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Wednesday, 4 February, 2009

Sarah McDermott | 17:00 UK time, Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Jeremy Paxman presents this evening. Here's Peter Marshall with details of what is coming up in the programme:

Tonight we are looking at torture and the War on Terror. Jeremy will be interviewing Alberto Gonzales, who was President Bush's White House lawyer and who told the president that parts of the Geneva Convention were quaint and obsolete. No doubt he'll be asked whether he accepts responsibility for water-boarding and detainees being paraded naked on dog leads etc, all the horrors of what were quaintly termed "enhanced interrogation techniques".

It is also four years since I broke the alarming story of Binyam Mohamed, the London student who was sent by the CIA from Pakistan to Morocco for eighteen months of "enhanced interrogation" (he says they took a razor to his genitals). Today David Davis in the Commons demanded an explanation of what the British Government knows about his apparent torture. We have reported several times the claim that MI5 supplied information used by Binyam's interrogators. Today High Court judges suggested America has warned the British government to keep shtum, or else they'd break intelligence links. It's a murky business.

Join us in the thick of it at 10.30pm.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    WARFAIR

    Ways to deliver a bomb: by post, thrown, dropped, ground-ground rocket, pilotless flight, air-ground rocket, coerced human and zealot. Types of grenade . . . Types of bullet . . . Types of shell . . . Classes of fear . . . Classes of pain . . . Oh - and degrees of torture.

    For a country that has a massive arms industry, and researches BETTER ways to kill, maim (and bereave) why are we so exercised by torture? Does not war torture every decent value man purports to aspire to? Shock and Awe was supposed to torture the Iraqis into early submission. Bombing civilians tortures the minds of fighters.

    For a supposed civilisation to use warfare as a tool of peace, requires tortured logic.

    Why do torturers rise to control nations?
    Will Newsnight be asking?

  • Comment number 2.

    DOGS OF WAR

    As war's abrasion strips his fine veneer
    man's inhumanity his ilk defines.
    Bi-pedal dog, scent-primed, unleashed, packed off
    he brings a licking to some wrong-tongued foe.
    While back in civvy-street, his leaders rise
    short-slept from tasting civilized excess
    this day newborn in sinless rectitude
    to move their boarded pawns with gifted guess.
    In blinkered ignorance of Conqueror’s Creed
    that sets all free from hypocritic bond
    war-leaders mire mere men in conflict’s slough
    so deep Geneva’s spires are over-topped.
    Unheeding they send mortal men to war
    yet heed the call when time comes to deplore.

  • Comment number 3.

    was this not covered a few years ago that MI5 would sit and listen to people being tortured?

    Looks like the strikers 'won'?


    on 5 live one said Twitter would replace journalism as the coverage of Mumbai was better on twitter than on the nationals. Meanwhile in russia after another execution there is talk of giving journalists guns?
    [see AP Russian newspaper mourns another murdered reporter]

  • Comment number 4.

    With the news I have just heard about Binyan mohamed, or whatever his name is, might I just say that I would request that a clarification be given as to whether or not this person is a "British Citizen" or a British Resident/student" ? Yes there is a great deal of difference between them both, and the difference should be whether or not the full UK weight of the Government should be put behind him, or even the freedom of using free UK lawyers/governmental backing.

    Isn't it about time that we in the UK stopped pussyfooting around the rights of suspected people (not UK Citizens) abroad, that could be there solely for the purpose of receiving training from terrorists groups in Pakistan etc in order to implement their sole intent of reaking havock upon the innocent residents of the UK. If as many of these so called freedom fighters were willing to stand up and debate matters in a democratic society, (such as that as which we strive to provide, ) then perhaps a greater understanding could be given to the so called religious fervour that creates such hatred between people, simply because of the so called understanding that "MY GOD HATES YOUR GOD, AND ANYTHING YOU SAY ABOUT MY GOD INSISTS THAT I HAVE TO KILL YOU FOR INSULTING MY GOD! " For gods' sake, what is happening in this world ? Isn't it time that we all agreed to disagree, and that a simple matter of disagreement could be a baseline for letting everyone get on with their own lives????

