Poll finds two-thirds of Americans want NSA's role reviewed, and 56% find current congressional oversight insufficient
Senator Jeff Merkley waves his Verizon cellphone as he questions NSA director Keith Alexander on Wednesday. Photograph: Charles Dharapak/AP
A clear majority of Americans are concerned about the actions andoperations of the National Security Agency (NSA) and want the intelligence body to be subjected to further review and greater congressional oversight, a Guardian poll has found.
In the opinion poll, conducted for the Guardian by Public Policy Polling, two-thirds of voters who responded said that in the light of a week-long series of leaked disclosures about the NSA's surveillance activities they wanted to see its role reviewed. Only 20% thought there were no grounds for further review, while 14% could not say either way.
In a separate question, 56% said that they believed Congress had failed to conduct sufficient oversight of the NSA, which is a branch of the department of defence charged with collecting and analysing national security information. Recent disclosures by the Guardian have unveiled the NSA's vast data-mining programs of telephone records and other digital communications involving millions of Americans.
The revelations originated with a former contract worker for the NSA,Edward Snowden, who said he decided to blow the whistle on the agency's digital dragnet operations because he wanted the public to know about the "federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive power that rule the world". The poll suggests that his stated ambition has, at least for now, been achieved: some 90% of those surveyed said they had heard about the recent news involving the NSA's collecting and storing of Verizon phone records and gaining access to data from major internet companies, and 61% said they believed a fresh debate was needed over the balance between privacy and security.
The poll shows that a substantial majority of Americans – 60% – want their government to be more open about its data collection so that the public can understand what is going on. A much smaller proportion, only 35%, said they agreed that the government needs to keep the data it collects secret in order to protect national security. MORE