Britain Does Use Intelligence Obtained Through Torture

Britain does use intelligence obtained through torture. (See here) a New York Times article that reports on this.

Note the article states that it appears Britain's policy is that it is not illegal to use intelligence obtained by torture, only to use such information in court proceedings.

What is the significance of this? This means that if Britain receives intelligence obtained by torture, this intelligence can be used to identify a "person of interest" for further investigation. If this investigation then yields "legal evidence" the "legal evidence" is not tainted because the person was first identified by information that would itself be considered "tainted".

Britain is trying to walk a fine line, but I think this walk needs to be made. This policy is reasonable and it is a policy which I think my own nation should follow.

Why must this "compromise" of ethics be made? In the past I gave this scenario: Britain receives intelligence obtained through torture from a foreign intelligence agency that identifies suspects who are planning to soon conduct another round of subway bombings. Warrants are obtained and searches are conducted. Sure enough, tons of evidence are found and the suspects arrested. If the evidence gathered via "legal" means is considered tainted because the initial intelligence is tainted, it would mean Britain would have to let the guilty bastards go free. The guilty suspects would even be free to make a fortune as they make the talk show circuit as we celebrate how benevolent our societies are.

Those who argue that intelligence such as this should be ignored are, in my opinion, being unreasonable. Such intelligence should be handled very carefully and treated with a great deal of skepticism, however common sense would indicate it would be foolish to altogether ignore such intelligence.


Blogger Michael said...

It is perhaps not as fine a line.

I think that most pragmatists, at least, can concede that evidence is evidence, even if it was obtained by torture. Torture, is and remains, however, an act that is illegal by any British citizen and operative. However, if (e.g.,) the Afghan authorities through torture reveals a terrorist plot against the UK, it would be absurd to ignore such intelligence.

However, such intelligence is tainted by the unreliability of torture and as such the UK Law Lords have ruled that it cannot be admitted into court as evidence. I find that fair.

The onus on the UK authorities then, is to perform further investigatory work within the bounds on law to make their case to the court if charges are to be laid.

Not acceptable
Charge someone with criminal conspiracy on a "confession" extracted by a third party by torture as this confession cannot be admitted as evidence (e.g., just like "hearsay" is not evidence).

Because of the intelligence from the "confession", an investigation was commenced leading to the capture of other evidence (e.g., damning communications, half completed explosives). On the basis of this evidence, a charge can be made.

An analogy:
Police officers may often use "evidence" obtained through "hearsay" to a means to direct the course of their criminal investigations. However, this "hearsay" cannot be admitted to court as "evidence" when they actually present their case.

Michael Tam

1/01/2006 09:37:00 AM  
Blogger Little David said...

I think we are in agreement

1/01/2006 11:54:00 AM  

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