Do fuck off Mr. Cameron

David Cameron is considering a temporary withdrawal from the European human rights convention in order to finally remove Abu Qatada from Britain.

The Prime Minister held a ‘council of war’ with senior ministers yesterday to find a way of deporting the hate preacher to his native Jordan to face terror charges, according to sources.

Home Secretary Theresa May, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling and Attorney General Dominic Grieve were summoned for talks at Downing Street shortly before the Government discovered it had lost the latest round in an interminable legal battle to remove the terror suspect.

Sources said Mr Cameron had declared Qatada’s continued presence in Britain ‘intolerable’ and insisted even the most controversial options must be considered.

We have this thing called the law, see? And Mr. Qatada has the same rights under this rule of law as you or I do. And quite rightly so: it is one of the great boasts of our country that none are too mighty to be above the law. So too should it be that none are to be denied it.

One of the reasons we have this system is so that people who are declared bad \’uns by some Old Etonian claiming to run the country cannot be railroaded. If the law states that Mr. Qatada cannot be sent off to face charges bolstered by evidence perhaps gained under torture then Mr. Qatada cannot be so sent off. And that\’s it really.

Cue More and Roeper from A Man For All Seasons please.

88 thoughts on “Do fuck off Mr. Cameron”

  1. I thought the ECHR had been incorporated into English Law? I mean, didn’t Blair do that? Can the PM arbitrarily “withdraw” us from our own laws?

    IANAL, and so on.

  2. IanB, I think you need to see the other comment on the porn vs WiFi thread re: the likelihood of anything Cameron actually suggests getting put into practice…

  3. I remember the film and the effect it had on me. Probably the first time I though about such questions.

    Magnificent Paul Schofield helped make me into a law-abiding goody-goody and a great supporter of rule of law.

    It is our only safeguard.

    And no rogue assassins either please, however tempting….

  4. Surreptitious Evil

    There are a few aspects to this.

    Clearly, under the UK constitutional settlement, the current Parliament can revoke any previous statutes or enact a statute to over-ride aspects of the common law.

    Secondly, there is a process under ECHR Article 15 where you can enact temporary derogations.

    And then there is the fact that the UK has never signed up to Protocol 7 of the ECHR – Article 1 concerning “lawfully resident foreigners facing expulsion.”

  5. The law ought to reflect what the majority of people in the country want it to be; if it really is as simple as exiting the ECHR for five minutes then we should do so, on the basis that we make laws, we amend laws, we repeal laws all the time.

    I’m not sure whether popular or wholly unpopular decisions by unelected and unaccountable judges are better or worse than those by theoretically elected and accountable politicians, but this does all show what a weird world we now live in, and what rule by lawyers – particularly international lawyers – looks like.

  6. The law ought to reflect what the majority of people in the country want it to be

    Are you absolutely sure about that?

  7. Mr Cameron, of course, is entitled to his own opinion. However he does not (surely) have the executive power to suspend bits of constitutional legislation that he does not like. He would (surely) need to get legislation through Parliament to suspend earlier legislation and then re-enact the legislation again the day after Abu Fucknut is sent away.

  8. I quite like our (imperfect) liberal system. If the country was run as “the majority” would like it it would be a pretty unpleasant place.

    All the people crying for Abu Fucknut’s rights to be torn away would be pretty worried if the same thing happened to them.

  9. @Matthew L

    ‘Are you absolutely sure about that?’

    Yes, I am.

    I tend to trust people, for a start. The notorious failure of juries to convict in many fairly straightforward murder cases when the dreath penalty was extant is a case in point.

    I don’t believe that we would turn overnight (though I would not suggest overnight rewriting of our statute books anyway) into some sort of legal hell, and I believe in any case that good forces out bad; if we went bonkers, a lot of people who could leave would do so and things would soon change. I think things might be a lot more liberal, actually.

    But even where I don’t agree with the majority (as I often don’t), I don’t think it’s my place, or any minority of people’s place (be it Parliament or judges or whoever), to overrule the wishes of the majority.

    I’d add in no representation without taxation, and that I’d like to see some (perhaps all) laws devolved to a lower unit.

