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A new survey found nearly two-thirds of Americans believe the National Security Agency should monitor communications between terrorist suspects overseas and contacts inside the U.S.

According to Scott Rasmussen of Rasmussen Reports, 64 percent of respondents said the super-secret NSA should be allowed to intercept telephone conversations between terrorism suspects in other countries and people living in the United States. Just 23 percent disagreed, the survey found.

Meanwhile, 68 percent of those surveyed said they are following news reports about the NSA somewhat or very closely.

The shadowy agency came under the spotlight recently following reports President Bush authorized warrantless monitoring of American citizens suspected of communicating with alleged terrorists outside of the country.

Federal law requires authorities to obtain warrants from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a legal requirement established in 1978 in the wake of the Watergate scandal to deal with terrorism and espionage cases.

But the White House maintains Congress authorized the monitoring when it gave Bush authority to conduct the war against terrorism, though congressional critics of the administration dismiss that claim.

The New York Times, which first broke the story detailing the warrantless eavesdropping, reported Monday the foreign intelligence court is now seeking a briefing from the administration as to why it was bypassed.

“At the same time,” the paper reported, “defense lawyers in terrorism cases around the country say they are preparing letters and legal briefs to challenge the NSA program on behalf of their clients, many of them American citizens, and to find out more about how it might have been used.”

However, legal hurdles exist, the paper added, because many defendants waived some rights to appeal as part of their plea deals.

Barely one-quarter of those surveyed by Rasmussen, 26 percent, said they believe Bush is the first president to order warrantless eavesdropping. Forty-eight percent said he is not while 26 percent said they weren’t sure.

Politically, 81 percent of Republicans said they believe the NSA should be authorized to listen in on conversations between suspected terrorists and people living in the U.S. That view is also supported by 51 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of respondents who said they were not affiliated with either major political party.

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