Storified by Brian_Condon · Thu, Nov 15 2012 15:03:58
Frontline Club Cruel Britannia: A Secret History of TortureCruel Britannia: A Secret History of Torture November 15, 2012 7:00 PM From the Second World War to the War on Terror, via Kenya and Northern Ireland award-winning investigative journalist Ian Cobain’s new book Cruel Britannia explores Britain’s role in the development and use of torture.
Cruel Britannia by Ian Cobain – ‘To get to the truth I needed to keep asking questions …’
Ian Cobain, an investigative journalist with the Guardian and author of Cruel Britannia: A Secret History of Torture. His inquiries into the UK’s involvement with torture since 9/11 have won the Martha Gellhorn Prize and the Paul Foot Award for investigative journalism, and has been shortlisted for the Orwell Prize.
"To get to the truth, I needed to keep asking questions…"#cruelbritanniahttp://t.co/7lmYGwe2
Chaired by Humphrey Hawksley, leading BBC foreign correspondent, author and commentator on world affairs.
Humphrey HawksleyHumphrey Hawksley Humphrey Hawksley is a leading BBC foreign correspondent, author and commentator on world affairs. For more than twenty years he has reported on key trends, events and conflicts from all over the world.
With:Clive Baldwin, the Senior Legal Advisor for the Legal and Policy office at Human Rights Watch, where he has been working on issues of international law since 2007.
Rt Hon David Davis MP, Member of Parliament for Haltemprice and Howden since 1997 and former Shadow Home Secretary. As a Minister in the last Conservative government he served in the Cabinet Office and the Foreign Office.
Dr Ruth Blakeley, a senior lecturer in International Relations at the University of Kent. Her research focuses on state violence and terrorism, particularly by liberal democratic states.
I’m at the @frontlineclub for "Cruel Britannia" http://t.co/TKu2GUhQ with @iancobain and hwhawksley; excellent panel
At the @frontlineclub talk by @IanCobain on Cruel Britannia about to start #britain #secret #history of #torture
At the @frontlineclub for Ian Cobain’s talk about #fccruelbritannia
Hawksley asks who in the room has been a victim of torture – one person puts up their hand. He asks who has been on the other side – three people put their hands up. David Davis MP holds up his hand and says “we are all complicit”
Cruel Britannia: A Secret History of Torturefrontlineclub
A pattern of torture suggests a policy of torture, says Ian Cobain #fccruelbritannia
Clive Baldwin from Human Rights Watch: definition of torture is serious physical or psychological harm #fccruelbritannia
Dr Ruth Blakely: we must remember the international context of torture – many countries complicit not just Britain #fccruelbritannia
The atmosphere in the room is very cold – people listening hard and concentrating on the views of the panelists. It’s, as you might expect, a very serious mood – especially when Blakeley says “British context”.
Packed room at #frontlineclub for panel discussion on torture pic.twitter.com/ObRogQW4Chris King
David Davis MP – torture was seen to be in the greater good #fccruelbritannia
David Davis : ticking bomb scenario as seen in 24 never happens in real life #fccruelbritannia
Clive Baldwin: the Bush administration redefined torture. Claimed waterboarding not included. #fccruelbritannia
‘Did the Blair govt have a secret policy of torture?’@iancobain @frontlineclub ‘The answer’s in the book.’ @PortobelloBooks #cruelbritannia
David Davis MP surprised "level of active duplicity at the highest level" in British Government re involvement in torture. #cruelbritannia
Now looking at the historical context – did it work in Aden, did it work in WWII. Cobain says that there was experience in WWII re trying to find out about a “Fifth Column” – and the British Union of Fascists. And the use of torture with Nazi agents also in WWII. And the use of interrogation by British forces in Germany after WWII.
Baldwin says the terms get re-defined – “waterboarding is a redefinition of torture”.
How can torture have intimidating effect when done in secret asks Dr Ruth Blakely. Not secret for those being tortured #fccruelbritannia
Ruth Blakeley says that "torture is more about intimidation than intelligence gathering" #cruelbritannia @frontlineclub
Here’s Blakeley’s site:
www.ruthblakeley.co.uk – HomeFull Profile @ruthblakeley I am a Senior Lecturer in International Relations at the University of Kent , Canterbury, UK. Current Research The Rendition Project Funded by the ESRC, The Rendition Project examines the ways in which the Bush administration developed a global system of detention sites, linked by the covert transfer of detainees across state borders.
