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Americans Don't Care About Domestic Spying ? 485

Posted by Zonk
from the you're-blocking-the-view-of-the-big-game dept.
S1mmo+61 writes "Salon is analyzing a Time Magazine article today, a piece that essentially claims Americans do not care about the domestic spying. The analysis of the Time magazine piece (which is longer than the article itself) is interesting, if only as a quick history of domestic spying in the last eight years. 'Time claims that "nobody cares" about the Government's increased spying powers and that "polling consistently supports that conclusion." They don't cite a single poll because that assertion is blatantly false. Just this weekend, a new poll released by Scripps Howard News Service and Ohio University proves that exactly the opposite is true. That poll shows that the percentage of Americans who believe the Federal Government is "very secretive" has doubled in the last two years alone (to 44%)'"
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Americans Don't Care About Domestic Spying ?

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  • by rahmrh (939610) on Tuesday March 18, 2008 @08:50AM (#22782046)
    If you want a certain answer on a poll, if you ask the question in the correct way, you can usually get the answer that you want. Like: Does it bother you that the US govt increased domestic spying to keep you safe from the terrorists? Rather than: Does it bother you that the US govt increased domestic spying is keeping track of everything that you do? The first one will get a more positive answer against domestic spying than the second one, and I would bet the polls questions being used are heavily loaded to get the answer the poll taker wants.
  • Americans DO care (Score:5, Informative)

    by BirdDoggy (886894) on Tuesday March 18, 2008 @08:54AM (#22782078)
    I've posted this before, but here's a survey that shows Americans are against Warrantless Wiretaps, Blanket Warrants, And Immunity For
    Telecom Companies. [] []
  • by TripMaster Monkey (862126) on Tuesday March 18, 2008 @08:57AM (#22782102)
    "Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it." -- (Don't remember who said it).

    That was George Santayana [].

    It's called propaganda, folks. "Tell a lie long and enough and loud enough and sooner or later people will believe you." -- P.T. Barnum, I think.

    Actually, that was Joseph Goebbels [].
  • by taskiss (94652) on Tuesday March 18, 2008 @09:09AM (#22782222)
    There hasn't been any indications that information gained by illegal surveillance has been used in an attempt to prosecute someone. Without that, any claim of illegal surveillance fails to incite anyone. As a matter of fact, using illegally obtained evidence is specifically prohibited from being used, so our rights are preserved.

    Just because a tree COULD fall in the woods doesn't mean folks should go around holding their hands over their ears to prevent themselves from hearing it.

    Can you hear me now?
  • by Hoplite3 (671379) on Tuesday March 18, 2008 @09:11AM (#22782236)
    I find Massimo Calabresi's article to be odious in the extreme. Suppose that his assertion was true, that nobody cared, would it then be okay for illegal domestic spying to occur? That seems to be his unwritten position, and I find that to be disgusting logic. There are numerous examples throughout history of the dangers posed by unregulated spying, some of them (like those uncovered by the Church Commission) right here at home.

    I mostly liked Greenwald's response, but he does seem to tilt slightly by Calabresi's points. I think that will make it difficult for his article to be persuasive to those not already persuaded. However, he does link this excellent piece in the LA Times:,0,4039194.story []

    That might be more approachable to most.

    I'd also like to add a bit of insight from Molly Ivins, paraphrased. She said that moderates sometimes fret that when they give the government increased spying powers that they'll end up spying on the girl scouts. But this is wrong: they don't end up spying on the girl scouts, they don't end up making a mistake, they ALREADY ARE. Gotta keep tabs on those nonviolent Quakers, etc. It's not "what if" the government abuses its authority, it's by how much.
  • by sm62704 (957197) on Tuesday March 18, 2008 @09:16AM (#22782300) Journal
    Talk to most people about domestic spying or the abuses of the Patriot Act, and they say something like, "Well, if you're not doing something bad, who cares if the government is watching?"

    Not in the bars I drink at!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 18, 2008 @09:45AM (#22782546)
    A year or so ago, Daniel J Solove, a professor of Law at George Washington University Law School, wrote this interesting essay entitled 'I've Got Nothing to Hide' and Other Misunderstandings of Privacy [].

    I highly recommend a read through it, he explains why people have so much trouble understanding what privacy is, why it is important, and what the real tradeoffs are when trying to balance the benefit of some new proposed security measures against the privacy harms they will inflict.

    (If you scroll down to the "Chicago GSB" download link, it should let you download the .pdf with no registration required)

  • Re:Editor Bias (Score:3, Informative)

    by squiggleslash (241428) on Tuesday March 18, 2008 @10:04AM (#22782736) Homepage Journal

    You are being left to make up your own mind on the validity of the assertion. The statement - that the assertion is blatantly false - is a matter of fact, and it is correct journalism to report facts, especially if the story is that someone is lying.

