A Surprisingly Large Number Of Americans Think Torture Is Justified

AbughraibAP PhotoThis is a 2003 file image obtained by The Associated Press which shows an unidentified detainee standing on a box with a bag on his head and wires attached to him in late 2003 at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, Iraq.

A majority of Americans polled by the Pew Research Center recently were ok with the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which amounted to torture.

Of those polled, 51% said the CIA was justified in using these techniques, 29% said it was not, and 20% said they didn’t know.

An even larger majority of those surveyed (56%) said the torture provided intelligence that prevented terrorist attacks — an assertion the Senate’s report on CIA torture widely disputes.

Pew’s poll includes 1,000 adults from across the country. The poll was conducted between Dec. 11 to Dec. 14, right around the time the Senate report dropped. The report notes that the CIA used “rectal rehydration” and waterboarding as a means of extracting information from detainees after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

A minority of those Pew surveyed (41%) thought the decision to release the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report was the right one. A larger proportion (43%) said it was the wrong decision.

Here’s a look at how the survey responses stack up:

Predictably, there’s a partisan divide when it comes to whether the torture is justified:


Aaron Blake at The Washington Post offers this theory on why Americans support torture: “They think torture works, period.”

He writes:

Many opponents of the program contend not only that the United States should not be torturing people, but also that torturing people simply doesn’t work. They say it provides information that is often wrong, because the subject of torture (or ‘enhanced interrogation techniques,’ in Bush administration-speak) will say anything to make the treatment stop.

Americans don’t believe it.

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