Majority of Americans say torture justified: poll

A lectern stands empty as reporters await the arrival of Director of Central Intelligence Agency John Brennan for a press conference at CIA headquarters in McLean, Virginia last week. Brennan acknowledged Thursday some agency interrogators used "abho
A lectern stands empty as reporters await the arrival of Director of Central Intelligence Agency John Brennan for a press conference at CIA headquarters in McLean, Virginia last week. Brennan acknowledged Thursday some agency interrogators used "abhorrent" unauthorized techniques in questioning terrorism suspects after the 9/11 attacks. -- PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - A majority of Americans believe that torture of suspected terrorists is justified, a new poll reported Tuesday, just days after a scathing report into the CIA's brutal treatment of detainees in the wake of the Sept, 11, 2001 attacks.

The Washington Post/ABC News poll found that 58 per cent people believe that in general, looking ahead, the torture of suspected terrorists can be justified "often" or "sometimes." Thirty nine per cent said torture could not be justified, the survey showed.

Asked specifically if the CIA's treatment of suspected Al-Qaeda operatives in the wake of 9/11 was justified, the poll found Americans overwhelmingly in favour by a margin of almost two to one - 59 per cent to 31 per cent.

The poll findings follow publication of a US Senate report last week into the CIA's post-9/11 interrogation program which found the methods used were far harsher than previously disclosed and were not productive.

The interrogation techniques included beatings, rectal rehydration, sleep deprivation, waterboarding or simulated drowning, confinement in wooden boxes and threats of physical or sexual violence against family members.

Tuesday's Washington Post poll was broadly in line with several other recent surveys which have indicated that most Americans are unmoved by the scathing criticism of the CIA program.

CIA chiefs have strongly contested the claim that the interrogation techniques produced no intelligence of value, a position echoed by the Washington Post poll.

The survey showed 53 per cent of Americans believed the CIA's interrogation regime produced important information that could not have been acquired by any other means. Thirty-one percent said it did not.

On Monday, a Pew Research Centre survey of 1,001 adults reported broadly similar findings.

Fifty-one per cent of Americans believe the CIA's methods were justified (29 per cent said not) and 56 per cent said the intelligence gathered from those methods prevented terrorist attacks, the survey found.

There was more doubt, however, about the decision to release the Senate report, with 42 per cent saying it was the right move against 43 per cent who said it was not. Fifteen per cent did not know.