    With regards to Binyan Mohamed, whether or not he was on a campaign to be a member of blowing up UK Citizens in the name of Mohamed, or whether or not he was was in Pakistan to purchase illicit drugs to sell within the UK, my simple answer is that people like him are not welcome here, we do not want potential suicide bombers, (not that I am suggesting that he would have the nerve to become a suicide bomber), but we certainly do not want illicit students/immigrants who's sole purpose in life is to sell life destroying drugs within the UK. If he went to Pakistan for either reason, then in my view, he simply deserves what he got. It is not our responsibility to fight for a foreigners rights, nor should it be allowed that UK Lawyers should be allowed to gain many thousands, if not millions of pounds from Legal Aid, in order to figt for the rights of complete foreigners whilst UK citizens are denied proper justice for legal and normal situations simply because of the fact that most of our budget for Legal Aid, has gone on fighting for the rights of possible suicide bomber or drug trafficers into the UK.


  • Comment number 5.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 6.

    Jeremy is the only presenter worth his salt on Newsnight, yet he's got too much yank beef in his BAP and is accordingly soft in these matters.

  • Comment number 7.

    peston and those who gave him the info are responsible.

    if privileged information did not move markets then insider trading would not work.

    if a journalist had found out the timing of d day is it their duty to print it and then say 'i'm only the messenger'?

    releasing highly sensitive info about a bank during a banking crisis? come on you have to be in some real naive ivory tower to not twig that one?

    its not the first time peston has been involved with info that moved markets is it?

  • Comment number 8.

    #4 lancashirejim

    That "British" subject is from Ethiopia, and yes I can't understand why the full weight of the British justice system, and our MPs are fighting his corner so deligently. Although I don't think he should have been tortured.

    As David Davies said, torture is a waste of time anyway, people will say anything under duress. I wonder if he hadn't been tortured whether we'd be so interested in this foreign but British man.

  • Comment number 9.

    YANK BEEF (#6)

    How did that get past the Blogdog?

  • Comment number 10.

    since I broke the alarming story of Binyam Mohamed, the London student

    it is not only not our responsibility to fight the battles of foreign students it is in fact quite preposterously meglameniacal - the sad generosity of a faded empire, which, like a delusional post-menopausal woman, has yet to understand she has no potency left

  • Comment number 11.

    bookhimdano (#7) Watching Peston before the Treasury Committee today along with other financial journalists, he made out that there was no government 'conspiracy' to drive down bank share prices in the interest of the tax-payer, and that as a contributor to market forces finding the appropriate share price, all he'd effectively done was serve as an innocent conduit in the great chain of being - I didn't accept the account I heard, I don't think Simon Jenkins believed him either. What MPs (and US Secretaries of State) tend to do under these circumstances is play the 'none of us is competent enough' line..... They forgot about Michael Meacher..

  • Comment number 12.

    4 - LancashireJim, if you're going to libel a man, the least you can do is check on the facts (and the spelling of his name).

    Your words "whether or not he was on a campaign to be a member of blowing up UK Citizens in the name of Mohamed, or whether or not he was was in Pakistan to purchase illicit drugs to sell within the UK" are interesting. The idea apparently that this fellow (you clearly believe him to be one of your "illicit students/immigrants") might have been an entirely innocent man doesn't cross your mind. Let us put his case into context.

    He was arrested in Pakistan on 10 April 2002, at Karachi airport. He was questioned by the FBI, then Pakistan intelligence, then two men from British intelligence. On 22 July he was taken on a CIA Gulfstream to Morocco. He was held there for eighteen months - probably at Temara, a torture camp forty five minutes from Rabat.

    Over that time he was, allegedly, beaten up regularly. Of the interrogators there, one was "Sarah" a white woman - probably American, but who said she was Canadian - and another was "The Boss", a white male said to have been to Guantanamo.

    The final tortures were inflicted with a scalpel on his chest and genitals. This began in August 2002 and continued monthly. After that he was finally flown to Kabul and later to Guantanamo.

    Was he a high-ranking terrorist or drug dealer? Personally, I don't give a damn. If he was guilty of a crime that deserved punishment, he should have been put in front of a jury and accused and allowed to defend himself.

    We in the UK, and America too, sadly, have lost any moral superiority now. We have succumbed to medieval systems of law. The men held at Guantanamo are held in the same corrupt manner as the Knights Templar were in another, previous incarnation of persecution. They too weren't allowed access to lawyers; they too were tortured; they too were reviled by religious extremists. The only difference now, is that the new "threat"is based upon shared religious intolerance.

    Oh, and by the way, I dare suggest that Binyam and the others, innocent or not, held in Guantanamo would be delighted to take up your suggestion that they "stand up and debate matters in a democratic society".

    Sadly, the two "democratic" societies involved have preferred to arrest, torture (either directly or via surrogate states), deny access to the legal systems, deny access to lawyers, and either throw them into prison, or commit them to intolerable house arrests with curfews unknown in our "free" country since the time of the Civil War.

