Do we endorse torture?


The Toronto Star reports from today’s public safety committee meeting.

CSIS will still use information that may have been obtained by torture in national security investigations “if lives are at stake,” a senior CSIS official says.

Geoffrey O’Brian, a CSIS lawyer and advisor on operations and legislation, under questioning by the public safety committee, admitted there is no absolute ban on using intelligence that may have been obtained from countries with questionable human rights records on torture.

The Globe with a fuller account of O’Brian’s explanation.

“We only do so if lives are at stake,” Mr. O’Brian told the standing committee of the House on public safety. “The premise to that is that it happens rarely in the exchanges of information that we have. Second of all, information that may have extracted by methods which are less than the kinds of methods we would like applied to people … the recipient of that information doesn’t know how that information was obtained,” he said.


Do we endorse torture?

  1. Slippery slope alert! Lives are *always* at stake, aren’t they? There really ought to be a tighter set of guidelines. For example, people’s lives are at stake with respect to the government’s stimulus plan – can torture be employed to ensure that it gets implemented properly. According to Mr. O’Brien explanation, yes.

    • The strangest thing about the policy is that it doesn’t say that torture is allowed only when lives are at stake. It says you can only use information obtained by torture when lives are at stake.

      • Leave the messy stuff to the experts. Our hands are clean.

  2. “He said it “creates a market for torture” by sending a message to other countries and shadowy agencies that Canada might make use of such information “if you torture well enough.”

    Well said Mr Holland. As for Mr O’Brian, look into the eyes of Mahar Arar and repeat your mantra – if you can!

  3. That’s a pretty revisionist interpretation of Ignatieff’s musings. He doesn’t seem to pronounce definitively either way. He has little incentive to be trusthful, but no more so to lie either. Yet you conclude that he does support torture.
    Let’s consider that for a moment in the context of the “conservative government fall(ing).”
    while I do not thoroughly trust Ignatieff’s instincts on such matters, he’s a pragmatist, and would not tend to risk alienating his core support on such matters as torture, or the invasion of Iraq. Ignatieff has gone through convulsions explaining himself on that one, and concluded he was wrong. Not only does he have the benefit of hindsight, he’s a pragmatist, and knows that he would alienate a lot of Liberal voters by sticking to a pro-invasion position. He fundamentally supports a carbon tax, but as a pragmatist, knows that that won’t fly.
    Harper, on the other hand,. has to maintain his appeal to a base that supports the Iraq invasion, child soldiering, extra-judicial detentions and the like. Even with the benefit of hindsight, Harper can bearely bring himself to admit an error on HIS position with respect to the invasion of Iraq. What’s his position with respect to torture? Who knows; Mr. Two-questions-only-per-day-if-you’re-lucky doesn’t muse much. But if it came up, I suspect he;d be all for it, 1 because he has to appease that base, and 2 the man’s judgment is flawed taht way anyway.
    I also suspect that an individual member of that conservative base – who likely inherently could find it in their heart to support torture, might relish tarring Ignatieff with the pro-torture brush, which they themselves support, but only insofar as it might alienate Iggy’s liberal base.
    Between Iggy and Harper, we all know who would be much more likely to err on the side of torture.

    • I can’t help but disagree.
      Conservatives, including, nay, especially Harper, hold children to their part in being coerced into soldiering (Khadr), extra-judicial detentions (Guantanamo, and to a slightly lesser extent, Maher Arar in Syria – yes, the Canadian Alliance was ALL over terrorist Arar then), and the war in Iraq, well, Ignatieff admits his mistake openly and publicly. Harper? I think he mumbled something to that effect during the most recent English language election debate. But that’s it,. and it was pretty bland.
      Ignatieff used R2P to justify his support for the Iraq invasion, and has subsequently admitted his error in application. Harper used the thoroughly discredited argument of WMD, solidarity with the warmonger White House, and an obtuse refuse to participation in ‘resonstruction contracts’ to justify HIS support for the war, support that he has yet really to properly answer for.
      Nor will he. His base reads from that playbook. Ignatieff knows that his doesn’t, and is much less likely to support such a position. As I see it anyhow.

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