Tortured logic on torture

Came on this — UK’s secret policy on torture revealed in yesterday’s Guardian.

A top-secret document revealing how MI6 and MI5 officers were allowed to extract information from prisoners being illegally tortured overseas has been seen by the Guardian.

The interrogation policy – details of which are believed to be too sensitive to be publicly released at the government inquiry into the UK’s role in torture and rendition – instructed senior intelligence officers to weigh the importance of the information being sought against the amount of pain they expected a prisoner to suffer. It was operated by the British government for almost a decade.

A copy of the secret policy showed senior intelligence officers and ministers feared the British public could be at greater risk of a terrorist attack if Islamists became aware of its existence.

One section states: “If the possibility exists that information will be or has been obtained through the mistreatment of detainees, the negative consequences may include any potential adverse effects on national security if the fact of the agency seeking or accepting information in those circumstances were to be publicly revealed.

For instance, it is possible that in some circumstances such a revelation could result in further radicalisation, leading to an increase in the threat from terrorism.”

Now let me see if I’ve understood this correctly. My reading of it is:

1. Torture is illegal in Britain, but civil servants are allowed to make use of information derived from torture by balancing the ‘value’ of the information obtained against the amount of pain inflicted to extract it.
2. So any MI5 or MI6 officer who knowingly receives information obtained by torture is breaking the law, in much the same way that someone who knowingly receives stolen goods is breaking the law.
3. If the great British public were to learn that this was going on, then it would endanger national security because the news that British public officials were passively (but illegally) condoning torture would enrage muslims and cause some of them to be radicalised.
4. So the thing to do is to continue condoning torture but to make sure that nobody knows we’re doing it.

And this is a democracy?