Despite the restrictions placed on Parliamentâ€™s Intelligence and Security Committee by an overly secretive government about who they could question and what they could question them about, the committee managed to produce a damning Itâ€™s easy, of course, for the MPs (and for me, sitting comfortable well away from the events) to be horrified at what was done and at the apparent complacency of those acting in our name. And there are the inevitable calls for action to be taken. last week about the extent of British complicity in the rendition and torture of suspects by US agencies.
But for me, the real underlying lesson of all of this wasnâ€™t that there are rogue individuals, condoning and participating in activities which they knew to be wrong. It is, rather, about the thinness of the veneer of civilisation, and how easy it is for people to simply â€˜fall inâ€™ with whatever is being done. Unacceptable actions become â€“ or perhaps it might be more appropriate to say â€˜appear to becomeâ€™ – acceptable when those involved are under pressure to produce results or to work with ‘allies’ who have a different attitude or approach.
It isnâ€™t the first time in human history that weâ€™ve seen people simply slip into a way of operating or take a lead from their superiors. And it wonâ€™t be the last either. But amongst the recriminations and justifiable criticisms of a failure of leadership, we should also reflect on what it tells us about how deeply those infamous â€˜British valuesâ€™ which the politicians keep banging on about are â€“ or rather, are not â€“ ingrained. It turns out that, when push comes to shove, theyâ€™re actually pretty superficial – more talked about than adhered to.