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Better Than Ezra



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Ezra Klein is very upset about the poll that shows 64% of Americans support wiretapping terrorism suspects. I don’t mind arguments about why polls suck, everybody makes these arguments in large part because polls do suck.

But Klein offers what he says is a better poll question: “Do you believe the NSA should be able to listen in on your phone calls and read your e-mails without oversight, probable cause, or a warrant?”

I can see his point. But surely there’s plenty of bias built into this question, too. No one is talking about tapping run-of-the-mill phone conversations. Suggesting otherwise in a poll comes pretty close to push-polling.

Wouldn’t a more fair question be: “Do you believe the NSA should be able to listen in on your phone calls and read your e-mails without oversight or a warrant if you are communicating with known al Qaeda associates in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Europe or the Middle East?

(I left out “probable cause” in my rewrite because it seems to me the NSA already has that when it catches a call heading to Tora Bora or an email heading to Zarqawi’s podiatrist).

My guess is that you’d get pretty close to 64% saying yes on that one, too.



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