New state

On the same day on which the Metro bus paper announced that an Oxford policy studies group said that the war on terror was disaster and had resulted only in strengthening al-qaeda the news emerged that Derek Pasquill, a Foreign Office civil servant, was arrested, on 27 September, for a series of articles in the New Statesman, the Observer and Policy Exchange.

The New Statesman sees this as an “abuse of state power” and reported that

This case is said to follow the publication in the New Statesman, the Observer and in a pamphlet by the Policy Exchange think tank of a series of articles highlighting damaging and dangerous government policy. These included an expose of British acquiescence in the secret and illegal “rendition” (Rendition: the cover up) by the United States of terrorist suspects, and various revelations about government policy towards radical Islam.

This issue raises quite a few issues. Government employees are bound by a requirement of loyalty. However, if someone finds that their government has been acting in contravention of international law, doesn’t international law require the individual to speak out. Revealing policy is one thing – disagreement over policy is a matter of opinion. Civil servants are, quite understandably, obliged to keep their policy disagreements to themselves.

Acquiescence in activity that contravenes international law is a different matter. Did the Nuremberg trials not establish that “only following orders” was not an adequate defence, when those orders contravened international law?

It is hard to believe the absurdly named “rendition” is not an offence under international law. The very word breathes 1984. There is no single English word for “kidnap and delivery of suspects to places where they can be tortured” but there are plenty of English words that could be used to describe this much more accurately.

There is a fuller story on this on Index on Censorship. The New Statesman’s political affairs editor describes how he was getting so many stories on this issue at one point that it was almost impossible to keep up with them, alerting him to the existence of dissatisfaction with existing policies at a very high level:

The documents showed that senior figures in the Foreign Office believed that Britain’s policy in Iraq had led to an increase in radicalism among young Muslims, something the prime minister was denying at the time.

…..The leaks provided me with a further news story for the Observer about plans to infiltrate extremist groups, and with features for the New Statesman on CIA rendition flights, diplomatic engagement with Egypt’s banned opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the panic that had engulfed the Foreign Office as a result of the disclosures. …

……It is difficult to imagine a series of documents that could have been more in the public interest to disclose.

Hard to disagree with that conclusion.

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