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United Kingdom Government

Alan Turing Likely To Be Given Posthumous Pardon 210

Posted by Soulskill
from the about-damn-time dept.
pegdhcp writes with news that the UK government has signaled its intent to support a bill that would issue a posthumous pardon to Alan Turing, who is known for his work in defeating the German Enigma code machines in World War II and widely considered the father of computer science. Turing was charged with and convicted of "gross indecency" in 1952 for being gay. He was sentenced to chemical castration, and he committed suicide two years later. "The announcement marks a change of heart by the government, which declined last year to grant pardons to the 49,000 gay men, now dead, who were convicted under the 1885 Criminal Law Amendment Act. They include Oscar Wilde. ... [Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon] told peers: "Alan Turing himself believed that homosexual activity would be made legal by a royal commission. In fact, appropriately, it was parliament which decriminalized the activity for which he was convicted. The government are very aware of the calls to pardon Turing, given his outstanding achievements, and have great sympathy with this objective That is why the government believe it is right that parliament should be free to respond to this bill in whatever way its conscience dictates and in whatever way it so wills."
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Alan Turing Likely To Be Given Posthumous Pardon

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  • Screw them (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 20, 2013 @08:38AM (#44336459)

    He gets pardoned for his "outstanding achievements". Yet again, it isn't the Rule of Law or ethics that rules Britain, but fame. If you are famous, you get off. And if you are not famous and the law is horribly immoral, then you are fucked.

    • by C0R1D4N (970153)
      The summary suggests the pardon is for all 49,000 convictions Turing is singoed out here because this is Slashdot. An arts news site would have singled out Wilde.
      • Re:Screw them (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 20, 2013 @08:47AM (#44336473)

        No it doesn't.

        There WAS a bill last year to pardon 49,000 people, including Turing. It failed.

        There is nothing in the summary or TFA that indicates whether the new bill is for that same group of 49,000, or for Turning alone. You MAY be right, but neither the summary or TFA supports that conclusion.

        • If anyone is wondering why they declined it last year:

          According to Justice Minister Lord McNally, “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,” he 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.”

          Source [forbes.com]. I guess it makes sense when you put it like that. Pardoning at best does nothing to change the people whose lives were ruined, justice is not done, it never can be. An acknowledgement that the country is capable of doing very bad things is probably better than patting ourselves on the back for fixing our grandparent's mistakes.

      • Re:Screw them (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 20, 2013 @08:58AM (#44336503)

        No, the pardon is specifically for Alan Turing. That's why it's called the "Alan Turing (Statutory Pardon) Bill [HL] 2012-13"

        http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2012-13/alanturingstatutorypardon.html [parliament.uk]

        • Re:Screw them (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Blue Stone (582566) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @11:58AM (#44337199) Homepage Journal

          That's shameful. His name and reputation deserve a pardon, but so do all the others.

          In a sense, since the person is not alive anymore, a post-humous pardon is mostly about showing contrition - the state's for its actions toward others - and moving forward in a better manner. By not pardoning everyone else, and singling out Turing, the state - and the society as a whole to some extent - engages in a a grubby, partisan deed and shows no contrition for the victimising activities.

          I'd expect nothing less from the bunch of self-interested, unprincipled politicians who we have in parliament these days, though.

      • by sjames (1099)

        I know it's an accident of terminology, but in cases like this, they should issue a "We beg your pardon" since in retrospect we see that it is not the convicted who acted criminally.

    • Re:Screw them (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 20, 2013 @08:47AM (#44336469)

      Honestly, the entire concept of being Pardoned in this case would be yet another insult.

      What they should issue is an Apology.

      • Re:Screw them (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Mouldy (1322581) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @08:58AM (#44336501)

        Honestly, the entire concept of being Pardoned in this case would be yet another insult.

        What they should issue is an Apology.

