Washington: Majority of Americans seem to back Obama administration's controversial secret surveillance programme to facilitate terrorism investigations even if personal privacy is compromised, according to a new survey.
A solid 62 per cent Americans said the federal government's investigations for possible terrorist threats were more important, even if that intrudes on personal privacy, the national survey released on Monday by the Pew Research Centre and the Washington Post found.
A majority 56 per cent find the National Security Agency's access to telephone call records to uncover terrorist activity "acceptable" vis-a-vis 41 per cent who said it was "not acceptable". Of them, 30 per cent found it 'strongly' acceptable while 26 per cent found it 'somewhat' acceptable, according to the survey conducted Thursday through Sunday among a random national sample of 1,004 adults.
While 45 per cent of all Americans say the government should be able to go further than it is, saying that it should be able to monitor everyone's online activity if doing so would prevent terrorist attacks, a slim majority, 52 per cent, said "no" to such sweeping measures.
Results from the full poll have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. These numbers are relatively unchanged from a similar question asked in July 2002, months after the September 11 terrorist attacks in the US.
In 2006, when news broke of the NSA's monitoring of telephone and e-mail communications without court approval, there was a closer divide on the practice - 51 per cent to 47 per cent. The survey findings come amid reports appearing in several media outlets - The Washington Post and Guardian - that the US intelligence agencies have been secretly taking information on foreigners overseas for years from companies like Google, Facebook and Apple in search of security threats.
US President Barack Obama strongly defended the secret surveillance, saying it has helped prevent terrorist attacks but assured people that nobody was listening to their calls. Top US officials - National Intelligence Director James Clapper as well as White House Press Secretary Jay Carney - too defended the programme, saying that it is important to keep a track of the foreign activities and that such efforts helped them to abort several terrorist attacks and nab terrorists like David Headley, the 26/11 Mumbai attacks convict.
Clapper has referred the matter to the Justice Department which has launched an investigation. Meanwhile, US lawmakers demanded immediate extradition of the 29-year-old contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden from Hong Kong over the sensational leaking.