April 28, 2009 / 3:56 PM / 10 years ago

Most Americans oppose interrogation probe: poll

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Most Americans oppose a U.S. congressional investigation into harsh interrogation methods used on terrorism suspects during the Bush administration, a poll said on Tuesday.

Protestors dressed as Guantanamo Bay prisoners stand in front of the White House, March 19, 2008. REUTERS/Jim Young

A CBS News/New York Times poll found that 62 percent of Americans do not think Congress should hold hearings to investigate the treatment of detainees, about the same proportion as in a similar poll in February.

The poll also found that President Barack Obama continues to have strong public backing for his job performance, with 68 percent of respondents approving of his job performance and 23 percent disapproving.

The Senate Intelligence Committee is conducting a closed-door probe of interrogation policies used under former President George W. Bush. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, has said that the committee should be allowed to do its work.

But Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, have advocated a congressionally created bipartisan commission to investigate the matter.

“I know some people say, let’s turn the page. Frankly, I’d like to read the page before we turn it,” Leahy told the CBS program “Face the Nation” on Sunday.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs has said Obama opposes such a commission.

Obama has opened the door to the possible prosecution of Bush administration officials by saying it will be up to the Justice Department to decide whether anyone broke the law in providing legal justification for harsh interrogation methods such as waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning.

The poll found that 89 percent of Republicans opposed Congress holding hearings on interrogation policies, and 60 percent of independents also opposed such hearings. Democrats were more divided, with 46 percent saying Congress should hold hearings, and 51 percent saying they were not necessary.

Most of those surveyed — 55 percent — approved of Obama’s handling of the threat of terrorism, while 28 percent did not approve.

But the poll found mixed views on Obama’s decision to close the Guantanamo Bay U.S. prison for terrorism suspects by next January. The poll found that 47 percent think the prison should remain open, while 44 percent want it to be shut.

The survey was conducted from April 22 to April 26, and involved a random sample of 973 U.S. adults. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Will Dunham

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