    So Liverpoool, say, can legalise drugs and execute car thieves, while Birmingham has no death penalty but jails muggers for 10 years, and Scunthorpe has the 10 commandments and nothing else.

    I’m not saying this is ever going to happen, or perhaps could happen, but it interests me.

    As it stands, the main argument against majority rule seems to be *Have you seen these people? What on earth sorts of laws would they bring in? No, judges and politicians know better.*

    Just not sure I agree with that.

  10. @Blue Eyes I quite like our (imperfect) liberal system. If the country was run as “the majority” would like it it would be a pretty unpleasant place.

    But do you have any evidence for this?

  11. Well, this is why the jury system. Things tend to go tits when it’s judges rather than juries making decisions.

    Is there any good reason that a jury rather than a judge cannot hear the arguments for and against deportation, and make the decision?

  12. As it stands, the main argument against majority rule seems to be *Have you seen these people? What on earth sorts of laws would they bring in? No, judges and politicians know better.*

    Just not sure I agree with that.

    Oh lord, I do. Every time I begin to feel all democratic I go to my local ASDA and find myself questioning the wisdom of universal suffrage within five minutes flat.

    Didn’t de Toqueville, Mill and Nietszche have some pithy things to say about this, anyway?

  13. IanB (#18), this would never be a jury matter. It’s an appeal on a point of law, that the ECHR (as enacted by the UK) protects him from deportation.

    We could of course change the system and have a jury in the Supreme Court, but they don’t tend to be very good at resolving complicated legal questions so it would be a very different legal system to the one we’ve got now.

  14. Ian, B

    Is there any good reason that a jury rather than a judge cannot hear the arguments for and against deportation, and make the decision?

    Well, yes. The current reason is that it is the law that a judge make the decision. Another reason (which may or may not apply in this case – I have not really followed it) is that sometimes a court has to decide on facts, but sometimes the only issue is what the law is. Judges probably know that better than juries. (Not the same as what it should be.)

    And leaving aside the question of whether judges or juries are better for particular types of case, do you really want every magistrate’s case, every immigration tribunal, every employment tribunal case, every small claims case, every civil trial, every matrimonial trial, every case about a Liverpudlian who trips over in the street, etc to be tried by a jury of 12? When would we ever do any work?

  15. @Sam

    …Oh lord, I do. Every time I begin to feel all democratic I go to my local ASDA and find myself questioning the wisdom of universal suffrage within five minutes flat…

    With respect, Sam, this isn’t a very liberal position to hold.

    It’s also slightly contradictory to make a judgment about people’s suitability make judgments as to how their lives are regulated based on seeing them in a supermarket. Is it the footie shirts?

    (In case you fear the decisions of the great unwashed, I did add in no representation without taxation, though this introduces its own issues of course. It would need finessing to something like no rep without tax in the last three years or something.)

  16. @IanB

    Yes, as others have said these are matters of law. The point is, do we want judges making law. Maybe we do, maybe we don’t.

    To argue slightly against my own position, there are problems with the jury system too. It’s well known that it’s much harder to get convictions for far lesser offences than murder in certain courts, where the local population is more sympathetic to the ‘underdog’.

    Of course, in my brave new world, the locals would decide what laws to enforce and how to punish miscreants, and live with the consequences!

  17. @interested

    no, it’s not a very liberal position to hold but then its not really my position; it’s a very atavistic reaction to seeing fat people in sportswear hitting their children for wanting sweets they only want because they took them there in the first place. But that’s by the by.

    My actual position is that I don’t much mind how much those people regulate their own lives but I’m fucked if they’re going to have a say in regulating mine.

  18. @Sam

    Sorry – I assumed that when you said that was your position it was your position*.

    ‘My actual position is that I dont much mind how much those people regulate their own lives but Im fucked if theyre going to have a say in regulating mine.’

    But that sounds like it *is* your position after all? They can regulate your life via the means of universal suffrage?

    *(I have similar reactions, of course. See Mundo Jazz Scally Scally Scouse on youtube.)