    The sooner the farce of Guantanamo is ended the better. The sooner our own intolerable laws post 9/11 are rescinded, the better. And if any of these men are seriously thought to pose a threat, they deserve the opportunity to defend themselves in court.

    That is how a democratic society should work, my friend.

  • Comment number 13.

    When Alberto Gonzales describes the Guantanámo prisoners as "battlefield detainees", he is being deliberately disingenuous. Most were not taken from any 'battlefield' but were non-Afghans handed over to the US by the Northern Alliance warlords in return for large amounts of money. Another section of prisoners, were kidnapped from other countries, stripped, drugged, blindfolded and shackled to an aircraft wearing a large nappy.
    All illegal.

  • Comment number 14.

    Protseting is not violent, we should protest more, this government and e.u are getting away with giving this country away.

  • Comment number 15.

    I think the BBC and Robert Peston's take on the financial problems besetting this country has more to do with TV ratings and 'personality' reporting than presenting the facts properly.

    Unfortunately journalists' careers and ratings appear to take precedence over balanced presentation these days and I believe the BBC's news coverage has done deep damage to the confidence and economy of this country.

    All very well to bang on about the freedom of the press/media etc, but when the messenger starts to deliver their own' interpretation' of the facts rather than the facts then perhaps it is time to shoot him/her - metaphorically speaking, of course.

    Love Newsnight, but thought Paxman was a bit softer on this issue. Wonder why?

  • Comment number 16.

    I think the BBC and Robert Peston's take on the financial problems besetting this country has more to do with TV ratings and 'personality' reporting than presenting the facts properly.

    Unfortunately journalists' careers and ratings appear to take precedence over balanced presentation these days and I believe the BBC's news coverage has done deep damage to the confidence and economy of this country.

    All very well to bang on about freedom of the press/media etc, but when the messenger starts to deliver his own 'interpretation' of the facts rather than the facts - then perhaps it is time to shoot him/her - metaphorically speaking, of course.

    Love Newsnight, but thought Paxman was a bit softer on this issue. Wonder why?

  • Comment number 17.

    re #14, I don't think it is just the government, the weight of the arguments come from the liberal (upper) middle/ professional classes, who believe they are pursuing international socialist strategies but are in reality just lining up displaced persons for the capitalist machine. when they talk about working abroad they are talking about diverse cultural experiences with tax concessions and other jollies, not migrant low paid labour (and by that I mean of any national/cultural background, we're all in the soup now) - that may seem disconnected but that is the true corollary of all this identification with oppressed people who otherwise have not much to do with us - the professional classes vociferously empathise whilst the working classes take the wage cut.

    what is yank beef? is it anything like jerky?

  • Comment number 18.

    Not sure if Hilary Clinton was the first US politician to use the "special relationship" phrase - but that was Tuesday-ish.

    By Wednesday we are told judges were warned that US intelligence would be cut off if they asked questions where there was torture at Guantanamo.

    Well I suppose Miliband feels special - but then he belongs to the party that brought us the Great Gordon "depression" so his feelings must be muted.



  • Comment number 19.

    Excellent Newsnight - particularly Jeremy's interviews with Alberto Gonzales and David Milliband.

  • Comment number 20.

    It has come to my attention that the BBC website carries a feature on a new book about a character called "Noddy". The item shamelessly names Noddy's friend as "Big Ears" which I'm sure you will agree is grossly defamatory. I hope your programme will address this worrying drift into insulting language directed towards people with aural disabilities.

  • Comment number 21.

    BIG EAR PRIDE PROMOTION ORGANISATION
    (BEPPO) (#20)

    Sir! We at BEPPO celebrate gross aurality. You, however, seem to suggest that it might be a cause for referential obliquity?
    You should know that the ear continues to grow throughout life, hence, like the 'wisdom beard' of the ancients, it is a mark of sagacity. I shall not refer you to the Blogdog on this occasion, but rest assured I am alert for any gratuitous reason so to do.

    I bid you 'good day' sir.

  • Comment number 22.

    #1,2 and 4
    Some of the best of blogs, that encourage me in my practice of prefering to read the firmly held opinions of (mainly) intelligent people, rather than watch the actual programme content - often full of 'experts' with political or business interests at heart.

    I used to post on BBC's Have Your Say, but abandoned it because it is 'monitored' so clinically with pc, that it must bias the real feelings amongst the general population.
    One good factor of Have Your Say was the ability to click one's SUPPORT for specific blogs and to see how the overall 'for and against voting' was in each topic.
    Unfortunately the choice of topics and the huge 'awaiting monitoring' delay, also provided scope for BBC to skew the consensus views of the public.

