Poll: U.S. Uneasy With Patriot Act

Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building AP

Ten years after the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, just 46 percent of Americans think similar acts can be prevented in the future. Pessimism has increased since the September 11th, 2001 attacks -- before then, a majority felt acts like Oklahoma City could be prevented.

After the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. Congress passed the USA Patriot Act to help prevent terrorism but many are not convinced this is the right answer. They think the act goes too far and poses a threat to civil liberties.

The public is now divided on whether events like the Oklahoma City bombing can be prevented from happening again. 46 percent think we've learned from that attack and can prevent similar attacks in the future, but the same number say such events are not preventable. In 2000, on the fifth anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, 55 percent of Americans thought such an attack could be prevented from happening again.

CAN ACTS LIKE OKLAHOMA CITY BE PREVENTED?

Can be prevented
Now
46%
4/2000
55%

Can NOT be prevented
Now
46%
4/2000
38%

The USA Patriot Act, passed in October 2001 and set to expire at the end of the year unless Congress renews it, expanded the wiretapping authority of U.S. intelligence agencies and strengthened penalties for those aiding terrorists.

Today, 41 percent of Americans have heard or read about the USA Patriot Act (13 percent have heard a lot about it), but 57 percent have heard little or nothing about it.

Among those who have heard or read about the USA Patriot Act, 49 percent say it is a necessary tool that helps the government find terrorists, but nearly as many -- 45 percent -- say the act goes too far and is a threat to civil liberties. The public is more closely divided on this issue than they were last year.

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