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Controversial British techniques

Interrogation, Intelligence and Security examines the origins and effects of a group of controversial interrogation techniques often described as torture, known as the ‘five techniques’. Focusing on the colony of Aden at a time when British rule was being challenged by nationalist insurgents (1963-67), on the height of ‘the troubles’ in Northern Ireland (1971) and the conflict in Iraq (2003), the book explores the use of hooding to restrict vision, white noise, stress positions, limited sleep and a limited diet. Through its in-depth analysis the book reveals how British forces came to use such controversial methods in counter-insurgency, counter-terrorism and internal security contexts. In Aden and Northern Ireland the techniques were a part of policy, used because of the British military’s belief – a belief adopted by members of government – that the techniques would increase the amount and quality of intelligence obtained during interrogation. In Iraq the techniques were used for a much more complex set of factors that can be categorised into facilitating and motivating factors. The book finds that while it is likely that some intelligence was produced from these interrogations, the techniques had widespread and long-lasting negative effects that should be taken into account when judging whether these and similar techniques can be justified.

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Results and reactions

This chapter completes the book’s coverage of the Aden case by charting the results and reactions that followed the use of the ‘five techniques’ there. It will be shown that not only was interrogation successful in producing intelligence, but that this intelligence was used to make improvements to the security situation in Aden. It will also be shown that interrogation was a valuable source of intelligence in relation to other sources. Investigations into allegations of brutality conducted by the International Committee of the Red Cross and Amnesty International are examined, as is the British Government’s response to these investigations, which took the form of the Bowen Inquiry into procedures for the arrest, interrogation and detention of suspects in Aden. These investigations led to increased concern for the welfare of prisoners amongst members of the governments of Aden and the UK.

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This chapter introduces the context within which the ‘five techniques’ were used in Northern Ireland. Its main focus is how and why these techniques came to be used there. It was the military’s interrogation experts and policy-makers’ belief that the ‘five techniques’ would improve the effectiveness of interrogation, that led to the use of the techniques in Northern Ireland. The policy-makers who were involved in this decision are identified in this chapter. Details are also given of the form the techniques took.

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in Interrogation, intelligence and security

The Iraq case is the best-known of the three examined in this book because of the recent press coverage it has received. The ‘five techniques’ were used in a Temporary Detention Facility in Basra in September 2003. This episode resulted in the death of Baha Mousa, one of the detainees involved. This chapter focuses on how, despite the 1972 ban, British soldiers came to use the techniques at the Temporary Detention Facility. The techniques were used in a markedly different way than in Aden and Northern Ireland: they were used for a different combination of reasons and were not the result of efforts to transfer expertise gained in interrogation in similar environments.

in Interrogation, intelligence and security
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in Interrogation, intelligence and security

This chapter identifies the nature of the ‘five techniques’ of interrogation used during the State of Emergency in Aden. The threat from nationalist insurgents led not only to the declaration of a State of Emergency, but to the use of the ‘five techniques’ as well. In order to explain how such controversial techniques came to be used in this case the history and development of the techniques is addressed, as is the process of decision-making that led to their use. The reasons why the military brought these techniques to Aden will be made clear. It will be shown that the purpose behind the use of the ‘five techniques’ in Aden was to improve the intelligence available to the security forces.

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Chapter five completes the book’s account of the Northern Ireland example by analysing the remaining results that followed the use of the ‘five techniques’ there. Divergent opinions on whether intelligence was gained from this interrogation operation are identified and assessed, as is the impact this operation had on security in Northern Ireland, and the value of what intelligence was likely gained this way relative to other sources of intelligence. The impact of the ‘five techniques’ on the detainees who experienced them is identified, including the judgments of health professionals, and the award of compensation is discussed. Finally the chapter looks at the impact of the use of the ‘five techniques’ in Northern Ireland, and the publicity that accompanied it, on the UK’s international reputation, specifically its place in the Republic of Ireland’s case against the UK for alleged breaches of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

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Banning the ‘five techniques’

This chapter identifies the government’s responses to the use of the ‘five techniques’ in Northern Ireland and to the negative publicity provoked by public knowledge that the techniques had been used within the United Kingdom. These responses consisted firstly of the Compton Inquiry into allegations of brutality. A public inquiry into whether the guidelines governing interrogation ought to be revised – the Parker Inquiry – followed, as did the decision, announced in the House of Commons in March 1972 by then Prime Minister Edward Heath, that the ‘five techniques’ were banned from all future use by British personnel. This ban represents a significant change in official attitudes towards these interrogation techniques, and was contained within new, more detailed, interrogation guidelines.

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This chapter begins by identifying the impact that the ‘five techniques’ had upon security in Iraq and upon the detainees who were exposed to them. This reoccurrence of the techniques led to changes to written guidelines on interrogation and prisoner handling, and changes to training on the same subjects. These and other efforts made by the government and the military to reduce the chances of the ‘five techniques’ being used again are examined. The chapter also charts the course of the court martial faced by certain soldiers alleged to be involved, and the findings, recommendations and impact of The Baha Mousa Public Inquiry set up by the British government to investigate the circumstances of Baha Mousa’s death.

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