A CBS News survey taken Sunday and Monday found 36 percent thought the government had gone too far in infringing on peoples privacy, 13 percent said it had not gone far enough, and 46 percent said the balance was about right.
The poll also asked people if they approve of government agencies collecting phone records from ordinary people in order to reduce the threat of terrorism. Fifty-eight percent disapproved, while 38 percent approved.
Such numbers prod politicians to probe. When FBI Director Robert Mueller appeared Thursday before the House Judiciary Committee to discuss bureau operations, he wound up in lengthy exchanges over the programs.
A day earlier, Gen. Keith Alexander, the director of the National Security Agency, went to the Senate Appropriations Committee for a budget hearing. Instead, he patiently explained the governments strict guidelines governing domestic surveillance. Many senators werent satisfied.
If you knew that a suspect had made a call into area code 312, the city of Chicago, it certainly defies logic that youd need to collect all of the telephone calls made in the 312 area code on the chance that one of those persons might be on the other end of the phone, said Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin, D-Ill.
For all the escalating angst, any change likely would come gradually if at all. A bipartisan group of eight senators has proposed adding some transparency to the secret court that approves spying, an effort that has picked up little steam.
Feinstein said her committee would assess whats come out. Serious moves also were afoot to try to declassify more material, or at least subject the programs to more scrutiny.
Whether the drumbeat for change will grow next week probably depends on what lawmakers learn as they talk to constituents back home this weekend.
Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., a House Judiciary Committee member, sent a message to his South Florida constituents Thursday asking for their views. Hundreds have called or written Deutchs offices this week with a variety of concerns, seeking details about the programs, insisting theyre valuable tools against terrorism and so on.
Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio, also found an uptick in calls and emails, and echoed the thoughts of many colleagues.
Theres a lot of misinformation out there. That gives people additional angst, he said. We need to explain this to people.
And then see what people want.