Washington Post staff writer Shailagh Murray reported, in an article about Sen. Russ Feingold's censure resolution, that Democrats are "wary of polls showing that a majority of Americans side with the president on wiretapping tactics." Actually, polls consistently show that most Americans disapprove of the wiretapping tactics the administration has used -- specifically, conducting surveillance without seeking or obtaining a warrant.
In a front-page March 15 article on Sen. Russ Feingold's (D-WI) call to censure President Bush for "authoriz[ing] an illegal program to spy on American citizens on American soil," Washington Post staff writer Shailagh Murray reported that Feingold's fellow Democrats are "wary of polls showing that a majority of Americans side with the president on wiretapping tactics." In fact, polls consistently show that a majority of Americans disapprove of the wiretapping tactics the administration has used -- specifically, conducting surveillance without seeking or obtaining a warrant.
From Murray's March 15 Post article:
GOP leaders who had been reeling from the impact of Republican political scandals, an unpopular war and Bush's mishandling of the port-security issue sensed that Feingold overplayed his hand and denounced the censure resolution as a political stunt by an ambitious lawmaker positioning himself to run for president in 2008. Many Democrats, while sympathetic to Feingold's maneuver, appeared to be distancing themselves from his resolution yesterday, wary of polls showing that a majority of Americans side with the president on wiretapping tactics.
In fact, most polls show the opposite. A Quinnipiac University poll conducted February 21-28 found that while 79 percent of "American voters say the government should continue monitoring phone calls or e-mail between suspected terrorists in other countries and people in the U.S.," 55 percent say "that the government should get court orders for this surveillance." A CBS News poll conducted February 22-26 asked respondents: "Regardless of whether you approve of the President authorizing the wiretaps, do you think the President has the legal authority to authorize wiretaps without a court warrant in order to fight terrorism, or doesn't he?" Fifty-one percent said the president does not have the legal authority to do so. A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll from February 9-12 reported that 50 percent of respondents believed the Bush administration was "wrong" to wiretap "conversations without a court order," while 47 percent said it was "right."
Murray appears to have conflated public approval of spying on suspected terrorists with approval of the means through which the Bush administration has conducted the eavesdropping. Approving of the surveillance and approving of the tactics are two very different things. As the polls show, one can believe the president should conduct surveillance on suspected terrorists and at the same time believe that he should obey the law in doing so.