- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 28, 2007

Americans think the Bush administration has tipped the balance of security versus liberty too far toward security, a new poll shows.

But the public remains closely divided on President Bush’s most contentious security programs, favoring by small margins warrantless wiretaps against terrorist suspects and the broad mining by federal agencies of personal data about U.S. citizens, according to the survey by UPI/Zogby International.

Thirty-three percent of the 5,932 persons polled said the administration had “found the right balance between personal security and personal freedom,” and 49 percent said the administration had gone too far in its efforts. Seven percent said the administration had weakened security by tipping the balance too far toward personal freedoms.

Americans were generally more supportive of security programs targeting foreigners, the poll found.

Two-thirds of respondents said the U.S. government has the right to collect personal data about foreign airline passengers coming to the country, a source of ongoing friction with the European Union.

Fifty-five percent said the Terrorism Surveillance Program is “a necessary and legal tool to protect Americans.” Under the program, the National Security Agency conducts court-authorized but warrantless surveillance of international communications by Americans with terrorist suspects.

But 62 percent also said the “government should always be required to get a warrant or court order before monitoring the phone conversations or e-mails of American citizens or legal immigrants.”

Americans appeared at ease with the idea that federal agencies should be able to analyze vast collections of their personal data for patterns and connections that might reveal terrorist activity.

Asked about such techniques, known as data-mining, 50 percent said U.S. agencies should be allowed to use them on personal data such as “credit-card transactions, charitable donations and travel histories.”

Men were more likely than women to think the administration has the proper balance between security and freedom, 39 percent to 28 percent.

The survey revealed near-unanimity among liberals that the balance has tipped too far toward security. Sixty-nine percent of Republicans thought the administration had the proper balance.

The poll, conducted April 13-16, has a margin of error of 1.3 percentage points.

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