WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) – The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press learned that 56 percent of Americans want the United States government to pursue a criminal case against former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.
According to a release on their poll’s findings, 43 percent of people throughout the United States also feel that Snowden’s disclosures regarding the practices of the NSA did more harm than good.
“Overall, the public is divided about whether Edward Snowden’s leak of classified information, which brought the program to light, has served or harmed the public interest; 45 percent say it has served the public interest while 43 percent say it harmed it,” the release noted. “Nonetheless, a 56 percent majority wants to see the government pursue a criminal case against Snowden, while 32 percent oppose this.”
Pew’s research also touched upon the speech made last week by President Barack Obama regarding NSA information gathering practices. Ultimately, those involved in the polling found that his words had little effect on Americans – if any at all.
“Half say they have heard nothing at all about his proposed changes to the NSA, and another 41 percent say they heard only a little bit,” researchers noted in the release. “Even among those heard about Obama’s speech, few think the changes will improve privacy protections, or make it more difficult for the government to fight terrorism.”
Those in the know agreed with the sentiments of the majority of the American populace in terms of the effectiveness of his suggestions.
Technology companies and industry groups took Obama’s speech on U.S. surveillance as a step in the right direction, but chided him for not embracing more dramatic reforms to protect people’s privacy and the economic interests of American companies that generate most of their revenue overseas.
“The president’s speech was empathetic, balanced and thoughtful, but insufficient to meet the real needs of our globally connected world and a free Internet,” said Ed Black, president of the Computer & Communications Industry Association, a group that represents Google, Microsoft, Facebook and other technology companies upset about the NSA’s broad surveillance of online communications.
Last Friday, the president called for ending the government’s control of phone data from hundreds of millions of Americans and ordered intelligence agencies to get a court’s permission before accessing such records. He also issued a directive that intelligence-gathering can’t be employed to suppress criticism of the United States or provide a competitive advantage to U.S. companies.
In addition, the president directed Attorney General Eric Holder and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to consider whether new privacy safeguards could be added to online data gathering. Although those activities are only meant to target people outside the U.S. as part of national security investigations, information on Americans sometimes gets swept up in the collection.
The study, a joint effort between Pew and USA Today, involved polling 1,504 randomly selected American adults between Jan. 15 and Jan. 19 of this year.
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