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              Gen. Keith B. Alexander, director of the National Security Agency and head of the U.S. Cyber Command, prepares to answer questions from lawmakers on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, June 12, 2013, before the Senate Appropriations Committee. A Washington Post-ABC News poll indicated that a majority of Americans wanted further public hearings on NSA surveillance.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Poll: Americans support surveillance, but don’t want Snowden charged

A poll released Wednesday demonstrated Americans’ conflicting opinions on the subject of NSA leaker Edward Snowden and the surveillance programs he exposed.

While those polled expressed a surprising amount of comfort with surveillance in their daily lives, they also seemed to express sympathy for Snowden’s actions. A majority also supported more public hearings on the NSA’s practices.

The Washington Post and ABC News survey indicated that while 58 percent of Americans support what the poll termed “intelligence-gathering programs,” only 43 percent support charging former CIA employee Edward Snowden with a crime for leaking the program’s existence to multiple news sources in early June.

The poll also indicated that support and opposition to the contents of each question were more pronounced along party lines. Seventy-three percent of Democrats polled said they support the Obama administration’s surveillance policies, while only 24 percent oppose them. Democrats’ answers in this category were the most one-sided response to any of the questions the poll asked.

In contrast, only 49 percent of Republicans polled said they support the NSA cyber-snooping practices, and 50 percent oppose them.

One issue on which Democrats and Republicans appeared to agree was the question of whether or not Congress should hold public hearings on the NSA surveillance programs. Sixty-six percent of Democrats and 69 percent of Republicans said they are in favor of public hearings, according to the poll. With independents factored in, a total of 65 percent of Americans are in support of the idea.

The director of the NSA, General Keith Alexander, publicly testified Tuesday in front of the House Intelligence Committee on the massive eavesdropping programs carried out under his watch.

In a meeting entitled “How Disclosed NSA Programs Protect Americans, and Why,” Alexander claimed that the surveillance practices had thwarted attacks “over 50 times since 9/11.”

Sean Joyce, Deputy Director of the FBI, also testified and offered specifics: he credited the NSA with gathering intelligence that lead to the prevention of a plot to bomb the New York Stock Exchange, according to the BBC.

The poll was conducted by telephone over the course of four days in the past week.

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