Saturday, July 18, 2009


Yet another government is claiming that its security position could be harmed if there is an investigation into claims of torture of suspected terrorists. Haven't we heard this all before from Dick Cheney, Michael Chertoff, Michael Mukasey et al.? What they mean is that investigations into government-sanctioned torture will embarrass the higher-ups of government.

Jenny Percival reports in The Guardian on the use of this tired argument, this time put forth by the Home Secretary of the British government.

"Scotland Yard said last week it was launching an investigation, at the request of Lady Scotland, the attorney general, into claims of torture made by former Guantánamo Bay detainee Binyam Mohamed."

But Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary (equivalent to Homeland Security), claimed that such an investigation would harm Britain's security services.

Writes Percival:

""Alan Johnson, the home secretary, has said Britain's security could be put at risk by a police investigation into allegations that MI5 agents colluded in torture.

"Johnson said he had "nothing but admiration" for the work of the security service and believed it operated "to the highest ethical and professional standards". He suggested that Britain's interests would be at risk if the service's counter-terrorism capabilities were "diminished and diluted"."

This is just as much rubbish and bull as was the American argument. In fact, worse damage will be done if the events and practices charged are covered up and not shown the light of day. For then the security services will have gotten away with horrendous crimes committed against individuals without any need to explain or justify their crimes. And surely they will think that they can operate with impunity, no matter what the criminal law says or prohibits.

Johnson sounds like Leon Panetta who has counselled Obama not to release photos or conduct an investigation into American waterboarding. Praise the culprits and perpetrators as being British (or American) patriots, say that you have great admiration for their work, add that whatever they did was in the service of the country.

Here's Johnson's version, as reported by Percival:

"Johnson, who took on responsibility for MI5 when he became home secretary last month, told the Daily Telegraph: "I haven't sat around the last six weeks not looking into these things. I have looked very closely at them and I just say this: we have one of the best counter-terrorism capabilities in the world and we diminish and dilute it at our peril."

"He added: "In my six weeks in this job I am so reassured and so amazed at the work that is going on, on our behalf, by people who do not have a voice, who are not able to express their views, who work in the most difficult and dangerous circumstances.

""I have nothing but admiration for them. As I am in effect their voice I will defend them and defend what they do, and it does worry me.""

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