    Newsnight blogs are obviously less closely 'doctored' and a similar 'support' option might add value?

    Returning to #4, the only comment I would add is to clarify the criticism:-

    "that UK Lawyers should be allowed to gain many thousands, if not millions of pounds from Legal Aid, in order to fight for the rights of complete foreigners whilst UK citizens are denied proper justice for legal and normal situations simply because of the fact that most of our budget for Legal Aid, has gone on fighting for the rights of possible suicide bomber or drug trafficers into the UK".

    I am one of those UK citizens and next week will be again be at an Immigration Tribunal, appealing a decision not to grant a student visa for a relative to undertake a 2-year course of study in UK. One cannot help but observe at these hearings the almost total complement of 'non-indigenous' solicitors, who are indeed getting rich on our legal aid system. As the head of Immigration Advisory Service stated these procedures are prejudicing the normal rights of genuine citizens to bring short-term visitors to UK. During the 12 months whilst my appeal has been needlessly shuffled around by Home Office there have been many thousands of 'visitors' into UK who are uninvited and unsponsored, fueling the legal caseload' This is why I wholeheartedly support the comments at #4.

  • Comment number 23.

    FO Blocks Judges.

    more evidence the FO is a neo con flagship?

    Torture Laws

    i do 'recall' there are good pbs frontline shows [online] demonstrating what happened.

    Financial Scoop.

    is it so hard to believe a journalist would be blinded to the wider context by the idea of getting a scoop?

    Iran.

    the uk has never apologised for destabilising that country?

  • Comment number 24.

    barriesingleton -

    Your shameless pitch for a Red Nose Day handout cannot be allowed to detract from the harm caused to many sufferers by defamatory name-calling such as "Loopy Lou" and "Big Ears".

  • Comment number 25.

    BEYOND THE PALE (#24)

    "Red Nose Day!" You insensitive brute! We of the Nasal Embarrassment Minimisation Education Sympathy and Inclusion Society (NEMESIS) have suffered ever since the inception of that hurtful day. Those with a tastefully light tint, to the proboscial appendage, have no sense of the suffering endured by the afflicted. Were I not fully occupied, exhaling into a handkerchief, bunched round my nose to restore blood flow, I would be clicking on 'Complain about this post'.

  • Comment number 26.

    "Looby Lou is a loousy lay" (Source: Andy Pandy)

  • Comment number 27.

    When race "realists" start deploring torture and war its obvious that they are in image control mode. Hitler did "good and bad things" from previous postings.

    But thanks for making me smile - I haven't laughed so much since finding out about Hitlers "drinking" sessions with his niece. It makes me feel a little ... well ... happy that I am not a goose stepper. There seem to be so many strange people in that fold. The Baby P batterer, the paedophile and wanna be nail bomber etc etc. Real intellectuals with a thorough grasp of humanity.

    So #12 Michael_Jecks if you are not aware some of these posters feel that 99.9% of the public are "anarchists and Trotskyites" as they "paint Hitler as darkly as possible".

    So an African getting tortured is not going to upset them too much. They are hazy about the Holocaust but feel that there are statistics (dubious and fixed) that suggest that a lot of Jews survived from the 1930's.

    Its not really a surprise that there are a lot of "awaiting monitoring" messages really.

  • Comment number 28.

    The item towards the end discussing Robert Peston was amusing. I particularly like Paxman's question, "What does the journalist gain by doing this?" It's worth remembering that Paxman himself got an award for asking Michael Howard the same question 14 times EVEN THOUGH he did it because the next item was delayed and not because the question was not answered. It was one of Paxman's career defining moments and why he can never be fired from the BBC. I do think Robert Peston is responsible for the Northern Rock run and many other financial disaster with his alarmist journalism.

  • Comment number 29.

    Go1 #27

    Give it a rest Go1 for pity's sake. You are repetitive to the point of spamming. However as we live in this liberal society with free speech I guess we can all say what we like can't we? That's everybody, not just you. Your constant demands for censorship and imprisonment sound a little like totalitarianism to me. Wouldn't want that would you? Now stop making false accusations and statements and go and check a few facts out for yourself. You've been told where to look many times so it won't be difficult. Not for a man with 2 Science Masters.

    Jewish Library old chap, that's pretty dependable and a good place for you to start.

  • Comment number 30.

    Gang of one:
    look up 'OCD'..i think you might have it!

    @1, 2, 4 and 22 all excellent posts if i may say so...would like to add my own thoughts but my hands (and brain) are frozen from a cam belt change- its just not the weather for it.

