Allies may torture terror suspects, top UK ministers say

David Miliband (left) and Alan Johnson were writing in Britain's Sunday Telegraph newspaper.
Britain cannot guarantee that its allies are not torturing terror suspects, two top government ministers said Sunday.

And it’s possible that information used to thwart planned terror attacks was obtained through torture abroad, Foreign Secretary David Miliband and Home Secretary Alan Johnson said. But they insisted that British security services do not mistreat people in custody. “When detainees are held by our police or Armed Forces, we can be sure how they are treated,” the ministers wrote in the Sunday Telegraph. “By definition, we cannot have that same level of assurance when they are held by foreign governments.” The ministers did not specify which of their allies practice torture, but they defended working with countries that might.

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“Intelligence from overseas is critical to our success in stopping terrorism,” they wrote. “All the most serious plots and attacks in the UK this decade have had significant links abroad.” And, they said, Britain makes every effort to ensure it does not obtain information through torture practiced by other countries. “Our agencies are required to seek to minimize, and where possible, avoid the risk of mistreatment,” Miliband and Johnson said. “Operations have been halted where the risk of mistreatment was too high. But it is not possible to eradicate all risk,” they said. “Judgments need to be made.”