This is Blakeley’s project:
The Rendition ProjectThe Rendition Project Welcome to The Rendition Project website. This site is the product of a collaborative research project between Dr Ruth Blakeley at the University of Kent and Dr Sam Raphael at Kingston University, funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council ( ESRC), and accredited under the Global Uncertainties programme.
CIA naive in the wake of 9/11 – hadn’t interrogated anyone for 25 years – David Davis #fccruelbritannia
David Davis argues that torture is also about revenge. #cruelbritannia
British torturers of Mau Mau believed they were a subhuman race, psychotic #fccruelbritannia
Now David Davis is talking about the difference between the FBI’s approach (interrogation devoid of difficult conditions) and that it was allowable psychological pressure and short of actual torture. And that of the CIA’s – for example the use of waterboarding. Panel looking at when things have gone too far. Davis says that there are legitimate uses of questioning and a certain permitted degree of psychological pressure – especially when other people’s lives may be in danger.
Dr Ruth Blakely : US detained and interrogated tens of thousands of people in Fallujah. Practice spread around world #fccruelbritannia
Blakeley mentions the CIA Inspector General’s report says waterboarding did not work nor was it safe and that it was torture:
IG Report: Waterboarding Was Neither "Efficacious Or Medically Safe"A CIA inspector general’s report from May 2004 that is set to be declassified by the Obama White House will almost certainly disprove claims that waterboarding was only used in controlled circumstances with effective results.
Dr Ruth Blakely: harder for orgs such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty to hold people to account with secret prisons #fccruelbritannia
Questioner says that the degree of secrecy and levels of corruption in the legal system mean that it can’t be changed and that the State has the power to cover it up and inhibit change.
Baldwin says that he feels that there are some things that mean there will be increasing visibility and the use of legal means to bring those in the British establishment responsible for torture to justice. Blakeley disagrees. Look at the Iraq enquiry she argues.
David Davis says that the idea that this government, his government, is contemplating secret courts is "bloody disgraceful" #cruelbritannia
David Davis: secret courts "a bloody disgraceful proposal" #fccruelbritannia
Ian Cobain: I don’t think MI5 officers will be brought to account #fccruelbritannia
We’re almost getting to what needs to be done. But we keep going back to the legal measures and structural issues. Need for more parliamentary oversight. But as Davis says, there’s not many votes in it. Actually quite the reverse if evidence from the USA is borne out in Britain. Cobain says he told Blair that he knew of the secret torture policy and that he could prove it. That the result of Blair’s policy led to people being tortured. The Justice and Security Bill is very dangerous says Cobain – Davis seems to agree. There will be more secrecy and this will make the matters worse. All the panel seem to think that there is a “democratic deficit”. Blakeley argues for education of our children to think of their roles in a civil society.
Dr Ruth Blakely: no point talking about lesser cases of torture as if they had the chance would go further and further #fccruelbritannia
David Davis: people find it hard to believe that people can do this to their fellow men #fccruelbritannia
Dr Ruth Blakely: cultural imperatives like 24 set a dangerous agenda for views towards torture #fccruelbritannia
Ian Cobain: our political leaders know there are no votes in stopping terrorist suspects getting tortured #fccruelbritannia
David Davis calls present government "the current ruling elite" – with a cheeky grin #fccruelbritannia
However, the Gibson enquiry gets a mention and the “Long Grass” of public enquiries and the thought that the existing structures will resist investigation.
Here’s the Guardian’s take on it…
The Gibson inquiry: good riddanceSir Peter Gibson’s inquiry, which limped to a halt last week with the news of a fresh round of police investigations into official complicity in torture, has been decently put out of its misery.
…and the Daily Telegraph’s:
Gibson torture inquiry abandoned – Telegraph"But there now appears no prospect of the Gibson Inquiry being able to start in the foreseeable future. "So, following consultation with …
Need to put pressure on MPs to defeat the Justice and Security Bill – Baldwin says it’s very dangerous. “Democracy won’t save you on this” argues Davis re “being against torture”. It’s about our national honour. He stresses the need for us to behave honourably – because that’s what we do and what we believe in.