Is waterboarding justifiable if it saves London lives?

Is waterboarding justifiable if it saves London lives?

What’ll George Bush do to the civil liberties debate?

Ahead of its serialisation of the George Bush book the Times has an interview this morning which will surely spark off a big debate on civil liberties and the use of torture particularly if it can be shown to have saved people’s lives.

The Times front page above sets out the dilemma. For Bush claims that information extracted from terrorist suspects by “waterboarding” saved British lives by preventing attacks on Heathrow and Canary Wharf.

In an interview, the paper reports, Bush put forward a vigorous defence of the coercive interrogation technique.

He’s quoted as saying: “Three people were waterboarded and I believe that decision saved lives.” He denied that waterboarding, which simulates drowning, amounted to torture. Asked if he authorised the use of waterboarding to get information from the captured al-Qaeda leader Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, he was unequivocal: “Damn right!”

In the book he writes: “Their interrogations helped break up plots to attack American diplomatic facilities abroad, Heathrow airport and Canary Wharf in London, and multiple targets in the United States.”

In another quote from the book he writes: “I knew an interrogation programme this sensitive and controversial would one day become public. When it did, we would open ourselves up to criticism that America had compromised our moral values. I would have preferred that we get the information another way. But the choice between security and values was real.”

My guess is that putting the torture question in the form that Bush does would produce a positive response if asked in a poll.

This comes at a tricky time for the coalition because the issue of control orders on suspected terror suspects is set to become centre stage with potential a split between the home office and Tory libertarians like David Davis, Ken Clarke as well as the Lib Dems.

Mike Smithson

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