Poll: Two thirds of Americans support probes of Bush era
John Byrne
Published: Thursday February 12, 2009

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Almost 40 percent of Americans support criminal investigations into the Bush Administration's use of harsh interrogations and warrantless wiretapping program, even after President George W. Bush left office, a USA Today/Gallup poll found Thursday.

Forty-one percent favor a criminal investigation into the Bush Administration's use of the Justice Department for political purposes; 38 percent favor an investigation for the Administration's warrantless wiretapping and 38 percent favor a criminal probe for the possible use of torture in terrorism investigations.

Close to two-thirds of respondents also said they'd like to see formal investigations of Bush policies, even if not criminal probes.

These results are based on a Jan. 30-Feb. 1 USA Today/Gallup poll.

Strikingly, Gallup and USA Today presented the polls in entirely different lights.

USA Today headlined their article, "Poll: Most want inquiry into anti-terror tactics," while Gallup bannered theirs, "No Mandate for Criminal Probes of Bush Administration."

Bush, meanwhile, claimed a mandate for his agenda in 2000 with just 48 percent of the popular vote.

One third of respondents said they wanted nothing to be done. Another third favored an independent panel, with 25 percent favoring neither.

House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers, Jr. recently subpoenaed former Bush Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove for testimony relating to the firing of nine US Attorneys and the possible political prosecution of a former Alabama governor. In the Senate, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said he's open to the idea of a "truth commission," which would probe alleged Bush-era abuses but offer broad immunity to those who testified.

At President Obama's Monday night press conference, Obama said he'd look at Leahy's commission concept but that his "general orientation is to say, let's get it right moving forward."

Obama's CIA chief nominee promised CIA officers won't be prosecuted for their roles in harsh interrogations under Bush's tenure.

USA Today also noted the Republican viewpoint from Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA): "If every administration started to re-examine what every prior administration did, there would be no end to it," Specter said. "This is not Latin America."

Chile and South Africa have both held "truth commissions" over civil rights abuses in previous decades.