Søvndal does a u-turn on torture intel

Enhedslisten demands an explanation after foreign affairs minister contradicts himself on torture-generated intelligence

Cirkus Summarum (photo: Nico)
March 12th, 2012 1:09 pm| by admin
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Only 12 hours after stating that it was unacceptable, Villy Søvndal now says that it is suitable to use information acquired through means of torture.

In an article published by Berlingske newspaper on Sunday, Søvndal was critical of the Danish government using information garnered through the use of torture, starkly opposing the stance taken by the previous administration.

“We have made it an important priority to defend human rights and oppose the use of torture and as a result we find odd and contradictory to utilise information obtained through the use of torture,” Søvndal told Berlingske on Sunday.

In an astonishingly quick turn of events, however, Søvndal then contradicted himself later the same day, admitting in a joint press release with Morten Bødskov (Socialdemokraterne), the justice minister, that things are rarely black and white and that ethical dilemmas exist in the fight for terror and are an unfortunate part of the realities faced by domestic intelligence agency PET.

“The line remains unchanged in regards to our intelligence agency’s cooperation with partners of other nations,” Søvndal and Bødskov wrote. “To solve the issues our intelligence service has to exchange information with nations that may employ interrogation tactics that go against the Danish perception of justice.”

Søvndals initial comments drew ire from Tom Behnke, the spokesperson from the Konservative (K).

“We are against the use of torture, but if our intelligence agency comes across information from a country employing torture tactics concerning a planned terror action against the Opera [in Copenhagen], naturally PET should be able to use the information.”

Enhedslisten’s spokesman, Christian Juhl, was not impressed with the conflicting messages being conveyed by Søvndal and wants an explanation.

“At the foreign affairs meeting today, I will demand that the foreign minister accounts for his comments. The erratic path currently being used by the minister is completely unacceptable”, Juhl told Politiken newspaper.

Behnke told Berlingske that he was happy that Søvndal had come to his senses again.

“It is commendable to have the opinion, that I share, that torture is unacceptable and should be combated, but we need to face reality,” Benhke said. “We have to accept the fact that we will come across information that we will have to act upon, knowing that there may be a good chance that it was obtained through torture. It’s not because we sanction the use of torture, but if the lives of thousands of Danish citizens are at stake, we have a responsibility to use the information.”

PET also state on their website that all information received is carefully scrutinised, and that intelligence that may have been acquired through torture can be “low value” and unreliable. Conversely, PET assures that they do not pass on information if it they suspect the information will lead to the torture of an individual.

(photo: Bengt Nyman)
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