Most Americans say they can forgive government surveillance

     Gen. Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency, testifies Wednesday before the Senate Appropriations Committee hearing to examine cybersecurity. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

    Gen. Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency, testifies Wednesday before the Senate Appropriations Committee hearing to examine cybersecurity. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

    Three new polls out this week ask Americans about their views of the government programs obtaining massive databases of phone logs and Internet communications. We talk to Gallup editor in chief Frank Newport about how the public balances the need for security with the desire for privacy.

    National Security Agency Director Keith Alexander says he welcomes public debate about the phone and email surveillance programs disclosed last week by a former NSA contractor — programs he says have been crucial in enabling the U.S. government to thwart dozens of terrorist attacks.

    We talk to Gallop editor in chief Frank Newport about how the public balances the need for security with the desire for privacy.

    Bottom line: Americans disapprove of the programs in general, but there is flexibility in those attitudes, and a majority could find them acceptable under some circumstances. Relatively few Americans are highly concerned about their records being reviewed.

    The military has the highest confidence of any of 16 institutions tested in Gallup’s annual measure of Confidence in Institutions, while Congress has the lowest. In fact, Congress’ rating is the lowest since Gallup began measuring confidence in 1973. Confidence in small business is near the top of the chart, while confidence in big business is near the bottom.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.