        Mod parent up. Pardon implies that the action was wrong, but excusable. An apology would imply that Turing (+others) did nothing wrong and that it was in fact the law that was wrong.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Geeks are the ones explaining in detail what GCHQ has been recording on Brits. Geeks are the ones who thought Turing was given a bad deal. So this is a fob to pretend that Cameron is somehow the friend of geeks, even as he's destroying the privacy right and making 'democracy' a joke word.

          Seriously, fuck off Cameron, you were elected to fix the surveillance state, no token honor to Turing will fix what you've done Cameron, *no*, what you're *doing* Cameron. It's on-going. We get it, we voted for your to end

        • Re:Screw them (Score:5, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 20, 2013 @09:46AM (#44336715)

          Chill out, they already issued an apology [bbc.co.uk] a few years ago.

        • Re:Screw them (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 20, 2013 @10:16AM (#44336839)

          No. Pardon implies the action was illegal, but excusable. And the action was illegal. Whether you like the law or not, he was actually "guilty" of it, even if the law was poorly and unevenly applied.

          What really needs to be understood is that being convicted doesn't make you evil. The law exists to preserve the existing order. And many times, the existing order is deficient, but must serve to maintain society until it can be changed.

      • Well, just my thoughts, so netiqette be damned, I'll add a big "me too" here.

      • by Yaotzin (827566)

        I agree. Besides, what is the point of pardoning someone who's already dead? To be frank, even an apology is short of the mark. There is nothing they can do at this time apart from what has already been done, making this a rather futile exercise.

      • Re:Screw them (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 20, 2013 @09:16AM (#44336591)

        Before you carry on with this tirade: a former prime minister already did this.

        Google "Gordon Brown Alan Turing Apology"

      • by Richy_T (111409)

        Bravo, sir. I was about to post the same thing. Never mod points when you need them.

      • by pla (258480)

        Honestly, the entire concept of being Pardoned in this case would be yet another insult.

        Agreed. In this situation, Turing doesn't need the pardon, the UK Government needs it for their crimes against humanity.

        • Agreed. In this situation, Turing doesn't need the pardon, the UK Government needs it for their crimes against humanity.

          There isn't a country on the planet who hasn't, at some point in the past, committed acts that are now considered human rights violations and/or crimes against humanity. Not a one. Some of the so-called "western ideal" liberal/democracies were still committing these crimes against humanity while, at the same time, their heads of state were receiving Nobel prizes for forwarding human rights. (Yes, I'm looking at you, Canada, and more recently, the USA)

          Absolving the past isn't what's important, nor is it a go

      • by milkmage (795746)

        they did.

        http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/sep/11/pm-apology-to-alan-turing [guardian.co.uk]

        Gordon Brown issued an unequivocal apology last night on behalf of the government to Alan Turing, the second world war codebreaker who took his own life 55 years ago after being sentenced to chemical castration for being gay.

        Describing Turing's treatment as "horrifying" and "utterly unfair", Brown said the country owed the brilliant mathematician a huge debt. He was proud, he said, to offer an official apology. "We're sorry, you d

      • by Nerdfest (867930)

        Shouldn't they give him a knighthood?

        • by fnj (64210)

          Shouldn't they give him a knighthood?

          There was a petition [direct.gov.uk] to HM Government for that very thing. It was rejected on absurd grounds.

    • Re:Screw them (Score:5, Interesting)

      by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @09:24AM (#44336625)

      In the UK, it's all about "who you know". Anthony Blunt (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_Blunt) was openly gay around the same time as Alan Turing. And he spied for Russia.

      But because he was the " Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures", nothing ever happened to him.

      One rule of law for the elite, another for the commoners.

      • But The fact that Anthony Blunt had friends in high places was not a military secret. To reprieve Turing would be to acknowledge the fact that Turing's work was instrumental during the war, and the Sovets should really change those locks...

  • floodgates? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AmiMoJo (196126) * <{ten.3dlrow} {ta} {ojom}> on Saturday July 20, 2013 @09:00AM (#44336519) Homepage

    The government argues that they can't pardon everyone because it would open the floodgates for anyone convicted of any crime subsequently legalized to ask for the same. To my mind that's a lame excuse for not pardoning every gay man convicted of this one specific crime.

