A majority of Americans believe that the harsh interrogation tactics detailed in last week's Senate Intelligence Committee's report on the CIA's handling of prisoners after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were warranted, a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds.
The survey — conducted following the release of the committee's long-awaited report on the CIA's controversial techniques — found that 51 percent of Americans approved of the tactics, while 28 percent said they went too far.
The results virtually match a Pew Research Center poll that also found 51 percent believe the CIA's methods were justified, while 29 percent said they were not. A Washington Post-ABC News poll released Tuesday found 59 percent approved of the CIA's tactics, while 31 percent disapproved. The same poll found roughly half of Americans believe the CIA treatment of suspected terrorists amounted to torture, while 38 percent said it did not.
"Under any common meaning of the term, CIA detainees were tortured," Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Dianne Feinstein said in releasing the report, which does not itself use the word torture.
On Sunday, former Vice President Dick Cheney defended the program, refusing to call practices of "involuntary rectal feeding" outlined in the report "torture."
“We were very careful to stop short of torture,” Cheney said on "Meet the Press" on Sunday. "The Senate has seen fit to label their report torture. But we worked hard to stay short of that definition."
Cheney said he defines torture as "an American citizen on a cell phone making a last call to his four young daughters shortly before he burns to death in the upper levels of the Trade Center in New York City on 9/11."
The program was justified, he said, because all of the techniques "were authorized by the president," "blessed by the Justice Department" and "absolutely worked."
"We've avoided another mass casualty attack against the United States," the former vice president said. "And we did capture bin Laden. We did capture an awful lot of the senior guys at al-Qaida who were responsible for that attack on 9/11. I'd do it again in a minute."
It seems many Americans tend to agree. According to the NBC News/WSJ survey, 45 percent think such techniques should be used in the future, while 28 percent did not.
The survey also found a partisan split on the issue of torture. Among Republicans, an overwhelming majority (80 percent) said the Bush-era practices were acceptable, while just 9 percent said they went too far. Among Democrats, 32 percent said the techniques were acceptable under the circumstances, while 44 percent said they were unacceptable.
The full results of the poll, conducted Dec. 10-14, will be released Wednesday.