The worst journalist in Britain.


10:31 am - February 11th 2010

by Guest    


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contribution by BenSix

Yes, yes, I know I said I’d stop hectoring columnists for effect, so I want to make it clear that when I dub Con Coughlin Britain’s worst journalist it’s not theatre, it’s the result of a rigorous and entirely objective assessment of the facts. The Telegraph “reporter” has been merrily regurgitating MI6 and CIA propaganda for years – distorting news on Libya, Iran and, most notoriously, Iraq.

His 45 minutes of shame were enough to land him in ignominy, but no, he’s still here, and he’s turned his hand to blogging…

Why don’t our judges just come clean and sign up with the Taliban?

Better pay?

Perhaps it’s because me lerned friends are too grand to travel by public transport, but the only reason I can think of to explain their egregious behaviour is that they somehow feel immune from the threat posed by Islamist terror groups.

Then, Mr Coughlin, allow me to aid your imagination!

British judges ruled that Binyam Mohamed – a resident of these Isles – was subjected to what “could readily be contended to be at the very least cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by the United States authorities“.

Doesn’t such behaviour, by one of the world’s most influential powers, fall within the public interest? Or should we hush it up, for the sole, squalid reason that the power in question thinks the truth is inconvenient?

Even when the security services have raised the current terror threat level to “severe”, the judges are more interested in bending over backwards to accommodate deeply unsympathetic characters like Binyam Mohamed than paying proper attention to the nation’s security needs.

If you think that the rule of law should be ditched when the government decides it’s terror-time just come out and say it, Con. And if you think that being “unsympathetic” is enough to merit “at the very least cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” have the guts to spell it out. Come on! Your pals in the services would be dead impressed.

The document that has now been released by the Foreign Office relates that Binyam was subjected to sleep deprivation, rather than the more lurid claims his lawyers have made about him having his testicles slashed with razors.

His lawyers and Judge Gladys Kessler(pdf). Or, heck – is she party to this as well, Con? Does the Taliban-lovin’ conspiracy cross the pond?

But there is a serious point to today’s disgraceful ruling by the High Court. Our national security depends heavily on our intelligence-sharing cooperation with the U.S., and it is thanks to the intel provided by the CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies that we have managed to avoid a repeat of the July 7 bombings. But if the Americans, alarmed at the willingness of our judges to humiliate them in public, decide to scale down the level of cooperation, our national security will undoubtedly be placed in jeopardy.

Yes, who cares if they’ve tortured, lied and trampled, let’s never leave their heels for a moment, or they might stop passing us biscuits.

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Reader comments


Mohamed is a nasty piece of work.

But I have to agree with you, so does Mr Coughlin appear to be.

The Campaign to Criticise Con Coughlin is strictly non-ideological. Here’s Alex Massie at the Spectator and Alex Deane at Conservative Home.

The bit that Coughlin doesn’t get (and he’s not the only one) is what civil liberties actually mean.

Which is that brown bearded suspected religious terrorists get exactly the same legal treatment as ofay whitebread pillars of the establishment like Con Coughlin and myself (well, less “pillar” in my case).

Further, the only way to demand and insist that us whitebreads get those things liike habeas corpus, jury trial, freedom from torture and all the rest of the things that our forefathers fought and died for is to insist that any and everyone who is present in these isles or a resident, citizen of, gets exactly the same treatment that we would demand for ourselves.

No if, no buts, no exceptions.

For as soon as the powers that be are allowed to select who gets these rights, as soon as they are privileges, then we’re straight into Niemoller territory.

Damn, I was going to post a link to those as well. He’s being crapped on everywhere – which is a welcome surprise (though Alex Massie is usually v good on the issue).

Its a pity so much that passes for journalism these days is merely opinion.

This bloke is very nasty. Does he understand the point about universal rights or is he, like many of the right, so convinced at his infallibility that he believes he could never be the victim of a government gone bad?

We should all be worried when newspapers owned by wealthy people who do not pay UK tax try to influence public opinion in this way. Good luck with the campaign.

Couldn’t agree more, except that Coughlin is no sort of journalist. He’s an odious propagandist who’s never done any actual journalism.

Can’t really add much to Tim Worstall’s comment @ 3.

It’s ridiculous that these points even need repeating. It’s the 21st Century, for christ’s sake.

