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NSA Scandal Draws Attention to Conflicts Between Privacy and Security


The bombshell reports revealing that the National Security Agency has been surveilling the telephone and internet records of millions of Americans has once again opened up a public debate on what privacy rights Americans are willing to stretch for national security.

A new Washington Post/Pew Research poll shows that 62 percent of Americans say it was more important for the government to prevent terrorism than protect privacy. In his column for the New York Times Thursday, left-leaning Thomas Friedman echoes the poll's assertion. 

Yes, I worry about potential government abuse of privacy from a program designed to prevent another 9/11 — abuse that, so far, does not appear to have happened. But I worry even more about another 9/11. That is, I worry about something that’s already happened once — that was staggeringly costly — and that terrorists aspire to repeat.

NSA Director Keith Alexander testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee Wednesday to discuss the controversial surveillance policies, which he claimed helped avert "dozens of terrorist events" in recent years. Pressed on differentiating which specific programs were responsible for thwarting attacks, Alexander was less clear, POLITICO reports: 

Alexander said it was difficult to segregate information obtained under that provision from another practice disclosed by leak last week: a system that gathers bulk data from internet providers, e-mail services and social media sites. That system is aimed at foreigners outside the United States, though it sometimes data from Americans or foreigners on U.S. soil is swept in as well.

“These authorities complement each other. The reality is, they work together,” said Alexander.

On 'Real News" Wednesday the panel discussed the American public’s willingness to succumb to “modest” infringements on privacy, and whether or not that willingness results in a reduction of potential terror attacks.

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