May 6th, 2009
12:33 PM ET
14 years ago

Poll: Don't investigate torture techniques


A new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation indicates that most Americans don't want to see an investigation of Bush administration officials who authorized harsh interrogation techniques on suspected terrorists. (Photo Credit: Getty Images/File)

WASHINGTON (CNN) - A new national poll indicates that most Americans don't want to see an investigation of Bush administration officials who authorized harsh interrogation techniques on suspected terrorists, even though most people think such procedures were forms of torture.

Six in ten people questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Wednesday believe that some of the procedures, such as water boarding, were a form of torture, with 36 percent disagreeing.

But half the public approves of the Bush administration's decision to use of those techniques during the questioning of suspected terrorists, with 50 percent in approval and 46 percent opposed.

"Roughly one in five Americans believe those techniques were torture but nonetheless approve of the decision to use those procedures against suspected terrorists," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "That goes a long way toward explaining why a majority don't want to see former Bush officials investigated."

Fifty-seven percent of those questioned don't want Congress to investigate Bush officials who authorized those harsh interrogation procedures, with 42 percent calling for action by lawmakers. Fifty-five percent also don't want a similar investigation by an independent panel.

Investigations of the military and intelligence personnel who actually used those techniques during interrogations are even less popular. Nearly two out of three Americans don't want Congress to investigate the who carried out those procedures. Fifty-five percent don't want a similar investigation by an independent panel.

The poll's release comes as a preliminary internal report on the Justice Department investigation into the authors of the Bush administration's so-called "torture memos" does not call for criminal prosecutions, but indicates the government might urge state bar associations to take sanctions against the memo writers, according to two government sources familiar with the report.

The draft, which now goes to Attorney General Eric Holder for approval or revisions, is expected to be finalized in the coming days.

"The Obama administration's recent decisions not to launch an investigation into these matters may sit well with the public overall, but not with members of Obama's own party," Holland says. "Most independents and Republicans don't think it's a good idea to investigate Bush officials involved in these decisions. But about two-thirds of Democrats support such investigations."

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted April 23-26, with 2,019 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

Listen: CNN Director of Polling Keating Holland on the new poll

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Filed under: Poll
soundoff (61 Responses)
  1. Lynda/Minnesota

    I wonder how many American's remember the release of the Phoenix Memo? It is an interesting read on counterintelligence prior to 9/11.

    May 6, 2009 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  2. Doing the right thing is hard

    Sorry dudes, morality isn't easy. It also isn't up for a vote. The fact that all these supposed "Christians" were the ones approving the torture makes it all the more maddening.

    May 6, 2009 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  3. Frank Hummel

    A DISGUSTING result, pretty well calculated to make some of us ( me for one) ASHAMED of the preponderance of "mah fellow 'Merkans".

    I just wonder to what extent it may have been the case that some of the more egregious outrages by fighters on the "other side" may have actually been ENGENDERED by the kinds of treatment being meted out to THEM in cases when THEY were held as "our" prisoners!

    By the time they (for example) beheaded Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, "al-Qaeda" MUST SURELY HAVE BEEN WELL AWARE (given escapes, exonerations and releases, and some forcible "extractions" of prisoners that had occurred long before then) of much of what was being done to THEIR OWN brethren in captivity. (Only "We the People" over here, after all, were "kept in the dark" in THAT regard!)

    So then THAT, of course, raises the question of to what extent it has to be considered, as a matter of logic, that a factor MOTIVATING such atrocities as the Pearl murder may well have been what had been and was being done by "our OWN" people!

    That is, maybe at least a part of the more-or-less universal outrage at THAT horror really should be directed at "our OWN" murderers and torturers - who now come along and muster the sheer chutzpah to argue that "we" have got some kind of bounden obligation to "support" them on the things they have done because THEY were supposedly "protecting" "us"! But did not what they did ACTUALLY ADD to "our" risk?? TALK ABOUT CIRCULAR REASONING!!

    Anyway, HERE is the only “circular” reasoning that is actually valid:

    What GOES ‘round - COMES ‘round.

    May 6, 2009 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  4. Get real!!!

    Obama... You have gone around apologizing for The United States in which ( in case you forgot) your the President of, Bowed and shook hands with people that despise us.. Closing Gitmo was the dumbest thing you could have done..In case you forgot about all the people that died from 911 and the men and women who fight everyday to keep us safe, these thugs are laughing at us and YOU have NO clue what to do with them now !!!! Would you get your head in the right place and stop and think !!!! You are an embarrasement.... Hopefully you can clear alot of this up on your next "SPEECH" on a talk show..That is the only thing you are good at...speaking! Start being a President !!! AMERICANS would greatly appreciate it.... There is no need for this interrrogation, These were methods to be taken to secure our safety, I am appaulled that you have not put a stop to this...

    May 6, 2009 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  5. Roger

    This is a disgrace! Even uglier is that more church goers are OK with torture than those who do not attend church regularly. Hypocrites, I guess. The New testament is filled with examples of the torture techniques Jesus used, huh?

    May 6, 2009 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  6. Michael M, Phoenix AZ

    Hey, no one bothered to "poll" me about my opinion on torture investigations? My vote.....YES, investigate.

    May 6, 2009 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  7. Jamie

    While thinking, on the one hand, that Obama is right in wanting to move on from this spectacle, how can we look away? I think the flimsy argument that these spy agency folks, and others, were only doing what they beliveved what was legal at the time and that they were following orders is exactly the same defense of so many Nazi criminals after theWWII.

