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5:46pm on Thursday, 11th February, 2010:

Two out of Three


This is the front-page banner headline in today's Guardian:

The way they put it, it seems as if they disapprove of all of these. OK, so I don't believe our agents should be engaging in actual torture except in very particular circumstances; however, I'm happy for them to be devious and dishonest. What kind of secret service would it be if the agents were guileless and honest? Deviousness and dishonesty are part of the job description..!

Oh, just so you don't ask what the "very particular circumstances" are in which I would find torture acceptable, they basically amount to self-defence. Example: you're an undercover agent whose own life is jeapordised because, while under cover in an organisation you have infiltrated, the bad guys give you an order to "torture this prisoner" to test whether you're a spy or not, and they'll shoot you if you don't do it. Under those circumstances, yes, it wouldn't be fun to be the person tortured, but it would be marginally better than being the person shot dead. Here, torture is not being done to obtain information or to pressure an individual into doing something (which I disapprove of under all circumstances); rather, it's an agent being forced to commit a crime pretty well at gunpoint. Sure, it's a ghastly crime you're commiting, but heck, if it's that or being murdered...

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Copyright © 2010 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).