With the use of torture on suspected terrorists currently the subject of heated debate, most notably in the USA, the British Foreign Secretary David Miliband has now refused to rule out using information obtained by such methods.
Speaking yesterday to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Mr Miliband indicated that if the British Labour government had information come into their possession that they had reason to suspect was extracted by a foreign power through the use of torture, they would not necessarily dismiss the idea of using that information if they believed it had the potential to foil an attack by terrorists.
Furthermore in a private written submission to the select committee, of which the Daily Mail newspaper claims to have seen a copy, Mr Miliband conceded that British nationals may suffer torture at the hands of foreign governments that the British government was powerless to prevent. Whilst emphasizing that the British authorities would in no way actively seek information that they knew was obtained under conditions of torture, evidence of a clear "threat to life" if that information was not acted upon would be one of the primary considerations, if not the primary consideration itself, in any decision they may subsequently reach as to whether it's use could be justified.
Citing previous statements made by Jack Straw, his predecessor in the Foreign Office, as to the moral dilemma the government may face when presented with potentially tainted intelligence Mr Miliband went on to say that it would be a:balanced judgment about whether or not a piece of intelligence could be used if one has concerns about its provenance
Noting that Mr Miliband had enraged both opposition politicians and human rights campaigners alike with his comments, the Daily Mail quoted Edward Davey, Foreign Affairs spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats, as saying:This seems to be as close as any minister has so far come to admitting British complicity in torture
Mr Miliband, who retained his post in the recent cabinet reshuffle announced by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, has often been mentioned as a possible leader of the Labour Party and has a brother, Ed Miliband, who is also a Minister in the current administration.
Considered to have been a close ally of the former Prime Minister Tony Blair, a man who was instrumental in creating the New Labour philosophy despite often strong opposition from many on the left of his party, Mr Miliband is nevertheless seen by some as residing on the left of the party himself with regard to several key policy issues. And it is those on the Labour left who have largely been the most vociferous critics of policies pursued by its' leaders that supported those of the previous US administration of George W Bush. Therefore Mr Miliband's admission may have come as something of a surprise to a number of his Labour colleagues.
Or perhaps it is yet further evidence of a government that is no longer sure of what it stands for or of who it represents. A situation it must have thought it's victories in three consecutive General Elections had put paid to once and for all.