Dec. 1 — Americans are solidly behind the Bush administration plan to try terrorists in military tribunals. And they say the White House has not gone too far in restricting civil liberties in its efforts to stamp out terrorism, according to the latest NEWSWEEK poll. However, the public’s ideas about how these tribunals should be conducted differs from the administration’s plans. And when asked about specific examples of expanded government powers, respondents expresses reservations.
InsertArt(1283761)SEVENTY-TWO PERCENT of those polled say that the restrictions on civil liberties imposed or planned by the Bush White House in response to terrorism is “about right.” Only 11 percent of Americans say the moves “go too far.”
But just 35 percent strongly favor the new power the U.S. government has to detain legal immigrants suspected of crimes indefinitely as a way to protect against terrorism—down considerably from the 54 percent who supported it in September. Forty-three percent say they are willing to accept the power if necessary, while just 19 percent say it goes too far. The public is split over whether the Bill of Rights should apply only to American citizens (51%) or should be extended to non-citizens as well (42%).
More than two-thirds of people (68 percent) approve of the administration’s plan to put non-U.S. citizens charged with terrorism on trial in special military tribunals, rather than in the regular criminal court system. Twenty-two percent disapprove of the plan.
But opinion is split on how they should be conducted. Twenty-eight percent say they should be held mostly in public; 30 percent say entirely in public; 27 percent say mostly in secret; and just 11 percent say entirely in secret.
Fifty-five percent of Americans think the tribunals should have some international involvement, while 40 percent say they should be run entirely by Americans. A slim 52-percent majority says the military should be solely involved in the tribunals, while 42 percent say civilian federal judges should a role. An overwhelming 74-percent majority say the tribunals should be used to try foreign suspects captured in other places around the world, but 57 percent say the tribunals should not apply to non-U.S. citizens who have lived in this country for many years if they are suspected of terrorism.
A 59-percent majority fears it is somewhat likely (41 percent) or very likely (18 percent) that the military tribunals could be overused by the U.S. government to sweep up criminal cases involving non-U.S. citizens that should be tried in the regular criminal court system. Twelve percent say it is not at all likely and 25 percent say it is not too likely.
Support for both President George W. Bush and the military campaign in Afghanistan remains high. Eighty-five percent of Americans approve of the way President Bush is handling his job, and 89 percent approve of the military action against terrorism. Seventy-five percent say it is at least somewhat likely (38 percent) or very likely (37 percent) that the U.S. will be able to capture or kill Osama bin Laden (only 8 percent say it is not at all likely).
For the first time, the NEWSWEEK poll also shows a slim majority (53 percent) who believe that capturing or killing bin Laden would reduce the chances of future terrorist attacks; while just 35 percent think it would make bin Laden a martyr and inspire others to commit acts of terrorism.
Most Americans would also support U.S. military action against Iraq and its leader Saddam Hussein. Seventy-four percent would approve of sending in commandos or special forces to capture Saddam or work with local anti-Saddam forces; 68 percent would support using air strikes without using any ground troops; and 65 percent support organizing an international force to force Saddam from power and take control of the country.
For the Newsweek Poll, Princeton Survey Research Associates interviewed by telephone 1,002 adults aged 18 and older on Nov. 29 to Nov. 30. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.
© 2003 Newsweek, Inc.
© 2013 Newsweek, Inc.