  19. but sometimes the only issue is what the law is

    This always troubles me. What makes us think that a judge knows “what the law is”? One could argue that if the law is unclear, or two laws are contradictory, it should go back to the Parliament to be clarified. Indeed, it might make more sense to occupy them with sorting out the current tangle; might give them less time and incentive to keep adding to it.

  20. @interested

    I would quite genuinely be in favour of tightening the qualifications for voting; though I’m not sure what the metrics would be.

    Apart from that I’m probably just having a misanthropic morning. I am very alive to past concerns over the tyranny of the majority, mind.

    (I’ve seen Mundo Jazz play that; brilliant.)

  21. My previous comment being admittedly besides the point in this case; if we have a law saying you can’t be deported to a country that uses torture (or whatever it says), that’s the law, and that’s that. I can’t get past the fact that Cameron seems to be declaring an intention to suspend the law purely to “get” one individual. That is an utterly appalling precedent.

  22. @Sam – me too, and I share your difficulty over working out how it ought to be. I think the clsoest I can get without thinking very deeply is no representation without taxation in the last (say) three years. But I can see some quite large problems with this, too.

    ‘You take your kids to Lidl just to slap them’

  23. BlueEyes: “All the people crying for Abu Fucknuts rights to be torn away would be pretty worried if the same thing happened to them.”

    He is a foreigner. Not comparable.

  24. @ interested, you cannot decide that a law is not good based on a single case when the principle at stake is much bigger than this.

    Nothing is perfect, but to say that what the majority wants should be law is simplistic in the extreme. Its just another type of dictatorship.

  25. Do I have any *evidence* of what might happen if we had a different constitution? Not really. Sorry.

    Let’s look at what the UK government has been criticised for in the recent past: DNA sampling and retention for people not charged and not found guilty by a court; attempts to outlaw free expression by commercial publishers.

    I am massively in favour of the electorate taking responsibility for making sure the government of the day doesn’t trample over our rights. We hopefully wouldn’t let UKIP throw out the Muslims and Bulgarians even if they won an election, but I think having reference to an outside common “standard” shared with other supposedly-free societies is probably a good thing.

    Has the ECHR gone a bit mad? Probably. Should we abandon it each time it tells the UK government that someone the Daily Mail mob don’t like has been treated wrongly? Of course bloody not.

  26. He is a foreigner. Not comparable.</blockquote

    Well I'm surprised they haven't burnt him at the stake then. Still, at least he's not involved with drugs – according to you they deserve gruesome deaths even if they're citizens.

  27. Not tosh necessarily. So far as I can tell, Qatada isn’t a British citizen. It thus seems plausible that one could simply tell him to leave.

  28. I bought “Man fo all Seasons” recently on DVD, after realising that it may well be one of the best films ever made. The clip that accompanies this piece moves me tremendously every time I hear it.
    It’s what the law is and always should be – that is above us all.

  29. I would like express my gratitude to Tim Worstall for his choice of video. I well remember, as a 13 year old Catholic boy, my confirmation and the choice I had to make of a saint’s name to take. My peers chose Francis because our church was St Francis of Assisi and because they were told to. I chose Thomas, inspired by this sceme. You’ve made me feel quite proud Tim
    Civilised society cannot thrive, survive unless we are prepared to give the devil the same defence as everybody else. So I do not care what our gov’t say Quatada has done, I do not care what nationality he is, I am not even going to say “he might well be a loathsome man etc” as we’re all supposed to. Unless and until he is convicted after proper due process he remains Mr Qatada to me.

    P.S. Similarly you only believe in free speech if you believe complete twats should be free to speak. So I welcome Ian B’s thoughts.

  30. Ironman, I’m sorry I offended you by arguing against a philosophy that can be used under some circumstances to justify genocide. I’ve always been against industrial scale murder myself, but that’s just me.

  31. @Monoi you cannot decide that a law is not good based on a single case when the principle at stake is much bigger than this.

    The law is often changed because of individual cases which illuminate the principle and show that it is wrong.

    Nothing is perfect, but to say that what the majority wants should be law is simplistic in the extreme. Its just another type of dictatorship…

    As far as I can see, the only alternative to the law being what the majority wants is the law being what a minority wants.

