The Senate intelligence committee's big report on CIA interrogation techniques (what many label "torture") has landed with a thud.
Despite detailing what are some pretty controversial practices — up to and including "rectal feeding" — Americans didn't pay much attention to the report, and they still support the CIA's practices by more than a 20-point margin.
A big reason for the lack of a backlash: They think torture works, period.
Many opponents of the program contend not only that the United States should not be torturing people, but also that torturing people simply doesn't work. They say it provides information that is often wrong, because the subject of torture (or "enhanced interrogation techniques," in Bush administration-speak) will say anything to make the treatment stop.
Americans don't believe it.
A Pew poll shows Americans say, by a two-to-one margin (56-28), say the CIA's interrogation methods after 9/11 "provided intelligence that helped prevent terrorist attacks."
Similarly, a CBS News poll shows that 57 percent of Americans think waterboarding and other interrogation techniques practiced by the CIA "provide reliable information that helps prevent terrorist attacks" either "often" or "sometimes." Just 8 percent say it "never" provides quality information, while 24 percent say it "rarely" does.
And finally, a Washington Post-ABC News poll released Tuesday morning shows people say 53-31 that the CIA's program did "produce important information that could not have been obtained any other way."
To be clear, Americans think many of the things the CIA has done constitute "torture." About seven in 10 say that waterboarding, extended sleep deprivation and threatening to sexually abuse a prisoner's mother are all forms of torture, per the CBS poll. Another 57 percent say making a prisoner take an ice bath is torture.
But as previous polls have shown, when that kind of torture is connected to valuable information that prevents terrorism on American soil, it becomes the cost of doing business.
In addition, even many Americans who don't think these tactics work still support the CIA's program. In the WaPo-ABC poll, 28 percent of those who say the CIA program didn't produce valuable information still say it was justified. For what reason, we're not quite sure. (Overall, Americans say 59-31 that it was justified.)
And as long as people believe torturing terrorism detainees leads to valuable information, the CIA's interrogation program — and torture in general — are unlikely to face a major public backlash.
This is the unhappy reality being confronted by Democrats who had hoped to make a splash with the CIA report.