On the eve of the expiration of the controversial Patriot Act drafted to expand Washington's ability to sniff out terrorists, the public is telling lawmakers that it not only backs the act but also thinks torture is OK on terrorists too.
While the House and Senate are expected to approve extending the Patriot Act, which expires Friday, getting a strong public endorsement is a bonus, according to Senate GOP leadership aides. What's more the public's message in a new Suffolk University poll is a blunt one: Do whatever it takes to stop another terrorist attack on U.S. soil.
"It's clearly something that's on people's minds," says Suffolk's David Paleologos. "Ironically, the removal of [Osama] bin Laden may have heightened fears for a majority of Americans." [See photos of reactions to Osama bin Laden's death.]
In their telephone poll, 58 percent said the Patriot Act is necessary, even when the poll question noted that some "say that it gives the government too much power and invades privacy." Just 31 percent said it puts too much power in the hands of the federal government.
With just as much support in the poll conducted May 10-May 17, was the use of torture to get suspected terrorists to cough up info. Some 57 percent said that it is OK to use enhanced interrogation techniques or some forms of torture on suspected terrorists if they might have information that keeps America safe. Another 31 percent said no. [See a slide show of six potential terrorist targets.]
That view certainly played into how the nation views the killing of bin Laden. According to the poll, a whopping 87 percent said it didn't matter to them if bin Laden was unarmed or not when he was shot dead by Navy SEALs and 57 percent said it wasn't a political assassination.
And here might be the reason why the public is so tough on terrorists: 51 percent fear that there will be a terrorist attack on U.S. soil in the next year.