No. Although the Torygraph has published creditable pieces of these matters, no-one can really be surprised by this. Far more reprehensible are the likes of Martin Bright and Nick Cohen, who have offences like this to be taken into consideration, still want to be thought of as progressive and basically should really know better.

Torture provides very unreliable “intelligence”. It is usually used to try to confirm the prejudices (or paranoia) of the torturers or their superiors. The security needs of any country are best met by avoiding evidence from torture.

Coughlin has replied to the ConservativeHome critique, and Massie and David Blackburn have responded. Good to welcome Henry Porter to the C2CCC.

Ben Six,

What is C2CCC? MMX surely?

Why, the Campaign to Criticise Con Coughlin. Come one, come all!

Ben Six,

Cheers! I thought you were welcoming our Henry to 2010!

15. So Much For Subtlety

Sorry but this is not a problem with the rule of law, but a problem with the Judges and Courts extending their powers into areas where they really have no right to be and no need to become involved.

The rule of law does not say that British Courts have to sit in judgement on whether a non-British person was tortured outside Britain by non-British people. Especially as there is no evidence any British person was ever involved in the alleged treatment.

Judges have taken it upon themselves to change the laws and bring actions that had nothing to do with them in the past, under their sway.

And even though Coughlin is a prat, it is still foolish to endanger British security over an issue that has nothing to do with us at all.

The ruling related to the release of documents held by the British government relating to the possible torture of a British resident in which it is alleged members of the British security services were complicit, so it is perfectly reasonable for the British courts to make a ruling.
Anyway, the UN Convention against torture allows the prosecution in Britain of anyone who has carried out torture regardless of their nationality and where the alleged crimes too place.
And this is nothing to do with judicial activism, the action was brought by Binyam Mohamed’s lawyers and contested by the Foreign Office, and the judges had to make a ruling on the matter.

While agreeing with much of your piece, what on earth makes you think servicemen would be impressed with journalists who advocate ignoring the very liberal democratic values those servicemen defend? Certainly you can question whether the effects of their actions do indeed defend such values, but don’t impune their motives.

Secret services, John. A nod towards his sources.

@ 3 “all the rest of the things that our forefathers fought and died for is to insist that any and everyone who is present in these isles or a resident, citizen of, gets exactly the same treatment that we would demand for ourselves”.

I think “our forefathers” would struggle with the concept of dying for the rights of someone who would like to dismantle the very thing those rights are designed to protect ? Those rights are not unconditional.

“Those rights are not unconditional.”

Yes,by definition, they are.

Secret services, John. A nod towards his sources.

Yes, that makes more sense, sorry Ben6

22. So Much For Subtlety

16. andrew adams – “The ruling related to the release of documents held by the British government relating to the possible torture of a British resident in which it is alleged members of the British security services were complicit, so it is perfectly reasonable for the British courts to make a ruling.”

No it is not. The British Courts are abusing the word “complicit”. There is no evidence that any British people took part in the alleged torture. There is no evidence that any British people ordered the alleged torture. There is no reason to think that any British people even knew of the alleged torture. The only allegation is that some British people may have visited him in prison and some other British people may have given the Americans information on him.

This is not an issue for the Courts. Notice that the claim is not even one of torture. He was subject to shackling which is legal, sleep deprivation and threats. In other words techniques that the British Government used in Northern Ireland and promised not to use again – but techniques which the European Courts specifically found did not amount to torture.

“Anyway, the UN Convention against torture allows the prosecution in Britain of anyone who has carried out torture regardless of their nationality and where the alleged crimes too place.”

Which is interesting. But, of course, irrelevant. You have no established torture took place. You have not named a single person who took part in this torture. There is no allegation that British officials did so. No issue for the British Courts.

“And this is nothing to do with judicial activism, the action was brought by Binyam Mohamed’s lawyers and contested by the Foreign Office, and the judges had to make a ruling on the matter.”

The fact they did not toss it at its first hearing is proof of judicial activism. The judges did not have to hear it much less make a ruling on the matter. And they should not have done so.

Fucking hell – this guy’s priceless. Did you notice how he says he supports “the rights of innocent people receiving a fair trial”? What a thick, thick bastard.

