American's don't really mind the spying

2013-06-11 10:28
A woman uses her phone while walking past a Verizon Store in the SoHo neighbourhood of New York City. (File, Getty Images/AFP)

A woman uses her phone while walking past a Verizon Store in the SoHo neighbourhood of New York City. (File, Getty Images/AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Chicago - We have seen the US government forcefully shove tubes up noses and force-feed the prisoners it has determined will live forever in the rancid prison at Guantanamo Bay.
We have seen President Barack Obama confirm that the country's drone programme (and implicitly its kill list) will not cease.
We have seen this administration pursue whistleblowers at a rate not seen before in the USA, firstly using a World War 1 era law called the Espionage Act, then in its absurd treatment of Bradley Manning (whose trial finally began last week), then using a blanket sweep of the Associated Press' phone lines. While this is often phrased as targeting journalists, it in fact has pushed whistleblowers and leakers back into the woodwork, as the government now has the phone number of everyone who phoned the Associated Press for a three-month period last year. And we found out the government can do this secretly – in fact we don't even know the law under which it chose to exercise this authority.
And then last week The Guardian reported that the American government (through the National Security Agency (NSA)) was seizing telephone records willy-nilly under Bush-era legislation passed to tackle terrorism. Although the passing of such legislation was not news to anyone, the broad scope of the records being lifted by the government – basically all telephone calls and many internet movements of everyone – especially from a president who campaigned against such government power in 2008, was a wake-up call. Simply put: the fourth amendment to the US constitution provides that Americans have a right to not undergo unreasonable searches, and this recent news flies completely in the face of that.
But while we are stomping our feet as foreigners (incidentally, the USA can spy on us as much as it likes without contravening its own limitations), the US political news stories that have given us frowns this year are viewed quite differently in the country itself.

Americans don't really mind

Guantanamo Bay, which contains 166 prisoners who will likely remain there until they die (including those 86 who have been cleared for release or transfer), in spite of government's plan to contain their hunger strike by shoving food down their nasal passages, is approved of by an almost 2:1 margin. According to a Fox News poll nearly half the country thinks the prison makes the USA safer, with only 22% saying the opposite, while 63% of Americans believe the prison should remain open. And this is bipartisan majority belief: Democrats believe 49% to 42% that Guantanamo Bay should remain open, while Republicans are for it 81% to 15%.
In a poll as recent as March, Gallup found 65% of Americans approve of targeted drone strikes against "suspected terrorists" (although this drops to 41% when it is Americans overseas suspected of terrorism). And again, although Republicans are more enthusiastic about the programme (79% approve), a majority of Democrats (55%) are also for it.
And a Pew poll released on Monday showed that Americans don't really mind their government reducing their right to privacy if it is done in the name of fighting terrorism. Amusingly, approval of such tactics by party varies depending on who the president is (a fair portion of people seem to be OK with a president they voted for spying on them), but generally 56% of Americans are OK with it. In polls conducted in 2006, 2010 and 2013, the public has backed the government prioritising investigating terrorism over citizens' right to privacy by 30 to 40 percentage points each time.
In 2006 51% of those polled backed the government reading e-mails and listening to telephone calls without a warrant, while this most recent polls shows that stat up to 56% when asked whether it is acceptable to "[get] secret court orders to track millions of Americans to investigate terrorism".
So while we may sit and judge, and feel disappointment at seeing the country that believed so strongly in liberty being hauled down into a security state, bear in mind that the majority of folks living there aren't really all that worried. 


Read more on:    us  |  privacy

Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24


Zuma: Pray for peaceful polls

President Jacob Zuma has asked members of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God to pray for peaceful elections on 7 May.


Latest elections multimedia

Why Jack Parow wants you to vote on 7 May
The ad the SABC doesn't want to air
Elections 2014 in one cartoon
This year's election posters
  • Saturday Cape Town - 10:57 AM
    Road name: M3 Inbound
    EVENT - left lane closed between Rhodes Avenue and UCT
  • Saturday Constantia - 07:19 AM
    Road name: Rhodes Drive Both Ways
    ROAD CLOSED between Constantia Nek and Canterbury Road until 1300
More traffic reports...

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now! - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

BlackBerry Curve 9360

The BlackBerry Curve 9360 smartphone comes preloaded with Blackberry OS7...

From R1595.00

I'm shopping for:


Self-indulgence may be strong today. You may want to enjoy yourself to the fullest and share it with those that make you more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.