    There is no brainwashing going on. Slashdot is not inserting thoughts into your head via telepathy or any other suitable technology. You are being presented with facts about Time being, yet again, a bunch of spineless liars who mindlessly repeat Beltway talking points in order to appear "mainstream". You can make up your mind at any level, from determining that Time isn't a spineless beltway puppet despite the evidence to the contrary, to simple disbelief of the evidence if you're so inclined.

  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Tuesday March 18, 2008 @10:21AM (#22782918) Homepage Journal
    TimeWarner owns _Time_ magazine and one of the biggest broadband networks, that carries millions of Americans' Internet, TV and also telephone. Of course its political propaganda magazine is going to lie about those Americans not caring that TimeWarner is spying on them without legal entitlement.

    All this handwaving by Bush, his Republican Congressional minority (that was the majority that successfully hid these crimes for years of their joint reign), and the media corporations that all colluded to criminally spy on us are just more proof that they're guilty of those massive crimes. They're not covered by the existing laws that would have given them immunity from liability, if only they had even the slightest respect for the law. Instead they just did whatever they wanted, for the money and power it brings. And they plan to invade privacy as a top priority [] , which they've planned for quite a while [].

    Of course the corporations spying on you will lie to you about whether you care that they're spying on you. It's up to you: if you don't care that they're also lying to you about it to protect their own ass (and their ongoing, expanding criminal enterprise), then it's your fault, too.
  • Re:Is it just me... (Score:2, Informative)

    by jaywee (542660) on Tuesday March 18, 2008 @10:38AM (#22783062)
    Just one great example Opinion Polls: Getting the results you want [] from the magnificent british show "Yes, Prime Minister"
  • Re:Statistics (Score:3, Informative)

    by gnick (1211984) on Tuesday March 18, 2008 @10:49AM (#22783194) Homepage

    And I'm sure American Slashdotters is a statistically valid subset of the American people, right?
    Absolutely. Greater than 1e6 accounts? Yep - That's statistically valid, assuming that you can do an accurate survey on them.

    Now, if you're asking if we're a random sampling that's representative of the nation at large - Not remotely.
  • by LunaticTippy (872397) on Tuesday March 18, 2008 @11:06AM (#22783410)
    Police don't always pay the price for illegal actions. From traffic violations to murder, police are let off the hook far more often than civilians.
  • Re:Retort (Score:3, Informative)

    by quantaman (517394) on Tuesday March 18, 2008 @11:12AM (#22783478)

    'Time claims that "nobody cares" about the Government's increased spying powers and that "polling consistently supports that conclusion." They don't cite a single poll because that assertion is blatantly false. Just this weekend, a new poll released by Scripps Howard News Service and Ohio University proves that exactly the opposite is true. That poll shows that the percentage of Americans who believe the Federal Government is "very secretive" has doubled in the last two years alone (to 44%)'"

    I have no idea what the truth is on this matter, but the fact that "nobody cares" is not refuted by "the percentage of Americans who believe the Federal Government is 'very secretive' has doubled... to 44%." Simply put, it's entirely possible more people believe the government is more secretive--but they simply don't care.

    It's not in any way shocking to learn that people are apathetic. If you ask them whether they want a secretive government, most people will say no. But if you use an objective metric it's very easy to conclude that those same people really don't care that strongly one way or the other.

    The summary chose a poor poll to quote, there were a number of better ones that actually back up Salon's argument

    "By a 76-19 percent margin, American voters say the government should continue monitoring phone calls or e-mail between suspected terrorists in other countries and people in the U.S., according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released today. But voters say 55-42 percent that the government should get court orders for this surveillance."


    "Red states, where President George W. Bush's margin was more than 5 percent in 2004, disagree 51 - 46 percent with the President that the government does not need warrants. Blue state voters who backed John Kerry by more than 5 percent want warrants 57 - 40 percent, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University poll finds.

    A total of 57 percent of voters are "extremely" or "quite" worried that phone and e-mail taps without warrants could be misused to violate people's privacy. But 54 percent believe these taps have prevented some acts of terror. "
  • by mckinnsb (984522) on Tuesday March 18, 2008 @01:09PM (#22784906)
    Too bad most Americans forget that:

    When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

    Would never have been possible if the British Government knew everything the American Colonies were doing-right down to their little "tavern talks". They might have had spies, but the amount of information that can be collected concerning modern technology absolutely dwarfs what the B.E. could have discerned. The "dissolving of political bands" would have been impossible.

    Not saying that America should have a revolution, but honestly, the more the Government spies on us, the more it (and we) forget that we created it to serve *us*, not *itself*. That part about "Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed" seems to be forgotten more and more as time goes on.

    This is why privacy is important- it is literally the foundation of our state (ideally) and root of civilized life as we know it. Now, of course, the US seems to be founded on lining its pockets and disenfranchising the people of their rights.

If A = B and B = C, then A = C, except where void or prohibited by law. -- Roy Santoro