    I’m not sure how that gets you the moral high ground? It just means those with their hands on the levers of power get to decide, based on what they think is right, and everyone else has to suck it up. (I say this as one who is often in what would be the minority camp, of course.)

    @Blue Eyes Do I have any *evidence* of what might happen if we had a different constitution? Not really. Sorry.

    At least you acknowledge this!

    Julia: ah yes, forinners. Kick ‘em out. Has he actually been convicted of anything?

    He entered the country illegally under a false passport. I hardly think it’s extremist to suggest that this could be a deportation matter.

    Our own highest court ruled he could be deported. The ECHR overruled them and invoked Article 6 of the ECHR (the first time it had been used in that way) to block it.

    That point – when foreign judges overruled the British government and British courts – was the moment for withdrawal.

    If it happens, which it won’t, it would just be a bit later than ideal, that’s all.

  32. @ Interested

    “The law ought to reflect what the majority of people in the country want it to be;”

    Ok. But we need to find out whether the majority of people want to the law to be that we extradite people to countries that use torture. That’s what this is about. If the majority want that, then fine.

    If, however, the majority don’t want that… they just want to get rid of Abu Qatada because he’s probably a wrong ‘un.. well that’s different.

    This isn’t about what the law is. This is about whether we are all equal before it.

  33. This blog-post should be retitled, “Do fuck off Mr. Cameron and most of the commenters at timorstall.com”

  34. Of course, that is Robert Bolt speaking, not Thomas More – the man who bigged up HenryVII and ended up decapitated on the orders of Henry VIII.

  35. “I give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!”

    There’s a certain irony in that. More (and many others) would have been safer had Rich been condemned.

    I agree with Tim nevertheless.

  36. The aspect of this that is seldom commented on is the composition of the European Court. Half of the “judges” are not judges – they’re political activists.

    This is why increasingly the ECHR is effectively making the law up as it goes along rather than interpreting the law that is there.

    I think it’s wholly a justified position to take a look at that set-up and tell it to piss off, permanently.

    Given that the ECHR can’t protect us from governments bankrupting us, but can protect third world scumbags from being deported, it’s as useful as a bicycle to a fish (C) 1970’s Feminsists

  37. When Human Rights legislation prevents British citizens being hauled off overseas on the flimsiest of pretexts under the European Arrest Warrant system (or similar Treaties with other nations) then I might be more interested in supporting it.

    As it stands it seems to do nothing for the law abiding and protects the criminal.

  38. @TTG

    If the majority want to get rid of people because they’re wrong uns, then that should be what happens.

    I have absolutely no doubt that the majority of people would not want that – maybe I hold my fellow Britons in too high a regard! – but if they did who am I to argue against them?

    (Actually, I would argue against them, but I wouldn’t seek to use force against them, which is what currently happen where the majority refuse to accept minority opinion.)

  39. My only experience of doing jury service is that the way that juries operate defies all reason – it is a kind of intellectual brownian motion. The idea of basing legislation on what the majority of people think is quite scary. It took the folks with brain-power and experience quite a lot of time to convince the “hangers and floggers” on the jury that they were not really looking at the facts of the case but were, instead, basing their opinion on the defendant’s manner of dress and speech. Who knows what random legislation would arise from asking the majority. On the other hand, governments seem quite good at passing random legislation. Maybe we have the government we deserve. But that does not mean that they should be allowed to change existing laws to solve particular problems without proper debate. No Orders in Council or sneaky SIs please.

  40. That was cruel, Paul. You should know that table-thumping hyperbole isn’t compatible with reality.

    Interested: My biggest problem is that the majority has been wrong in the past. If the majority supported slavery, torture, random nuclear bombings of foreign countries, would you be ok with our government doing that? There has to be limits on the power of the state, regardless of what the mob wants.

  41. @Matthew L …Interested: My biggest problem is that the majority has been wrong in the past. If the majority supported slavery, torture, random nuclear bombings of foreign countries, would you be ok with our government doing that?…

    Interestingly, those things have all been done – taking away the word ‘random’ – by elected governments.

