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Most Americans believe CIA interrogation after 9/11 justified, poll says

WASHINGTON -- A majority of Americans believe that the harsh interrogation techniques used on terrorism suspects after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were justified, even as about half the public says the treatment amounted to torture, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

By almost 2-1, or 59 percent to 31 percent, those interviewed support the CIA's brutal methods, with the vast majority of supporters saying they produced valuable intelligence. In general, 58 percent say the torture of suspected terrorists can be justified "often" or "sometimes."

The new poll comes after a scathing Senate Intelligence Committee probe into the CIA's detention and interrogation program, which President Barack Obama ended in 2009. The report found that controversial interrogation techniques -- including waterboarding and placing detainees in stress positions -- were not an effective means of acquiring intelligence. It also found that more than two dozen were detained wrongly, that the program was managed poorly and that the CIA misled top U.S. officials about the program's effectiveness.

Fifty-four percent of the public agrees, saying the CIA intentionally misled the White House, Congress and the American people.

CIA and former intelligence officials have disputed that assertion. Director John Brennan, while acknowledging that the CIA made mistakes, also disputed the Senate's finding that the enhanced interrogation didn't provide useful intel.

Liberal Democrats are less likely to say the agency's actions were justified, while conservative Republicans are most likely to defend it. Moderate or conservative Democrats are more supportive of the program, joining majorities of independents and Republicans who say it was justified. A random national sample of 1,000 adults was polled by phone Dec. 11-14. The poll has an error margin of 3.5 points.

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