Also it seems a little risky for someone as odious as he is to advance the argument that people can fairly be tortured as long as they’re ‘unsympathetic’ enough.

Sorry to come back on a single point, but my time is presently as limited as a *struggles to think up a zinger in the few, snatched seconds*…limited thing.

…techniques which the European Courts specifically found did not amount to torture.

Not forgetting that…

[T]he [European Convention on Human Rights] is a living instrument which must be interpreted in the light of present-day conditions..and that certain acts which were classified in the past as ‘inhuman and degrading treatment’ as opposed to ‘torture’ could be classified differently in the future..[T]he increasingly high standard being required in the area of the protection of human rights and fundamental liberties correspondingly and inevitably requires greater firmness in assessing breaches of the fundamental values of democratic societies.

I think a fine case can be made that such practices do – when deployed in a certain manner – constitute torture.

Ben

25. So Much For Subtlety

24. BenSix – “Not forgetting that…[T]he [European Convention on Human Rights] is a living instrument which must be interpreted in the light of present-day conditions”

And this is the problem. Liberals who do not like the fact that Blair was elected and re-elected, that Parliament voted for the War and the voters approved, have decided to use the Courts to impose an undemocratic political agenda on the rest of us. Think what you like about the idiocy of electing Blair, the solution is not to allow Judges to overturn the voters’ decision by making up the law as they go along.

“I think a fine case can be made that such practices do – when deployed in a certain manner – constitute torture.”

I am sure they could. But British officials have to do what is legal at the time and not what some Lib-Dem voting Judge might decide to permit in the future.

SMSF

That doesn’t invalidate my point that it’s clumsy to invoke the ECHR as a final word on what doesn’t constitute torture. To pick up on another claim, you assert that “there is no reason to think that any British people even knew of the alleged torture“. Well…

MI5 had known since at least ­January of that year that US authorities were mistreating detainees held in the ­so-called war on terror…The court says Witness B (a MI5 agent) “probably” read the documents before he travelled to Pakistan to question Mohamed, and that others in MI5 ­certainly had, so MI5 would have known Mohamed was being subjected to sleep deprivation before their interrogation…[H]e was being kept under self-harm observation, th[e] the interviews were having a marked effect upon him and causing him significant mental stress and suffering…Yet further evidence that MI5 was made aware of Mohamed’s suffering before it questioned him.

Now, I freely admit to knowing little of the law, but it seems to me that if there’s a) reason to believe that a British resident has been tortured, and b) reason to believe that British agents were aware of this, is the issue really no concern of British Courts? Odd, if that’s the case.

Ben

27. So Much For Subtlety

26. BenSix – “That doesn’t invalidate my point that it’s clumsy to invoke the ECHR as a final word on what doesn’t constitute torture.”

If the Bleeding Hearts who enforce EU Human Rights do not think it is torture, there is no rational reason to think it is torture. What we are seeing is the dumbing down of torture until it fits George W. Bush. Not torture per se. But if you want to go down this route, define torture for me.

“MI5 had known since at least ­January of that year that US authorities were mistreating detainees held in the ­so-called war on terror”

Mistreating being a very flexible word. It seems they knew that they were not letting him sleep – something the EU Courts specifically declined to call torture. That is not the same as knowing of the alleged genital cutting for instance.

“so MI5 would have known Mohamed was being subjected to sleep deprivation before their interrogation”

Torture being defined down to meet this practice. No one could have reasonably known that beforehand.

“[H]e was being kept under self-harm observation,”

So they were concerned about his health. Good for them.

“th[e] the interviews were having a marked effect upon him and causing him significant mental stress and suffering”

Mental. Not physical. No evidence of torture in other words. Interviews are meant to cause mental stress. That is the point.

“Now, I freely admit to knowing little of the law, but it seems to me that if there’s a) reason to believe that a British resident has been tortured, and b) reason to believe that British agents were aware of this, is the issue really no concern of British Courts? Odd, if that’s the case.”

Why? British Courts do not run the world. What happens outside of Britain is no business of theirs. Nor is there any reason to think BM had been tortured. Just stressed. By means the EU Courts found did not constitute torture. Why would British Courts get involved?

