The Mail’s poison

John Rentoul

Rack 300x201 The Mails poison Today’s Daily Mail recycles The Guardian’s latest hard-to-follow reports of British “complicity” – a favourite word with Blair haters of right and left. The leftie moral posturing of the Mail on the issue of torture is hard to understand except in the context of Paul Dacre’s hatred of New Labour, which happily coincides with the interest of the Conservative Party in doing down David Miliband, the most credible candidate for Leader of the Opposition.

Hence today’s contribution from Peter Oborne’s lie factory, headlined, “Nailed, Miliband and six lies on torture.” Suddenly, the Mail has decided that David Miliband’s interview with Andrew Neil on the BBC’s This Week from a week ago is worthy of detailed textual analysis.

So it is. Oborne builds his case, if such it can be called, on semantics about the word “evidence”. Miliband is asked if he accepts that there is evidence of British complicity, and says No, meaning, obviously, that it has not been proved – obviously there is evidence in the sense of allegations of complicity, which is why he, as Foreign Secretary, asked that they be investigated.

For those wishing to analyse Oborne’s wilful misreading of Miliband’s actual words, here they are:

Do you accept that our American allies in the War on Terror used and condoned what most people would regard as torture?

Yes. I think one obvious example of that would be water-boarding – that’s something that we would consider, I think, probably the three of us would consider to be torture…

OK, now you’ve answered that you’ve answered that… Do you believe or do you accept that there has been mounting evidence that in some parts of this use of torture British intelligence was complicit?

No I don’t. Not at all. I don’t think there is mounting evidence of that…

Is there any evidence in your view?

No because there are two cases that are being investigated at the suggestion of the attorney general, the former attorney general, by the police. 13 cases are going through the courts – that’s not messy, as William Hague says, that’s our system because if any person believes that their rights have been abused by the British state they should eventually be able to take it to court.

But you do not believe it’s even possible that British intelligence was complicit in American torture?

I don’t believe it’s happened and the courts are obviously going to test that out. It’s not actually American torture in the cases that are being taken to court, it’s in third countries, and the.. I think it’s important that we defend a system where people can try and exercise their rights through the courts. Obviously the first responsibility is on ministers and on agency heads we also have a system of parliamentary accountability where we have something called the Intelligence and Security Committee which has published two reports, actually very good reports in 2005 and 2007 and they told the story pretty clearly

I just want to get this clear, are you saying that at no stage did we provide questions to be put to those that were being tortured and at no stage did we knowingly take information that had been garnered under torture? Is that what you’re saying?

We don’t have evidence of that no.

And you don’t believe it happened?

We don’t have evidence of that.

I’m asking do you believe it happened?

I’m not going to believe it happened if there wasn’t evidence of it.

So you don’t believe that it’s even possible that it happened?

Of course it’s conceivable and that’s why the courts are looking into it and why it’s right that we are very very zealous about this.

If the courts were looking into it why did you try to suppress so much of what the court was doing?

I didn’t.

Well the Court of Appeal said that it had to withstand unprecedented bullying from you.

No. Because…

That’s what the Court of Appeal said…

Well no actually, he actually revised that opinion. What we said was that the defendant in the case that the court of appeal was dealing with had a right to ensure that all the information was provided to him and his legal team. That’s why the defendant in question got out of Guantanamo bay. It was actually our decision.

The Master of the Rolls said he distrusted you… [Andrew Neil is wrong on this point: Lord Neuberger said he distrusted some of the evidence given by MI5 in the Binyam Mohamed case.]

Well no I don’t accept that at all…

The Master of the Rolls, the most senior civil judge in this country, said when it came to your evidence on these matters, we’re talking about tonight, he quote ‘distrusted you’. [Looking forward to Peter Oborne's analysis of the source of that alleged quotation.]

No, that’s a very very serious allegation to say the Master of the Rolls…

He distrusted your statements he said.

No, he didn’t distrust…

That’s on the record, the Master of the Rolls distrusted your statements…

The Master of the Rolls never said he distrusted me, what the master of the rolls was doing was investigating a case that had gone up from the high court and what he was adjudicating on was whether in the light of American disclosure of evidence it was right for it to be disclosed in Britain as well. As it happened, the American disclosure of evidence happened after we had submitted all of our papers in that case.

Wouldn’t the sensible thing, when you were in the Foreign Office, which would have shown real leadership, which instead of siding with the foreign office establishment, to have said there were so many allegations now being made, there are thirteen cases now that have come up now, I’m going to investigate this – I’m going to get to the bottom this and if any wrong-doing has been done, I will put it right.

That’s what I did.

