Yahoo, PRISM and short-term memories

pew terrorism pollIn early September, it was revealed that Yahoo had been threatened with a fine of $250,000 per day for failing to hand over information to the federal government. Details of the threat became public after 1,500 pages worth of documents were unsealed in the case, stemming from a 2007 order from the FISA Court. Wired reports, “Yahoo applied to appeal the [FISA] decision and requested a stay in the data collection pending the appeal. But the FISA Court refused the stay, and beginning in March 2008, Yahoo was forced to comply with the request for data in the meantime ‘under threat of civil contempt.’
Five months later, in August 2008, the FISA Court of Review found that the data request, undertaken for national security reasons, qualified for an exception to the warrant requirement under the Fourth Amendment and upheld the original court’s order to comply.”

This order was part of the NSA’s PRISM program, which became public knowledge after Edward Snowden blew the whistle on widespread spying by the NSA. After those revelations, a poll from Pew Research found 56% of surveyed Americans “say that federal courts fail to provide adequate limits on the telephone and internet data the government is collecting as part of its anti-terrorism efforts,” and 70% believe “that the government uses this data for purposes other than investigating terrorism.” That poll also found “47% say their greater concern about government anti-terrorism policies is that they have gone too far in restricting the average person’s civil liberties, while 35%” said they were more concerned that policies have not gone far enough.

These poll results were from barely one year ago (July 2013). A new study, also from Pew, shows a roughly 12 point swing in those numbers. Now, only 35% think the federal government has gone too far, while half of those polled believe the government hasn’t gone far enough in violating rights in an effort to find a suspected terrorist.

One flaw that I find with this survey is that the term “terrorist” is not defined. Additionally, the answer choice given asks if the government has “gone too far in restricting the average person’s civil liberties” instead of asking if the government has “gone too far in violating the rights of the average person.” I don’t know if a wording change in the answer choice would show a significant change one way or the other; though I do know that wording of questions, and answers, does have an impact on the outcome of surveys.

Regardless of the wording, it is disturbing to me how quickly people seem to have forgotten about the NSA spying programs that caused an uproar when they were first revealed. It is also disturbing how quickly people forget that the US government was recently arming the Syrian rebels they now want to bomb. It is disturbing to me that people who claim to not like the two major parties, end up supporting the candidates of those parties. It is disturbing to me that there will always be people who want to control others, and deny their basic human rights!

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