"It is tragic that Alan Turing was convicted of an offence which now seems both cruel and absurd, particularly... given his outstanding contribution to the war effort," [Justice Minister Lord McNally] said.
"However, the law at the time required a prosecution and, as such, long-standing policy has been to accept that such convictions took place and, rather than trying to alter the historical context and to put right what cannot be put right, ensure instead that we never again return to those times."
It's always possible there's something more hidden behind veils of secrecy, but given what we know now, it's quite possible that Alan Turing did more to win World War 2 than any other single person. His word on codebreaking had a wildly disproportionate impact. It's one thing to have a huge armed force, it's an entirely separate thing to have it in the right place at the right time, and Alan Turing's work made sure that, over and over, we did.
Again, I'm not saying that anyone would actually buy this argument, but by pardoning Turing the government would effectively say that any legal decision is open to review and evaluation based on the morals of today; it would ruin whatever illusion of continuity and stability the government still has.
Turing's conviction led to the removal of his security clearance, and barred him from continuing with his cryptographic consultancy for GCHQ. At the time, there was acute public anxiety about spies and homosexual entrapment by Soviet agents, because of the recent exposure of the first two members of the Cambridge Five, Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean, as KGB double agents. Turing was never accused of espionage but, as with all who had worked at Bletchley Park, was prevented from discussing his war work.
On 8 June 1954, Turing's cleaner found him dead; he had died the previous day. A post-mortem examination established that the cause of death was cyanide poisoning. When his body was discovered an apple lay half-eaten beside his bed, and although the apple was not tested for cyanide, it is speculated that this was the means by which a fatal dose was delivered. An inquest determined that he had committed suicide, and he was cremated at Woking Crematorium on 12 June 1954. Turing's mother argued strenuously that the ingestion was accidental, caused by her son's careless storage of laboratory chemicals. ...
"Your last letter arrived in the middle of a crisis about 'Den Norske Gutt' so I have not been able to give my attention yet to the...."
Turing never fully explained this crisis about Kjell, the young Norwegian, but told Robin later that 'for sheer incident' it rivalled the arrest and trial in 1952.
Kjell had arrived at Newcastle from Norway, and police ('the poor sweeties' as Turing called them) were watching his house, and were deployed all over the North of England to intercept him.
There was something serious going on that his friends never realised: they did not think of Alan Turing as the repository of the greatest state secrets.
We do not know Alan Turing's dreams, but he certainly needed escape from the Britain of the Fifties. Unable to travel to the future to where he belonged, only travel abroad offered the chance of freedom.
He remained very interested in learning Danish and Norwegian. He mentioned in 1953 the possibility of getting a job in France, but nothing came of it.
In summer 1953 he took a holiday in Corfu, Athens and Paris. He came back with a list of men he had met (which I saw in 1978 before it was destroyed by a censorious employee of the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment.)
These were the days of panic in the Cold War. The first British atomic bomb (thanks to the Manchester computer) was successfully tested in October 1952. The first Soviet H-bomb was tested in August 1953; the 14-megaton American H-bomb was detonated in March 1954... and that parallel figure Robert Oppenheimer was effectively on trial...
Alan Turing had no holiday in summer 1954.
I suspect this would have been too much for the unseen world of British intelligence to allow.
Law, say the gardeners, is the sun,
Law is the one
All gardeners obey
To-morrow, yesterday, to-day.
Law is the wisdom of the old,
The impotent grandfathers feebly scold;
The grandchildren put out a treble tongue,
Law is the senses of the young.
Law, says the priest with a priestly look,
Expounding to an unpriestly people,
Law is the words in my priestly book,
Law is my pulpit and my steeple.
Law, says the judge as he looks down his nose,
Speaking clearly and most severely,
Law is as I've told you before,
Law is as you know I suppose,
Law is but let me explain it once more,
Law is The Law.
Yet law-abiding scholars write:
Law is neither wrong nor right,
Law is only crimes
Punished by places and by times,
Law is the clothes men wear
Law is Good morning and Good night.
Others say, Law is our Fate;
Others say, Law is our State;
Others say, others say
Law is no more,
Law has gone away.
And always the loud angry crowd,
Very angry and very loud,
Law is We,
And always the soft idiot softly Me.
If we, dear, know we know no more
Than they about the Law,
If I no more than you
Know what we should and should not do
Except that all agree
Gladly or miserably
That the Law is
And that all know this
If therefore thinking it absurd
To identify Law with some other word,
Unlike so many men
I cannot say Law is again,
No more than they can we suppress
The universal wish to guess
Or slip out of our own position
Into an unconcerned condition.
Although I can at least confine
Your vanity and mine
To stating timidly
A timid similarity,
We shall boast anyvay:
Like love I say.
Like love we don't know where or why,
Like love we can't compel or fly,
Like love we often weep,
Like love we seldom keep.
-W. H. Auden
Isn't that obviously the case? This is a democracy, right? Isn't that the entire point of the primacy of the legislature in determining policy, because as elected representatives in a democracy they are expected to review and evaluate policy based on "the morals of today"?
A pardon is an acknowledgement that the person did commit a crime, and it was validly a crime, but because of who they are and what they have done or the circumstances under which they committed it, they will not be punished for it. This is different from expunging a criminal record, where a person is later found to be innocent of the crime in question, however the crime is still a crime and people could and should be prosecuted for it.
X-Pardon: Alan Turing
The latest "poll of polls" for The Independent suggests that Nick Clegg could see his number of MPs reduced from 57 to 19 unless the party improves its ratings. The figure slumps to just 11 MPs when the proposed new parliamentary map is taken into account.
In practice, election experts believe the Liberal Democrats would do better than that because they would target their resources on the most winnable constituencies and their MPs have often defied the odds by holding on to their seats. But the experts say the reduction in the number of MPs from 650 to 600 will hurt the Liberal Democrats proportionately more than Labour or the Conservatives.
In another headache for Mr Clegg, Liberal Democrats who oppose the Coalition with the Conservatives are to form a rebel group within the party.
Liberal Left will be launched at the party's spring conference in Gateshead next month, at a meeting addressed by Baroness (Jenny) Tonge, a Liberal Democrat peer, and Richard Grayson, the party's former policy director. Accusing Mr Clegg of shifting the Liberal Democrats to the right, the new group's founding statement says: "We are now part of a Government which is Eurosceptic, neo-liberal and socially conservative." It calls for the spending cuts to be slowed.
« Older "Portia Simpson Miller, the former and newly re-el... | "Risk" is a free podcast for s... Newer »
This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments
Buy a Shirt