June 7, 2013

Balancing Act: National Security and Civil Liberties in Post-9/11 Era

The revelations that Obama administration secretly collected phone records and accessed the internet activity of millions of Americans have raised new questions about the public’s willingness to sacrifice civil liberties in the interests of national security. Since 9/11, Americans generally have valued protection from terrorism over civil liberties, yet they also have expressed concerns over government overreach and intrusions on their personal privacy.

Security First. Since shortly after 9/11, Pew Research has asked whether people’s greater concern is that anti-terror policies will go too far in restricting civil liberties, or that they won’t go far enough in adequately protecting the country. The balance of opinion has consistently favored protection. Most recently, in 2010, 47% said they were more concerned that government policies “have not gone far enough to adequately protect the country,” while 32% said they were more concerned that “they have gone too far in restricting the average person’s civil liberties.”

FT_Civil_LibertiesBut Fewer See Need to Sacrifice Civil Liberties. Yet fewer Americans think it will be necessary to sacrifice civil liberties to combat terrorism than did so shortly after the 9/11 attacks. In a poll conducted in 2011, shortly before the 10th anniversary of 9/11, 40% said that “in order to curb terrorism in this country it will be necessary for the average person to give up some civil liberties,” while 54% said it would not. A decade earlier, in the aftermath of 9/11 and before the passage of the Patriot Act, opinion was nearly the reverse (55% necessary, 35% not necessary).

FT_Curb_TerrorismTrack Terrorists – Not Me. The public has never liked the idea of the government monitoring their personal phone calls or emails. In the 9/11 anniversary survey, just 29% favored “the U.S. government monitoring personal telephone calls and emails” in order to curb terrorism. It drew less support than the other anti-terror tactics asked about in the survey.

Bush’s Domestic Surveillance Program. In late 2005, news that President George W. Bush authorized the National Security Agency to monitor phone calls and emails –without court permission – stirred intense civil liberties concerns, especially among Democrats. From early 2006 through early 2009, public support for the program ranged from 48% to 54%. The question asked if it was generally right or wrong “for the government to monitor telephone and e-mail communications of Americans suspected of having terrorist ties without first obtaining permission from the courts.” There were consistently wide partisan differences on views of this program: in February 2008, nearly twice as many Republicans (74%) as Democrats (39%) favored the phone and email monitoring.

Privacy Concerns: It’s Not Just Government

FT_Privacy_ConcernsWhat is often overlooked in the debate over government surveillance of private communications is the widespread public concern over the amount of personal information businesses are collecting. In our 2012 political values survey, 64% said they were concerned that “the government is collecting too much information about people like me.” Yet 74% expressed this concern about business corporations.

Concern that business corporations are collecting too much personal information crosses party lines. In addition, Republicans have become much more concerned about possible privacy intrusions by the government than they were during Bush’s presidency (72% in 2012, 39% in 2007).

Topics: George W. Bush, Terrorism, National Security, Trust in Government, Surveillance

  1. Photo of Carroll Doherty

    is director of political research at Pew Research Center.


  1. Research Group Groupthink1 year ago

    The brainchild of the USA Patriot Act is undeniably a sheep in wolves clothes to keep war inevitably self-perpetuating. President Dwight David Eisenhower warned the American people in 1961 that the greatest threat to the nation was the military industrial complex and its lobbyists. Benjamin Franklin addressed this; a framer of the US Constitution with this quote, “Those who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” In 2003, I predicted that the wars would continue unabated because of the USA Patriot Act, and hundreds of thousands would continue to die in the name of national security and terrorism. So how did I know? I read historical documents, remembering that future leaders’ has never read much history at all. and the slaughter of innocent people continues today, unabated as of this posting. Also, I had a little inside help in conversation with Harry S. Truman who my family knew well. He warned me that there was those who would sacrifice the nation’s liberties in the name of security against some group or terrorizing event. The lobbyists have won, and this nation is a shell of what it once was. Because no one will stand up against them as it is political suicide.
    DL Winton

  2. JB Smith3 years ago

    The brain initiative and Obama Care are the great deceptions and two of the worst deceptions perpetrated on the citizens of the United States of America. State and Local law enforcement are implanting innocent citizens with a biochip. According to “A Note on Uberveillance” by MG & Katina Michael, it’s “like big brother on the inside looking out.” “Safeguards in a World of Ambient Intelligence” by Springer page 9 states, “law enforcement would have us believe that we can only be safe as long as they know where we are at all times, what we’re doing and what we are ‘thinking'”. It is such an invasion of privacy. They use LRAD aka the active denial system to make you think you are hearing voices – it has technology like the audio spotlight and attempt to put you into a state of what the NIJ calls “excited delirium”. Next they use Psyops like stalking, drugs, kidnapping, whatever they can to either 1) put you in a “crisis stabilization ward” (to take away your 2nd Amendment rights) or 2) a prison or 3) give you an infectious disease. It is a plan for law enforcement to confiscate all guns so they can torture you without fear for their lives. They are targeting female Christians and military veterans. Go to Rutherford Institute and check out Brandon Raub. His lawyers uncovered the plot against our veterans and made it public in court papers. They take you to crisis stabilization wards even if you’re not a danger to yourself or others and show no sign of mental illness. Why? Because there is a Supreme Court Case by Justice Cardoza – Schloendorff v. Society of New York Hospital,105 N.E. 92 (1914 ) that says anyone of sound mind and not a criminal has a right to say what goes in their body or on their body. They want to ensure there is no way you can get this off. No one in America wants this level of privacy invasion. In addition, it allows law enforcement the opportunity to torture you at will with sleep deprivation, heart attacks and other pains. Who wants to give power hungry cops control over our central nervous systems? The active denial system can murder without leaving a mark! The Bio Initiative Report with 2014 additions details all the cancers, diseases and disabilities it causes. Hence, the need for Obama Care and to open all American’s medical records for law enforcement to altar. The Joint Non-lethal Weapons Directorate used untested military applications on me! The Virginia state police have claimed responsibility for the psyops that caused the Virginia Tech Massacre. The JNLWD’s 2010 Psyops boasts they can create suicide victims and mass murderers.