    No, obviously I wouldn’t, personally, be OK with it, but it’s not about me or what I want.

    My argument is not so much that I think majority rule would be a panacea, it’s that if a majority of sane adult people in a given country want to take a certain course of action, however abhorent I might personally find it, what right do I have to say to them that they can’t have do so?

    That said, I don’t characterise people, en masse, as ‘the mob’, and I just don’t think that you would get a majority of working adults (I also say no representation without taxation in the last, say, three years) to agree to these kinds of lunatic things.

    It’s really just a marketisation of ideas and rules: the good would, I think, force out the bad. And your fellow people really are not that stupid, or heartless, or hateful. Have a bit more faith!

  42. @Matthew L …That was cruel, Paul. You should know that table-thumping hyperbole isn’t compatible with reality….

    Johnnydub is wrong to say that half of them are notall lawyers, but it’s certainly the case that they are not appointed to the ECHR from a position of scepticism vis a vis human rights.

    The left has long complained that the English judiciary is made up of white, male, old, English ex-public schoolboys, and that this inevitably influences the way they make the law (which they do, it’s not just the government).

    I think the same charge, slightly tweaked, might be levelled at those who sit in the ECHR.

    Also, I’m not sure why – other than a minority of people in this country wanted us to sign up – I should be judged by a panel including people, with respect to them, from places such as Azerbaijan, Albania and the Russian Federation. They’re from utterly alien legal traditions, in countries where corruption is the norm; whatever you say about our lot, they are tough to bribe or politically pressurise.

  43. Would Churchill sign up today? Who knows? And who cares, to be honest?

    This whole torture line amuses me, anyway.

    PaulB and others have told us two things:

    1. Torture does not work as a means of extracting evidence.

    2. It is wrong to deport Abu Qatada to Jordan to face trial on the basis that evidence against him may have been obtained by torture.

    OK, whatever on the deporting Qatada business, I’m glad we now all agree that torture can be used to obtain information from terrorists after all!

  44. No Mr Worstall we do not have the Law, that is English law which Thomas Moore and Master Roper well knew, we have an alien law imposed on us over which we have no control and do not recognise as law.

    A situation which many of our ancestors shed their blood to prevent.

  45. If Mr Cameron and this apparent majority want to ditch the ECHR then let him and them make the argument in the usual way. If he can persuade enough people in Parliament to agree, we can be out of the ECHR. This isn’t some scheme imposed on us by a foreign force. We can leave whenever we want.

    Enough of the victim complex people. Anyone would think Tim’s readers were all from Liverpool.

  46. Interested: That’s feeble even for you. No one denies that if you torture someone into giving you names of fellow plotters, they will usually give you names. And the more you torture them, the more names you will get. Hundreds of names if you like, thousands even.

  47. I love the idea of rules from which we can temporarily withdraw if we don’t like the outcome.

    I’ll try using it on the ref at my next five-a-side.

  48. Ah – you’re saying this evidence is not really evidence at all. Those crazy Jordanians – why go to the trouble of torturing people if all they’re going to get is fake names? They could just pick them at random from the phone book. I expect Qatada doesn’t know any jihadis anyway.

  49. The pertinent rules are elucidated by non-foreign judges here, in this judgement from a non-foreign court, the Court of Appeal (at the Royal Courts of Justice, the Strand, London, UK):

    http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2013/277.html

    A state cannot expel a person to another state where there is a real risk that he will be tried on the basis of evidence which there is a real possibility may have been obtained by torture. That principle is accepted by the Secretary of State and is not in doubt. That is the principle which SIAC had to apply in the present case in the light of all the evidence that it heard and read. This included evidence as to what had happened and what there was a real risk would happen if Mr Othman faced a retrial on the very serious charges that he faces. SIAC found that there was a real risk that evidence obtained by torture would be admitted at the retrial and that, as a consequence, there was a real risk that he would be subject to a flagrant denial of justice.

    The Home Secretary / Government now wants to have her cake and eat it; they have a set of rules, indeed they accept the “principle” of this particular rule, but are willing to circumvent them when the outcomes of the rules are adverse.

