In his new memoir, George W. Bush claims that information obtained by waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammad 183 times helped foil plots to attack targets in the United Kingdom. British intelligence and Cabinet officials—Labor and Conservative alike—beg to differ.
Oh, to live in a country where the use of torture is condemned without controversy. —PZS
British counter-terrorism officials distanced themselves from Bush’s claims. They said Mohammed provided “extremely valuable” information which was passed on to security and intelligence agencies, but that it mainly related to al-Qaida’s structure and was not known to have been extracted through torture. Eliza Manningham-Buller, head of MI5 at the time, said earlier this year that the government protested to the US over the torture of terror suspects, but that the Americans concealed Mohammed’s waterboarding from Britain. Officials said today the US still had not officially told the British government about the conditions in which Mohammed was held.
Kim Howells, former chairman of the Commons intelligence and security committee and Labour foreign minister, told the BBC that, while he did not doubt the existence of plots, he doubted whether waterboarding provided information instrumental in preventing them coming to fruition.
David Davis, the Conservative former shadow home secretary, said: “For [Bush] to demonstrate the use of torture saved British lives he has to demonstrate you can’t get information any other way.” He added: “We know from Iraq that whenever brains rather than brutality was involved, you get better results.” Davis pointed to claims made by one detainee, Ibn Sheikh al-Libi, after he was tortured that there was a link between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida and that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, both of which have proved not to be true.