NBC Reporters Reject Own Poll Showing Americans Support CIA Interrogations

On her 12 p.m. ET hour MSNBC show on Tuesday, host Andrea Mitchell could barely conceal her disgust while reporting on a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showing a majority of Americans supported the enhanced interrogation tactics used by the CIA after September 11th: "51% said that the procedures used, the interrogation enhanced tactics, which have been defined as torture, 51% said that they were acceptable under the circumstances. Only 28% said that they went too far."

Turning to NBC's chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel, Mitchell cautioned that "polling is always an imprecise measure because of the way questions are asked." Engel replied: "It seems to show that people think that what happened was justified. And that the means justified the ends. I think history will judge whether that is the right opinion or whether it is an emotional opinion."

Continuing to dismiss his network's own poll, Engel wondered: "...should public opinion really be setting policy?" Mitchell agreed: "Exactly." Engel continued: "Sometimes people want things, it doesn't make them morally right or legal either." Mitchell concluded: "In fact, they're against U.S. law and international law and international treaties."

On Monday, CBS This Morning co-host Gayle King spun her network's polling on the subject as showing Americans "divided" over interrogations – despite 49% support for the tactics vs. only 36% opposition.

Despite an ABC News/Washington Post poll being released 7 a.m. ET Tuesday morning, Good Morning America ignored the findings that 59% of the American people thought the CIA interrogations were justified.

Here is a transcript of the December 16 exchange between Mitchell and Engel:

12:08 PM ET

(...)

ANDREA MITCHELL: And, Richard, quickly, before I let you go. Speaking of public opinion, we have new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll numbers, which showed in response to the torture report, that according to the people questioned, 51% said that the procedures used, the interrogation enhanced tactics, which have been defined as torture, 51% said that they were acceptable under the circumstances. Only 28% said that they went too far. And should we use such harsh interrogation practices again? 45% said acceptable/should be used in the future and only 28% said wrong and should be stopped entirely.

Now polling is always an imprecise measure because of the way questions are asked, but that is pretty much the way supporters of the CIA would have thought it would come down.

RICHARD ENGEL: Well, it seems to show where the country is. It seems to show that people think that what happened was justified. And that the means justified the ends. I think history will judge whether that is the right opinion or whether it is an emotional opinion. And people will also judge, should public opinion really be setting policy?

MITCHELL: Exactly.

ENGEL: Sometimes people want things, it doesn't make them morally right or legal either.

MITCHELL: In fact, they're against U.S. law and international law and international treaties.

(...)

Polling Interrogation Techniques War on Terrorism MSNBC Andrea Mitchell Reports Video Andrea Mitchell Richard Engel

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