But you fought against an inquiry…

No, no, you asked me did I take measures to satisfy myself that all had been done, first of all, to find out whether there was any evidence, secondly that if there was any evidence that it was passed on. I will tell you I did take extensive measures inside the system to make sure that that was done. It’s also the case that we had the attorney general refer two cases that emerged, to the police for investigation, that is what we’re doing. Leadership is about doing the right thing for the country and that’s what I did.

The CIA information that you tried to suppress, the famous paragraph 168… clearly shows that British intelligence was involved.

No it doesn’t, I’m sorry that’s not true Andrew. And I took extensive measures inside the system to make sure that we lived up to the moral as well as legal obligations we have. I would not be sitting here if I thought a Labour govt had been privy or party to covering up or condoning torture, it’s one of the most basic things about our country…

Why didn’t you, given you think that, why didn’t you mount / appoint an independent inquiry?

Because we had independent inquiries going on. First of all by the intelligence services commissioner – as it happens: Peter Gibson, the man who has been appointed by David Cameron to do the enquiry if it happens after the mediation…

There was no appointment of an independent public inquiry – why didn’t you, that would have been real leadership?

No it wouldn’t because what we did was one, use the intelligence services commissioner, two, we took exactly the same position of the government, the current govt, which is that you cannot have an independent inquiry of the sort you are inquiring, while court cases are going on. It’s important that court cases are allowed to complete their work. And that is what happened. That’s what is happening, it hasn’t finished yet…

I understand… Just to finish… you have no personal regrets about the manner in which we handled the war on terror in relation to these matters of British complicity – you think that we get a complete clean bill of health – and you have no regrets about how it was handled at all?


Is that right?

No, that’s not the position. Because in 2005 and 2007 the Intelligence and Security Committee reported what had happened which was that the Americans changed the rules, they didn’t tell us, we were too slow in their words to put 2 and 2 together and see what they were doing, and they required the british govt to update it’s guidance to it’s officers to make sure that we coped with the new American approach. That’s what we did. We said that very publicly and very clearly.

Sorry, what’s your regret?

That we should have been faster in seeing the different bits of the jigsaw that showed the Americans were doing things that they shouldn’t have been doing.

You think that this enquiry is going to give you and the British intelligence a clean bill of health?

Yes, I think that beyond the points that… I see no evidence that shows, beyond what the Intelligence and Security Committee has already shown, that Britain was complicit in anything like the torture that you have talked about.

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  • takeoman

    So good old JR finds the Guardian reports hard to follow,is happy to make statements that he hasn’t checked for accuracy and has once again sprung to the defence of one D.Miliband, whom he informs us is the most credible candidate for the labour leadership.
    Sorry JR sloppy PR like this doesn’t wash, the four male candidates are all totally discredited figures just like your idol Blair.

  • pedantichrist

    I find it odd you don’t proof-read your own comments. To, Too, Two. Spot the difference. How you can argue credibly, with no idea of which one should be used?

  • Neil

    For Mr Rentoul, the bunch of corporate shills who act as New Labour-branded politicians can do no harm. In every column he turns reality on it head, picking pseudo-intellectual fights with the rag New Labour warmongers and social engineers love to hate (despite the fact the DM regularly talks about supporting “our” troops.
    Honestly, the sooner Mr Rentoul is sacked and hopefully sent to fight in lithium-rich Afghanistan the better. Go on Mr Rentoul, stand up for your beliefs. Join the army!!! Goebels, Stalin and Honecker would have loved you.

  • KingofWelshNoir

    Mr Rentoul, I’m not sure who is being more disingenuous, you or Miliband.

    ‘…asked if he accepts that there is evidence of British complicity, and says No, meaning, obviously, that it has not been proved…’

    Huh? What sort of definition of ‘evidence’ is that? Evidence is stuff – such as affidavits from detainees that they were interrogated by MI5 officers while in US custody – that you present to the court to prove your case.

    If there is no evidence, what are the courts looking into?

    The documents printed by the Guardian show quite clearly that HM Government was complicit in the rendition and torture of innocent British citizens. Instead of splitting hairs over the definition of ‘evidence’ why don’t you express appropriate disgust?

  • Paragluteus

    Dear Oh Dear.

    A mere placeman! And a not-very-good proapgandist either!

    A wonderful piece of contemporary history? Toast in the making?

    In your rush to do your master’s bidding, it appears that you don’t even have time to do a proper job for him. My, how he must be displeased with your shoddy work in missing the money-shot!

    “[Andrew Neil is wrong on this point: he said he distrusted some of the evidence given by MI5, if I remember, but I haven't time to check it all now.]”

    (my emphasis)

    So you can tell us, Rentoul, to settle a bet as it were: With reference to your continued position on this national MSM outlet, are there other considerations in play besides the straight transaction of money for ordinary journalism?

  • aardvark10

    Have you got “you” and “can” in the wrong order? Often the fate of pedants.

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