Thursday, December 29, 2005

When good polls go bad

Rasmussen (a generally credible pollster) blows it:

Sixty-four percent (64%) of Americans believe the National Security Agency (NSA) should be allowed to intercept telephone conversations between terrorism suspects in other countries and people living in the United States. A Rasmussen Reports survey found that just 23% disagree.

This is not the issue at hand, and Rasmussen blew it by asking the wrong question.

You, dear reader, know that I'm outraged enough to be spitting bullets about this whole thing.

However, I do think that the NSA should be allowed to intercept conversations between terrorism suspects (anywhere at all) and people living in the US (even citizens). I just don't think they should do so illegally.

FISA allows for exactly the sorts of warrants we're talking about here. Congress passed a law, set up a special, classified court, and gave them power to grant wiretap warrants against terrorist suspects.

If President Bush had followed the law, there'd be no problem. But he decided to take it upon himself to ignore the law, and that's where you start talking about high crimes and misdemeanors, and people start going to jail. Maybe not the president. But when you do something Congress forbids, that's a crime, and when you do a crime, you go to jail.

So, who are the quarter of the population who want to deny the power to ever conduct these sorts of wire-taps?

Of course, that quarter was parsing the question, trying to turn it into more than a no-brainer. And a bunch of other people were probably also trying to parse it, took the question literally, and wound up in my boat, opposing what happened but supporting what Rasmussen is asking about.

Rasmussen's credibility derives from its performance in elections, where the questions are straight forward. Here, it's a tricky issue, and they blew it.