Americans increasingly suspect the federal government has become cloaked in secrecy, a concern they don't have with their local and state governments.
People also overwhelmingly believe that their federal leaders have become sneaky, listening to telephone conversations or opening private mail without getting court permission, according to a survey of 1,008 adults commissioned by the American Society of Newspaper Editors.
By a 2-1 margin, people want FBI agents and other investigators to obtain search warrants before monitoring private communications, even if they suspect terrorism. And more than a quarter of the people in the survey said they suspect their own phone calls and letters have been intercepted
Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the U.S. government has put average Americans under intense surveillance as part of terrorism investigations, says the Human Rights Record of the United States in 2006 issued on Thursday.
According to a U.S. survey released in December 2006, "two-thirds of Americans believe that the FBI and other federal agencies are intruding on their privacy rights," the report says.
And the U.S. Justice Department said in a report released on April 28, 2006 that its use of electronic surveillance and search warrants in national security investigations jumped 15 percent in 2005.
According to the department, the FBI issued 9,254 national security letters in 2005, covering 3,501 U.S. citizens and legal foreign residents. The data did not include what probably were thousands of additional letters issued to obtain more limited information about some individuals or letters that were issued about targets who were in the United States. illegally, it says.
Media reports show a Pentagon research team monitors more than 5,000 jihadist web sites, focusing daily on the 25 to 100 most hostile and active, the rights report says.
An internal memo of the FBI shows that the agency has spent resources gathering information on antiwar and environmental protesters and on activists who feed vegetarian meals to the homeless, it says.
According to a study by the American Management Association and The ePolicy Institute, 76 percent of companies monitor employees' website connections, 65 percent block access to specific sites, and 36 percent track the content, keystrokes and time spent at the keyboard. More than half of employers retain and review e-mail messages.
An internal review of the U.S. State Department has found that U.S. officials screened the public statements and writings of private citizens for criticism of the administration before deciding whether to select them for foreign speaking projects, the rights report says.