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Cheers - AE

Saturday, 28 March 2009

What's the dilemma?

The Foreign Office is apparently getting all concerned about intelligence possibly obtained from torture and whether or not to use it. I'm sorry but I just don't get this. Yes, torturing someone is wrong, that's an absolute in my mind. But if another country is doing it and as a result gets information that it passes to you...? You can condemn it, you can ask them to stop electrocuting people's genitals but to refuse to use the information at all is just daft. The Nazis did some evil evil stuff to people, things that makes it difficult to believe that those responsible had any trace of humanity at all, and yet some useful medical information e.g. on hypothermia, came out of it. Should first aid courses not teach a certain technique to deal with hypothermia if it was derived from Nazi human experiments? Or should it be looked at as a small silver lining on a very dark cloud? If you refuse to use the information people may die who could be saved, but that doesn't undo the evil that was done decades ago. Ethically it is a bit of a sticky wicket either way, but since the past can only be learnt from and not undone you may as well use unethically obtained information ethically now and in the future. Same with animal experimentation for cosmetic products. I don't like the idea of animals wearing make up but it's been done and I'd expect the cosmetic companies to use the info to make sure my wife's face isn't eaten off by her lipstick. Obviously don't repeat the experiments, but don't ignore the information just because you don't like the source.

The same goes for intelligence derived from torture. Don't condone it and don't be shy about condemning it, but if another country's intelligence services came to you and said they'd roasted someone's feet until he'd told them about a planned attack on your capital would you say no thanks? What if they just came out and said specifically time, date and target, would you expect your intelligence agencies to put fingers in ears and go laa laa laa laa laa can't hear you, don't know what you said? Or would you expect them to say don't like the torture but thanks for giving us info that might prevent an attack. Again, what's been done can't be undone, and we should all hope it's not done again in the future. But the information now exists, why not hate the methods but use the products as best as possible?
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