WASHINGTON: A majority of Americans would support military action against Iran if there were evidence that Tehran is building nuclear weapons, even if such action led to higher gasoline prices, a Reuters/Ipsos polled showed on Tuesday.
The poll showed 62 percent of Americans would back Israel taking military action against Iran for the same reasons.
US President Barack Obama has said all options are on the table in dealing with Iran's nuclear program.
Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful.
The Reuters/Ipsos poll showed 56 percent of Americans would support US military action against Iran if there were evidence of a nuclear weapon program. Thirty-nine percent of Americans opposed military strikes.
Asked whether they would back US military action if it led to higher gasoline prices, 53 percent of Americans said they would, while 42 percent said they would not.
NYPD surveillance of Muslims appears popular, legal: University Poll
In another poll, New York City voters overwhelmingly support the New York Police Department's anti-terrorism campaign even as provisions of it have come under criticism from civil rights groups who question the legality how police target Muslims.
The Quinnipiac University poll, released on Tuesday, found respondents approved by 63 percent to 31 the way New York police are doing their job and said by 82 percent to 14 percent the NYPD has been effective combating terrorism.
The poll of 964 New York City voters showed Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly won better than 2-to-1 approval ratings and voters said police act appropriately in how they deal with Muslims by a margin of 58 percent to 29 percent.
Kelly won an approval rating of 64 percent to 25 percent, according to the poll, which was taken March 6-11 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percent.
Support among New Yorkers comes as questions have been raised about the constitutionality of the anti-terrorism campaign, and US Attorney General Eric Holder has said the Justice Department was reviewing letters expressing concern over the NYPD's surveillance program.
Legal experts say any court challenge based on claims of racial or religious profiling would face high hurdles. Instead, they say, any successful case would likely come down to a single paragraph in a longstanding court order that governs the department's surveillance of political activity. The paragraph, part of the "Handschu guidelines," sets conditions for NYPD officers who visit public places or events during anti-terrorism investigations. It prohibits them from keeping records of their observations unless the information is related to "potential unlawful activity" - a ban that critics say the NYPD has ignored.
The Associated Press reported last August the CIA was helping police gather intelligence from mosques and minority neighborhoods. The NYPD kept tabs on Muslim neighborhoods in the city and surrounding areas such as New Jersey by sending undercover officers into mosques, businesses and college campuses, keeping records of what they found, the AP said.
"There's a very strong suggestion that they are going into the Muslim community, chatting up folks and maintaining records on individuals, which we think runs afoul of the Handschu decree," said Arthur Eisenberg, legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. City and police officials have defended the practices as legal. "Anyone who intimates that it is unlawful for the police department to search online, visit public places, or map neighborhoods has either not read, misunderstood, or intentionally obfuscated the meaning of the Handschu guidelines," Kelly said during a recent speech at Fordham Law School.
The Handschu guidelines were established by a Manhattan federal judge in 1985 to resolve a 1971 case, Handschu v. Special Services, brought by a coalition of political groups in response to widespread police surveillance during the turmoil of the 1960s.
In 2003, US District Judge Charles Haight granted a city request to lessen the Handschu restrictions to facilitate anti-terrorism efforts following the attacks of September 11, 2001.
But to keep police powers in check, the judge included a provision that limits the records police officers can keep of their observations in public places. Under that provision, lawyers for the plaintiffs asked Judge Haight to force the NYPD to turn over files related to the surveillance program. They are negotiating the terms of document handover with city attorneys. Police point to a section of Handschu that authorizes the NYPD to "prepare general reports and assessments ... for purposes of strategic or operational planning." City lawyer Peter Farrell, who represents the city in the Handschu case, said in an email the guidelines "make clear that the NYPD may visit public places and go online - just as the general public does." He did not specifically comment on whether the NYPD could maintain records of what they learn
Civil libertarians may also pursue claims that the NYPD violated a state law prohibiting racial profiling. There could be a challenge on constitutional grounds as well. But those could prove more difficult to substantiate. Police and city officials have said their actions were prompted by legitimate leads, not merely by religious identity. Legal experts say proving religion was a "determinative" factor rather than simply one of several could be challenging. Constitutional claims also face an uphill climb. "The reality is that much of what the ordinary person would consider racial profiling is not legally prohibited by the Constitution," said Stephen Schulhofer, a professor and criminal justice expert at New York University School of Law. However, if police actions produced a chilling effect on free speech or religious practices, that could violate the First Amendment.
"We can show that people are not attending prayers because they are afraid," said Omar Mohammedi, president of the Association of Muslim American Lawyers. In addition, if the targeting creates a "stigma" for Muslims, that could violate the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, experts said.
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