  • Comment number 31.

    thought Jeremy was in excellent form...shame about the tie

  • Comment number 32.

    thegangofone (#27) Do you not see how silly it makes you look to suggest that an inability/or reluctance to tell the difference between people is to be celebrated? It risks reinforcing ignorance, stupidity and bigotry. Discrimination is central to all intelligent behaviour, test are constructed to assess this ability. What is wrong is unfair discrimination - which for some is an extremely difficult concept to grasp.

    For example, it is not sexist, or wrong, to say that there is a difference between the mean height and foot size of females and males. Similarly, it is not racist to say that there is a large mean difference in IQ/school attainment and frequency of robbery offences beween black kids and white kids in Britain and the USA.

    These are facts based on national statistics published by the UK and USA governments, and these facts have important practical policy implications.

    Abusing people who point these facts out to you makes you look silly. Abusing people who tell you these things won't change the facts of the matter. If correcting you does not change your behaviour, that makes you appear incorrigible, and possibly even bigoted.

  • Comment number 33.

    As a Treasury Committee is interviewing journalists to establish their role in the financial crisis, I can only look forward to the interviewing of the financial regulators to establish their role in the crisis.

    The failure of regulation in what was little more than a pyramid scheme should be a hot topic of discussion. Given that the financial industry had oodles of cash to pay for lobbyists to persuade regulators for 'light touch regulation', perhaps someone should also look at how much the 'regulated' donated to political parties (and political individuals) too.

    The stench gets worse and worse, members of the lords taking bribes, the recent report from the select committee on lobbying, Jack Straw in hot water, MPs faking expenses - particularly MEPs, the rich exempt from normal taxation (non-doms), public servants (particularly MPs) pensions and perks made immune from the devaluation everyone else is subjected to. It goes on and on. Corruption is the number 1 problem in the world today. At this rate the UK will soon resemble an African country.

    Isn't it time that any public servant proven guilty of wrong-doing was removed from public office and barred from such office for life? Put them on an offenders register and treat them the same as child molesters, with disgust. To serve the public is to be put in a privileged position. To abuse that position should attract severe punishment.

    Oh yes I see - make the offender a Lord. Ha Ha.

    Oh and journalists, you could report some of this abuse instead of manufacturing news with your endless stupid analyses. The only news paper worth the name is in fact ... Private eye.

  • Comment number 34.

    I find myself in the unusual position of understanding and even agreeing with the government's position on the Binyam Mohamed case.

    So far as I can see - including from reading the judgement itself - the issue at hand appears to concern the 'un-redaction' of shared intelligence, rather than the rights and wrongs of extraordinary rendition and torture. That is to say that the government has put forward the argument that certain sections of US-owned intelligence currently 'blacked out' while in the public domain should remain redacted, specifically because the US has asked for this.

    Crucially, the US 'owns' this intelligence and has chosen to share it with the UK. In a sense, it matters not whether we agree with the reasons may have for wishing to keep those passages redacted - the point is that the US shares intelligence on the basis that they continue to own it after it is shared. It seems unlikely that any country would continue to share intelligence with a partner who, for any reason whatsoever, broke the terms of the sharing agreement (which will, of course, always include continued ownership of that intelligence and the right to decide, alone, what of that intelligence is put in to the public domain).

    It is not clear, as yet, whether the so-called 'threat' to withhold intelligence in the future was explicit or implicit - and, again, it doesn't really matter, and in a sense such a 'threat' is always implicit in the sharing of intelligence.

    To put it in a trite manner, if I were to tell you a secret and ask you to tell no one, but you chose (quite possibly for what appear to be good reasons - as in this case, I should stress) to then tell others, how likely do you think I would be then to share secrets with you in the future?

    I cheered David Davis from the rooftops over his resignation and by-election fight over 42 days detention (what can I say after supporting this mendacious government here and cheering an arch-Tory some months ago, other than that we live in interesting times?), but I rather suspect he knows full well the foregoing, and I wonder whether this time there is an element of disingenuity in his outrage...

  • Comment number 35.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 36.

    For Tim Congdon, there is never any doubt that he is right and you, if your view is different, are wrong.

    Back in November 1988 there was a minority who saw imminent recession. But Tim insisted otherwise: "Britain could have a recession only as a result of worldwide recession or a stiff anti-inflation campaign at home. There won't be either". (Investors Chronicle)

    The recession started in 1989 and was prompted by a housing bubble bursting and oil price rises.

    I thought he was wrong then and, after this rant at Jeremy, I think he is wrong again.

 

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