    I suggest, regardless of one’s opinion about Qatada, this is a shitty position for our beloved leaders to assume.

    Blue Eyes @56 is quite right – if the government / Parliament is that unhappy with the rules then ditch them and make some new ones.

  50. The Abu Quat caper is a soundbite side issue.

    The man is here illegally–ok deport him for that. But he and millions of others. It is the “hate speech” malarky that has everybody hopping. The man exercised his universal right to free speech. What he says is vile mega-shite but so what?. As far as is known he has made no bombs and pulled no triggers himself (I obviously don’t accept the idea that free speech can be compromised by making an exception for advocating violence. Any exception will destroy the freedom sooner or later.) Now, even if some nutters have harmed others after listening to Quat consider this: The violent jihadis have no chance of winning by violence–NONE. All they can do is kill a few unfortunates and to provide the scum of the state with excuses for tyranny. That is by far the greatest danger they can bring about.

    In the mean time, with mathematic inevitability we are being outbred by muslims in this country and large swathes of Europe. In 50/60 years time when we native brits will be minority second class citizens in our former nation, the hiers of Abu Quatada will drive in (prob imported) limos around any number of UK mosques that will then exist and preach as much hate as they like. Who’s could stop them?.

    If no one in this country is willing to even think about the real danger–why get your knickers in a twist about Abu Quat?. We would be better off deporting Camoron.

  51. Assuming for a moment (in a parallel universe if you like) that Dave gets his way, suspends the HRA, sends old hook-hand on his way – why on earth would you then “unsuspend” the HRA? If the government can suspend the thing on a whim every time it stops them doing something, they might as well rip it out of the statue book and wrap their fish and chips on it for what it’s worth.

    I’m no fan of the whole human rights bandwagon, but dealing with Mr Q really isn’t the reason to withdraw.

  52. 1. Torture does not work as a means of extracting evidence.

    2. It is wrong to deport Abu Qatada to Jordan to face trial on the basis that evidence against him may have been obtained by torture.

    Seems perfectly logical to me. Evidence obtained by torture is tainted, both morally and practically. You can’t trust its accuracy. If they’re going to present evidence that was obtained by torture, then he’s not going to get a fair trial.

  53. @UKLiberty – if only the world were a game of five a side football.

    @SimonF I don’t listen to R5 Live, no.

    @Matthew But we know that torture does produce reliable evidence – sometimes.

    Sometimes it doesn’t – there are people who will resist torture to death, there are others who will give up all they know at the first hint.

    No one method works. Straightforward police interviews don’t always work; sometimes they do.

    The Bin Laden trail was opened up that way; Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was caught that way.

    The ‘effectiveness’ argument against torture has only ever been a mask for the ‘morality’ argument (which is perfectly respectable, of course, but let’s tell the truth).

    Torture is horrible and shouldn’t be be necessary, but if it helps to catch people who plant bombs in crowded streets or blow up airliners then I’m in favour.

  54. Interested: The practicality problem with torture is false leads. It might be effective in getting people to talk, but you don’t know if what they’re giving you is true or not.

  55. Matthew – of course, though this is true of all police work. What you do is you follow up the leads, and discard the duff ones. I personally assume torture is more useful for intelligence than evidence, anyway.

    I don’t like the idea of torture, and I could never torture anyone – unless, say, he knew the whereabouts of a proverbial bomb which was going to kill a thousand people.

    However, I assume the following (perhaps naiively, I accept):

    1. That spooks on the whole join to stop people from bombing jets, not because they like torturing people.

    2. That they know more about the methods which work in catching people who want to bomb jets than I do (or than any anti-torture person pressure group does).

    Within reason, therefore, I stand on the side of the spooks rather than the Guardian. Maybe I’m wrong. Who knows?

    I do think that in my lifetime terrorists will stage an attack on a major western city that makes 9/11 look like the proverbial tea party. At that point, I assume the gloves will really come off, but in the meantime I suppose we have to at least pretend to play by different rules than the terrorists.

