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18 February 2010

Torture, Jack Bauer and Binyam Mohamed

My column this week on the pro-war liberal left.

By Mehdi Hasan

My column in the magazine this week is on the subject of torture, and how: a) the US administration of George W Bush, disconnected from reality, used Jack Bauer and the television show 24 as an inspiration for its immoral, inhumane and ineffective “enhanced interrogation techniques”, and b) how pro-war liberals in the UK have been unable to distance themselves from the inevitable and barbaric consequences of the lawless wars that they enthusiastically supported. There has therefore been much turning of eyes, equivocation and “Yes, buttery . . .”

You can read it here.

One point I didn’t have space to touch on in the piece is this pernicious idea that our “intelligence-sharing” relationship with the United States has been permanently or irrevocably damaged by the Binyam Mohamed case and the law lords’ ruling last week. It’s pernicious for two reasons.

First, it suggests that our moral and legal obligations not to torture, or be complicit in torture, should take a backseat to all-important “national security” considerations and, in particular, the maintenance of good relations between MI5/MI6 and the CIA. And second, it is false and disprovable. Here’s Dennis Blair, director of national intelligence in the United States, in an official statement, issued after the law lords’ ruling:

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The protection of confidential information is essential to strong, effective security and intelligence co-operation among allies. The decision by a United Kingdom court to release classified information provided by the United States is not helpful, and we deeply regret it.

The United States and the United Kingdom have a long history of close co-operation that relies on mutual respect for the handling of classified information. This court decision creates additional challenges, but our two countries will remain united in our efforts to fight against violent extremist groups.

Finally, let’s not forget that it was an American judge (Gladys Kessler) in an American court (the US district court for the District of Columbia), in December 2009, who acknowledged, in a declassified ruling, that the account of Mohamed’s torture in US custody was based on “credible” evidence. As Kessler wrote:

During that time, he [Binyam Mohamed] was physically and psychologically tortured. His genitals were mutilated. He was deprived of sleep and food. He was summarily transported from one foreign prison to another. Captors held him in stress positions for days at a time. He was forced to listen to piercingly loud music and the screams of other prisoners while locked in a pitch-black cell. All the while, he was forced to inculpate himself and others in various plots to imperil Americans. The government does not dispute this evidence.

The US government does not dispute this evidence! Those on the liberal left who backed the Bush administration’s lawless conduct on the international stage, in the name of spreading “democracy” and “freedom” and “human rights” (!), should read this judgment and hang their heads in shame.