe from hackers.
That scepticism of the NSA echoes concern voiced earlier this week by Geoffrey Stone, a law professor and member of Obama’s surveillance review panel, which recommended taking the bulk collection out of the hands of the NSA. “Government can do far more harm if it abuses information it has than private entities can,” Stone told the Senate judiciary committee on Tuesday.
The findings also come the day before President Obama is set to deliver a major speech outlining his perspectives on the proper scope of NSA data collection. Civil libertarians, once hopeful that Obama would end the bulk collection of all records of calls made in the United States, are bracing for disappointment after a New York Times report suggested Obama would allow the NSA to maintain its sweeping databases when he makes his speech on Friday.
But congressional critics are already gearing up for a fight to end the bulk collection legislatively, preparing to fight a president who had yet to clearly indicate which side of the argument he would pick.