I can see this might be true:

Investigation into MI5 torture allegations could jeopardise national security

Imagine that the investigation found that they had in fact been torturing people? Or even just standing by while it was done?

That would damage national security, would it not?

2 thoughts on “Well, yes”

  1. Every time we attend a meeting of the UN, or engage in diplomacy with these countries, we “stand by while it is done.” We do arms deals with Saudi Arabia, we have intelligence ties with Pakistan, we buy cheap goods from China, and we try to negotiate ‘peace’ with Hamas. In every case we know well what those countries get up to, and yet we still smile and shake hands and pretend we’re all civilised and sophisticated about such “cultural differences”. The entire nation has been “standing by while it was done” for decades now.

    Anyway, it’s not so much having an investigation, as doing it in public. We already have secret courts to try this sort of thing, so justice and the rule of law is as available as it ever is. This problem of ensuring the security services stay within the law while remaining secret was recognised and dealt with long ago.

    The issue here is purely one of PR – of having a show trial to reassure the public. Or possibly of politics – of using our principles against us in the post-modern effort to discredit and overthrow Western culture.

    It’s somewhat questionable whether it would damage national security in the short term anyway. The purpose of torture is not to get information or confessions (for which there are more effective albeit still highly immoral methods) but as deterrence. It puts people off doing anything that might attract your displeasure. That’s why the Jihadists all do it. A rumoured reputation for using it, even if untrue, is probably a net plus from a tactical point of view. But the strategic downside is that it makes it more likely that we will eventually surrender to them, through public disapproval.

    And given that it’s mainly the other side that uses torture, that would be a net loss to the world, torture-wise. Losing to them would condemn millions to their rule. And thereafter we would forever have to “stand by while it was done”, knowing that we might have stopped it.

  2. One of the biggest canards in all this is the question, “does torture work?” One of the chief arguments that the ‘anti-torture’ crowd uses is that it yields bad intelligence. That, of course, is a hostage to fortune for all that is needed to counter it is an example of torture’s working to yield actionable intelligence (of which there are many). However, once one is reduced to rejecting the bald utilitarian calculus and adopting the moral stance, things become a lot less clear-cut.

    For what it’s worth, I don’t think torture is a valid interrogation technique*, although, having attended prep and public school, I might have a somewhat more lax definition of what constitutes torture (and I am by no means being facetious or flippant.)

    * I stress, from a moral rather than operational standpoint

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