    • Re:floodgates? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DarkOx (621550) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @09:14AM (#44336587) Journal

      There is no reason to pardon him. Apologize for making a bad law sure, but pardon no. It was illegal at the time, and there were no exigent circumstances requiring him to break the law for the public good. There is really no reason to offer a pardon.

      • ...to clear Turing of having an official criminal record. The law and the criminal justice system regard you as a criminal if you break a law, whether that was a "good" law or a "bad" law. Essentially, under the legal system, there can't be any such thing as a law that's invalid because it's bad; that would undermine the whole idea of what law is. So what the pardon does is erase Turing's record of being a criminal lawbreaker without making any statement about the validity of the law he broke. That is s
        • by tnk1 (899206)

          Some people wear their criminal records with pride. If I was Nelson Mandela and someone wanted to take my imprisonment off my record, I'd tell them to bug off because I spent decades earning that record.

          Some people are dead and their criminal records don't matter to them any more. Turing probably would have cared at the time it happened because it would have meant something for someone to stand up for him. Now?

          I guess if they needed a pardon so he could have a statue or something put up, it would necessa

      • Re:floodgates? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Kjella (173770) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @09:52AM (#44336737) Homepage

        Why permit such revisionist history at all? If you're going to pretend he was not a criminal, then you must also pretend the government didn't convict him. Are we going to pretend the US never had slavery if Congress passes a law to posthumously free all slaves back to 1776? It's absurd. That Alan Turing was convicted of the crime of homosexuality is a historic fact and his "crimes" only reflect badly on the UK government, not on the man himself.

        • by Livius (318358)

          Revisionism is about placing political correctness above reality. A pardon would be a political statement, not a legal opinion, and would merely add insult to injury.

      • This. But I really can't see any argument for making an apology either. Nobody currently occupying office is responsible for the law or Turing's prosecution, and thus has nothing to apologize for.
         
        Dig up some old fossil who actually bears responsibility for either, or give it a rest.

      • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

        He broke the law because it was his biological nature. Normal human beings can't help being somewhat sexual and everyone has the right to pursue happiness and intimate relations.

        He broke the law but modern science and psychology says he had a legitimate excuse.

      • by fnj (64210)

        There is no reason to pardon him. Apologize for making a bad law sure, but pardon no. It was illegal at the time, and there were no exigent circumstances requiring him to break the law for the public good. There is really no reason to offer a pardon.

        Really? "The public good" is your (only) measure of whether exercising one's rights to live one's own private life should be free from evil and infamous societal intervention and sanction? I object in the strongest possible terms.

    • And the problem with pardoning anyone convicted of a crime that was later legalized is...?

      "Our shameful forebears, through a combination of ignorance and memetic control mechanisms, had wrongly made this illegal."

      Didja ever wonder what people 100 years from now will look back on our "modern, self-satisfied" worldview and laugh or shake their heads with embarrassment?

      • by Richy_T (111409)

        There are other things that need our attention right now. Though having politicians spend their time on meaningless fluff rather than passing more shitty laws is probably a good thing, in general this kind of thing is just used to run interference for meaningful stuff that is going on that they don't want you to pay attention to.

      • by Livius (318358)

        As long as it's okay if someday there's a law that says there's a new time limit on issuing pardons, say, ten years, and all those convictions are then summarily reinstated. The alternative is that justice could never be final.

    • by MrL0G1C (867445)

      because it would open the floodgates for anyone convicted of any crime subsequently legalized to ask for the same.

      ??? no excuse, open those floodgates, if something was legalised then the govt f**ked up in the first place by making said thing illegal.

    • THAT is the reason?

      Like hell I'd expect everyone to be pardoned if they are in jail for something that is later legalized!

