Sacrificing civil liberties OK to fight terrorism say some Americans

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The U.S. effort to combat terrorism receives mixed reviews: Just 36 percent say it's been extremely or very effective, 49 percent say moderately so.

About a third of Americans are concerned that they or their family will be victims of a terrorist attack, and 37 percent believe the area where they live is at least at moderate risk of being attacked.

Susan Davis, a medical transcriptionist from Springfield, Mo., answers for many Americans when asked whether sacrificing some freedom is warranted in order for the government to provide more security.

"Yeah," she says, "as long as they don't go too far with it."

But everyone has their own definition of what's too far.

The poll found that Americans have different comfort levels with various scenarios in pursuing potential terrorist activity. For example:

—71 percent favor surveillance cameras in public places to watch for suspicious activity.

—58 percent favor random searches involving full-body scans or pat-downs of airplane passengers.

—55 percent favor government analysis of financial transactions processed by U.S. banks without a warrant.

—47 percent favor requiring all people in the U.S. to carry a national ID card and provide it to authorities upon demand.

—35 percent favor racial or ethnic profiling to decide who should get tougher screening at airports.

The first three scenarios already are legal; the latter two are not.

The poll turned up sharp divisions among Americans on whether torture — banned by the government — should have any place in combating terrorism.

Fifty-two percent said torture can be justified at least sometimes to obtain information about terrorist activity. Forty-six percent said it can never or only rarely be justified.

The AP-NORC poll was conducted July 28 to Aug. 15. It involved landline and cell phone interviews with 1,087 adults nationwide, and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.

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