  56. Yep, re Griffin, I did say the ‘proverbial’ bomb and I also said ‘he *knew* the whereabouts’ of the bomb.

    Griffin’s piece is about a case where you’re not sure of this, and it turns out he knew nothing.

    I was using it to make two (I thought obvious) points.

    One, that I could personally only torture someone in that sort of extreme; and, two, to ask the question, in the situation I outlined – that is, you *know* there is a bomb which *will* kill 1,000 people and that your guy knows where it is, would you torture him?

    The reason I ask this is because this gets to the nub of the philosophical and moral side of the argument: is it immoral to torture someone in an attempt to prevent a thousand deaths?

    If you answer yes, as I think any sentient person must, then we devolve onto the efficacy of torture, the quality of intelligence (pointing to the existence of a bomb and our guy’s knowledge of it), and the muddy waters of how many deaths vs how much torture.

    I come back, too, to what I said about the people who join the intelligence services. Either they know what they’re doing, or they pretty much torture people for fun… because if it flat out doesn’t work, what other explanation is there?

    Re Alexander, and torture as a recruitment tool/George Washington and Abraham Lincoln forbidding their troops from torturing prisoners of war.

    There’s no shortage of terrorists wanting to attack US interests, with or without torture.

    Washington and Lincoln were operating on a M.A.D. basis, in a war; what they would have done against an enemy that could kill 3,000 civilians on one day, impossible in their era, who knows?

    I do know Alexander is selling a book to a public and a media that wants to hear torture is just evil, and it doesn’t work.

  57. (Just to be clear, where I say this guy knows the whereabouts of this bomb, I mean you know without doubt that he knows it.)

  58. There have been a lot of claims that torture had something to do with finding Osama Bin Laden, but the few comments from people actually in a position to know say that it didn’t.

    I have no idea myself how effective torture is in getting accurate information: opinion is divided among the experts. But we got through the horrors of the 20th century without approving it: the threats are not worse now.

    The ticking time-bomb scenario? I wouldn’t condemn an interrogator who saved lives by breaking the rules, and nor I suppose would his superiors. That doesn’t mean we have to change the rules. In reality, there’s a lot of torture and very few ticking time bombs with a bad guy to hand who knows where the bomb is and we know he knows and he will quickly tell us if only we torture him.

    Tim adds: Quite. This is also what courts and juries are for. Torture someone? Get tried. See if your justification stands up to the scrutiny of the jury. That’s actually the point of them.

    Also why I like them for euthanasia cases etc etc. If the case, in this particulart case, for popping someone off is so strong then fine, stand trial and see if it is.

  59. @ Interested
    I’ve given up reading comments but NO.
    When our kids were small my wife did not pay any tax, because our income was my income: you are saying that I should have had a vote and she should not.
    I could make a better case that anyone without an Oxbridge degree should not have a vote because they lack the brains to make an educated choice.

  60. Chaps, all the ticking time bomb is is a device by which we arrive at the conclusion: if the intelligence is good enough, and the threat is big enough, torture is OK.

    I’m happy with that.

    But, to sum up: in short, Paul has ‘no idea’ how effective torture is, but knows its approved use would have made no difference throughout the entire 20th century, and does know how often it happens now and how many times it might be useful, and wouldn’t condemn someone who broke the rules on one of those times.

    Tim thinks, fuck it, break the rules and risk spending the rest of your natural life in prison, on the basis that a jury will agree with you when it all comes out in the wash*.

    Matthew agrees.

    I say: juries are there to decide the facts, not that the law was broken but that on this occasion we’re cool with it – though this is a no doubt sometimes fortuitous by product of the jury system.

    I prefer to have rules that allow torture when necessary, but I quite understand the many difficulties inherent in this, and am happy to agree to disagree.

    Thanks for an interesting discussion though!

  61. @John77 …When our kids were small my wife did not pay any tax, because our income was my income: you are saying that I should have had a vote and she should not…

    Yep, fair point – I did say in the comments that my ‘must have paid tax in the last three years’ things was off the top of my head. We’re only shooting the breeze, after all.

