Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Canadian safety minister allows use of information from torture

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Vic Toews (Public Safety Minister of Canada)
Min. Vic Toews

Well, this is disheartening. The Canadian Public Safety Minister, Vic Toews, has directed the country’s intelligence agency to use information extracted through the use of torture, but only in cases where they can claim to do so in the name of preserving public safety:

The order represents a reversal of policy for the Conservative government, which once insisted the Canadian Security Intelligence Service would discard information if there was any inkling it might be tainted.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has quietly told CSIS the government now expects the spy service to "make the protection of life and property its overriding priority."

A copy of the two-page December 2010 directive was obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

It drew swift condemnation from Amnesty International Canada, which said information obtained under torture "has no place in the justice system, full stop."

The directive from Toews expands upon a May 2009 ministerial order that states CSIS must not knowingly rely upon information derived from torture, and have measures in place to identify such tainted information.

The latest directive says in "exceptional circumstances" where there is a threat to human life or public safety, urgency may require CSIS to "share the most complete information available at the time with relevant authorities, including information based on intelligence provided by foreign agencies that may have been derived from the use of torture or mistreatment."

Of course, the reasons why intelligence obtained through torture is summarily discounted – other than torture being an inhumane cancer that inherently contradicts the ideals of any purportedly civilized society – is because it is extremely unreliable, is remarkably inefficient (compared to other interrogative methods), and is far more likely to fill interrogators’ hands with false confessions than anything remotely likely to help prevent actual attacks. This is all widely accepted by every intelligence (and human rights) group worth their salt.

If Jack Bauer were real, the only thing he’d accomplish by torturing terror suspects would be to lead his team down dead end after dead end. It’s especially shameful that a number of ranking officials, namely the Public Safety Minister himself, apparently don’t recognize this simple yet obvious reality, instead encouraging intelligence organizations to rely on information known to be readily falsifiable and essentially worthless under pretense of maintaining security, especially given that it may well lead to more torture down the road.