    May 6, 2009 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  8. Dean

    Skip the trial just put Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft in Gitmo until the people are ready for it.

    May 6, 2009 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  9. Mike

    We are a country of laws, the law was broken. There should be no questions regrading this issue, they broke the law period!!!

    May 6, 2009 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  10. disgusted

    So, half of Americans support torture? Disgusting.

    May 6, 2009 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  11. Lori

    Prosecute the Bush administration. They refused to keep us safe on 9/11 and tortured individuals, which is against everything America stands for. I would like to hear a logical argument from church-going so-called 'Christians' that allows them to justify whether or not they honeslty believe God would justify torture. Prosecute our former incompetent administration!

    May 6, 2009 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  12. Investigation will undercut US security

    As a former Navy Seal, I am very familiar with water boarding. I and my team were routinely subjected to it during our Seal survival training, as was every other Seal over the past decade plus. Why were we subjected to it? Because we know our enemies (including Geneva Convention signatories) routinely use this technique in their interrogations. President Obama and the Democrats have done this country a great disservice, and have severly undercut and weakened the capabilities of the US Armed Forces and CIA. I am all for an open government, but Obama's inexperience in international affairs is noteworthy and hurtful. Mr President – JUST SHUT UP when it comes to our tactics, techniques, and methods as you are inadvertently giving aid and comfort to our enemies.

    May 6, 2009 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  13. phoenix86

    Of course no one will investigate. An investigation would show that Bush's policies were designed, implemented and monitored by Congress; and that is something that Murtha, Kerry, Pelosi, Reid, etc. don't want voters to realize.

    As long as American's want to remain in the dark about what their representatives (ALL their representatives) do, then Americans should simply keep their mouths shut and focus on American Idol and other shows of similar intellectual challenges.

    May 6, 2009 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  14. Shadysider

    Any American that disapproves of the techniques but don't think it should be investigated have no moral compass and little intestinal fortitude. They are no better than those who wrote the torture memos because they are essentially advocating the use of torture while they know it is wrong. There is no place to sit on this fence. You are either against torture or you are a sick and naive masochist who endorses torture (while it provides only false information). We cannot sweep this under the rug. Obama called for transparency and accountability. Where is it????!!!!!

    May 6, 2009 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  15. Kate

    These numbers may change if the MSM ever gets the word out that torture doesn't work. It is disappointing that some Americans persist in demanding vengeance. But frightened people make very bad decisions, and the Bush administration calculatedly exploited Americans' fears for almost 8 years. Still, I would be prouder of my fellow countrymen if they were willing to support the principles that America used to stand for: integrity, fair dealing, honor. Then again, it's not like we don't also have a long-standing tradition of taking the low road, as well: Salem witch trials; Sacco and Vanzetti; Japanese internment camps; HUAC; Hollywood blacklists. The truth matters though, and we should clean the stables for the sake of our future and the quality of our relationship with each other and the rest of the world. Our credibility until we do so is shot.

    May 6, 2009 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  16. Utahn

    I agree with the poll results. There are at least 2998 reasons to agree with the techniques used. Unfortunately, those people died on 9/11 so they can't voice their support!! Beyond that, with all the other things that the government needs to focus attention on, this shouldn't even be on the to-do list.

    May 6, 2009 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  17. SLM

    I am surprised more people didn't admit they supported these methods. It was the terrorists choice to have these procedures done to them, they could have talked and saved themselves any discomfort that they felt. Anyone who thinks otherwise is fooling themselves. I support any and all methods used to get necessary information that protects lives. Personally I don't think we use tough enough methods.

    May 6, 2009 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  18. GOPer

    Too Bad – Those high level officals who took us down the road of Communist China should be brought to justice.

    May 6, 2009 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  19. Shadysider

    I also question the validity of this poll. I think it's a farce. You must be thinking of a FOX poll, CNN. This is an issue that MUST be addressed.

    May 6, 2009 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  20. johnny

    Investigate, prosecute, and dispense the justice.

    May 6, 2009 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  21. lxc

    These were TERRORIST people!!!! They are laughing at us now and would do it all again...

    May 6, 2009 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  22. Shadysider

    Bush, Rumsfeld and others claimed the torture was undertaken by 'a few rogue soldiers,' but they signed and fought for the documents which endorsed the use of torture. They cannot pass judgement on people who were following orders from these people themselves!!! Justice must be served!

    May 6, 2009 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  23. Jake

    please investigate!

    May 6, 2009 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  24. Terry

    I am not upset when murderers are murdered or tortured. Their loss is no loss to the world and their pain is no pain for the world.

    Here is a problem with torture. We have twenty prisoners who all deny knowing anything. "We're innocent," they all say. We're pretty sure that some of them know something.

    Because they are all saying they are innocent, we have to torture all of them. One of them breaks and says, "I confess! I helped forge fake visas for the 9/11 terrorists." The other 19 are innocent, and we were torturing innocent people.

    Here is another problem with torture. We are paying our employees to torture people. We are as guilty of torture as they were. Those who eat meat, it is said, cannot scorn the butcher.

    May 6, 2009 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  25. Obama 2.0

    Move on people, we have done it everyone does it and everyone will continue to do so as long as it is ambigues and clandestine.

    May 6, 2009 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
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