  62. @PaulB

    By the way, re this:

    …There have been a lot of claims that torture had something to do with finding Osama Bin Laden, but the few comments from people actually in a position to know say that it didn’t…

    Leon Panetta, head of the CIA at the time OBL was found:

    Yes, some of it came from some of the tactics that were used at that time – interrogation tactics that were used, said Panetta…in response to a question about what the interviewer called enhanced interrogation or torture.

    He adds – and I think any honest person must bear in mind the media and political position on torture in the west at the moment – that they might have got him without it, but the fact it it was used seems unarguable. A lot obviously depends on the definition of torture, but I assume you would include what the CIA calls enhanced interrogation? Most anti-torture types do.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/02/03/us-usa-binladin-panetta-idUSBRE9120B720130203

  63. Interested: your summaries of what I’ve written are longer than what I wrote and contain things I never said. So perhaps you should confine yourself to stating your own opinions.

    What Panetta said was

    In order to put the puzzle of intelligence together that led us to Bin Laden, there were a lot of pieces out there that were a part of that puzzle. Yes, some of it came from some of the tactics that were used at that time, interrogation tactics that were used.

    What he’s saying is that they had a lot of information, and some of it will have come from the victims of torture. Which is hardly surprising, given how widely it was used – yes, waterboarding is torture.

    Panetta’s conclusion – and you know, because it comes from the piece you link to, is

    I think we could have gotten Bin Laden without that

    So ok, I’ll modify my statement slightly. But there’s no support there for your claim that “The Bin Laden trail was opened up that way”.

    My position is that torture is wrong and it diminishes us to use it. The ticking time-bomb scenario tells me that there are extreme circumstances in which I might condone it anyway. But I’ve seen no claim that any of people tortured by the US this century have been planters of ticking time bombs – the argument is a smoke screen.

  64. Interested: I understand it’s a thought experiment, but I don’t think you can draw that conclusion. Consider – if I was planting a bomb in a city and was tortured to reveal the information, I’d scream out in pain “All right! Put the pliers down! It’s at 473 Green St.” That location is either booby trapped or empty. They get back and torture me some more, so I give them the address of a warehouse near the docks. No luck there either. They can’t afford to ignore the information, the bomb squad has to check it out. By the time we get to location 3 or 4 the bomb has exploded. I agree that regular interrogation wouldn’t help either, but the question is this. Does torture give us anything extra that makes crossing the moral line acceptable? My answer is no.

  65. The fact we are even discussing the merits or otherwise of torture is a sign of how far we have fallen.
    As for torture helping to to “get”Bin Laden–it didn’t because they didn’t get him. Most likely he was already dead a decade or more and please don’t bother with the “get your tinfoil hat” shite–if they had him they could have shown the world his body as proof (once independantly examined) beyond doubt for all time. Instead –buried at sea–a well-known custom of dwellers in arid lands and outright deserts.

  66. @PaulB

    Read what you wrote, and how I summarised it!

    Re Panetta and ‘others in the know’, so google Jose Rodriguez and TIME.

    Given the prevailing climate on torture, it’s bizarre to expect them to provide press releases on what they did, when to whom; Rodriguez says tinformation provided by KSM and Abu Faraj al-Libbi (after waterboarding) ‘was the lead information that eventually led to the location of the OBL compound and the operation that led to his death.’

    @Mr Ecks

    You need some tinfoil.

    @UKL

    I don’t suppose we know the answer to that, but the intelligence services are supposed to prepare for, and have the toold available to deal with, unfamiliar exigencies.

  67. I don’t suppose we know the answer to that, but the intelligence services are supposed to prepare for, and have the toold available to deal with, unfamiliar exigencies.

    Should we infer that no interrogator would risk going to jail if he genuinely believed torture was necessary in the circumstances?

    I am certain any interrogator worth his salt would do what he felt necessary regardless of the consequences to himself. But no jury would convict that interrogator even in the highly unlikely event he was prosecuted.

    The ticking time bomb scenario is an excuse justification for torture enhanced interrogation techniques in the more general case (e.g. on detainees indefinitely locked up for years who once upon a time did some driving for the Big Bad). It’s a rhetorical trick intended to persuade people to cross a mental line.

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