28. Golden Gordon

Torture not only is morally wrong but counterproductive.
When you have a pair of electrodes, you will very much say what the interrogators want you to say.
Torture is about control / punishment not information gathering.
Chilean torturers use to drown their victims in tubs of feaces. It was impossible to recall any facts due to the stress.
I wonder if Thatcher use to discuss that with Pinochet when they had their tea and whiskey evenings.
But to most of you lads and lasses it was well deserved. Horrible leftie trades unionists.

No it is not. The British Courts are abusing the word “complicit”. There is no evidence that any British people took part in the alleged torture. There is no evidence that any British people ordered the alleged torture. There is no reason to think that any British people even knew of the alleged torture. The only allegation is that some British people may have visited him in prison and some other British people may have given the Americans information on him.

No one is claiming that any British person either ordered or carried out the torture. There are good reasons for suspecting that certain individuals were aware he was being tortured and did nothing to prevent such treatment. It is therefore entirely right that any relevant documents be released which can throw additional light on this.

This is not an issue for the Courts. Notice that the claim is not even one of torture. He was subject to shackling which is legal, sleep deprivation and threats. In other words techniques that the British Government used in Northern Ireland and promised not to use again – but techniques which the European Courts specifically found did not amount to torture.

A US court rule that his trreatment amounted to rather more than that.

Which is interesting. But, of course, irrelevant. You have no established torture took place. You have not named a single person who took part in this torture. There is no allegation that British officials did so. No issue for the British Courts.

Given Mohamed’s own testimony, the ruling of the US court and what we know about other cases there are good reasons to believe that torture did take place, or at least sufficient grounds for further investigation. The point about universal juristicion in the case of torture is that it could be a matter for the British courts even if no British officials did take part.

The fact they did not toss it at its first hearing is proof of judicial activism. The judges did not have to hear it much less make a ruling on the matter. And they should not have done so.

It was entirely proper for them to do so. To toss it straight in the bin would itself have been a case of judicial activism.

SMFS

If the Bleeding Hearts who enforce EU Human Rights do not think it is torture, there is no rational reason to think it is torture. What we are seeing is the dumbing down of torture until it fits George W. Bush.

Nor is it rational to believe that their assumed status as “Bleeding Hearts” renders them beyond understatement (as the quote that I offered in comment 24 might suggest). The conspiracy implied in your final sentence is peculiar; not least as it would have to take in the, er, U.S. State Department, which classified sleep deprivation techniques as “torture” (when deployed by another country, natch).

As for myself, I see little reason to disagree with the UN Declaration On Torture.

Mental. Not physical. No evidence of torture in other words. Interviews are meant to cause mental stress. That is the point.

From the UN link, above…

For the purpose of this Declaration, torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental

I believe that sleep deprivation techniques can fit the bill. Here, for example that notorious “Bleeding Heart” Menachim Begin describes it effects on him…

In the head of the interrogated prisoner, a haze begins to form. His spirit is wearied to death, his legs are unsteady, and he has one sole desire: to sleep… Anyone who has experienced this desire knows that not even hunger and thirst are comparable with it.

Or that infamous pinko Alexander Solzhenitsyn…

Sleeplessness was a great form of torture: it left no visible marks and could not provide grounds for complaint even if an inspection-something unheard of anyway-were to strike on the morrow.

As for your final question, well – for precisely the reasons I gave.

Ben

* Menachem

(I feel I should add more to this comment, to make it worth its while…*whistles*…Anyone see the, er – rugby, today?)


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Justin McKeating

    RT @libcon: The worst journalist in Britain. http://bit.ly/98PFgJ

  2. sunny hundal

    Brilliant take-down of Con Coughlin RT @libcon: The worst journalist in Britain. http://bit.ly/98PFgJ

  3. Sam the Drummer

    RT @libcon: The worst journalist in Britain. http://bit.ly/98PFgJ

  4. Nicholas Stewart

    #LiberalConspiracy The worst journalist in Britain. http://tinyurl.com/ybk6drb

  5. Mark Clapham

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  6. Liberal Conspiracy

    The worst journalist in Britain. http://bit.ly/98PFgJ

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  9. stuartamdouglas

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  10. Brontides » Blog Archive » “The United States and the United Kingdom have a long history of close cooperation that relies on mutual respect for the handling of classified information”

    […] to add: Liberal Conspiracy identifies Britain’s worst journalist on the basis of this. Come back BBC, all is forgiven. […]





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