      It just boggles the mind! They argue with a reason that is at best yet ANOTHER reason to be angry with them.

  • ... A year or two ago.

    These post humorous pardons, and official decision changes, are stupid.
    Last year The government officially voted to not send Japanese citizens to the internment camps during WWII.

  • Next year the US can retroactively free all the slaves and claim that therefore there was never a slavery problem.

  • by eric31415927 (861917) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @09:37AM (#44336677)

    Many people think Turing cracked Enigma, but this is only partially true.

    The Poles were the first to crack Enigma. Turing's lot later cracked naval Enigma. It took the capture of a downed U-boat to crack an updated naval Enigma.

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      France had "Hans Schmidt", he gave both encrypted and clear texts to France.
      Other ww2 fun was the German side: Mustard via German OKK-5 efforts from a Soviet codebook captured in Finland.
      http://chris-intel-corner.blogspot.com.au/2012/09/the-finnish-cryptologic-service-in-wwii.html [blogspot.com.au]
    • by oggiejnr (999258) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @10:34AM (#44336919)
      What you have stated is not the entire truth either. The Poles cracked Enigma by relying on a protocol weakness (the Germans sent the initial rotor setting twice). Even before cracking the naval Enigma, Turing et al devised a way to break Enigma should the Germans realise they had a vulnerability by using a known plaintext attack. The Germans changing the protocol to only send the initial rotor setting once rendered the Polish cryptanalysis unusable. They also developed the machinery needed to automate the cracking of Enigma on a far larger scale than the Poles had managed.
      • by JBMcB (73720)

        Even before cracking the naval Enigma, Turing et al devised a way to break Enigma should the Germans realise they had a vulnerability by using a known plaintext attack.

        Was that the trick where the opening sentence of u-boat communiques was always a weather report? Too lazy to dig out my copy of The Code Book :)

      • by fnj (64210)

        Exactly. Well, actually the Poles did a bit more than just what you give them credit for. They created their own reverse-engineered enigma machines (or "doubles", or "bombes"; it is not entirely clear to me which term is the most accurate) and eventually furnished them to the British.

        Also, I have a reservation about the usage "cracked" or "broke" such-and-such cipher. Terms like these imply that you do the work once, and then the ciphertext is effortlessly deciphered from then on. In actuality, it is not ne

      • Changing the protocol made the cryptanalysis method unusable, but the real damage was done at that point.

        Before WWII started, Enigma was used with the same settings for a month. After gathering about 80 encrypted messages, with only the knowledge that each message started with the letters XYZXYZ for three unknown letters X, Y, and Z, and with a bit of espionage to discover the plug connections (something that a cleaner might have written down if the machine wasn't carefully hidden away), it was possible
  • by Greyfox (87712) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @09:42AM (#44336709) Homepage Journal
    I'm sure that will make him feel better.
  • I think it's meaningless and a waste of time. The people in charge today didn't commit the offense, and if you want to address past offenses in UK history, a more important place to start would be at Smithfield [wikipedia.org] anyway. I am more in favor of finding people whose rights are being violated today and doing something about that.
    • I think it's meaningless and a waste of time. The people in charge today didn't commit the offense, and if you want to address past offenses in UK history, a more important place to start would be at Smithfield [wikipedia.org] anyway. I am more in favor of finding people whose rights are being violated today and doing something about that.

      It is not meaningless. There are people in Britain and worldwide who still want to roll back the clock on gay rights. This move would signal that there is no going back by appropriately acknowledging the collective shame that Britain bears for treating their hero so poorly. It is 2013. Gay oppression is, or ought to be, a thing of the past.

      • by fnj (64210)

        You are right, but every time I see the term "gay rights", I roll my eyes. There are no "gay rights". At least those involved in integration (who mattered) didn't call it "black rights" or even "racial rights", but "civil rights". I'm pretty sure civil rights, properly interpreted, covers everything.

        Everyone is due the right to conduct their personal affairs, which are absolutely no business of society, free from authorities spying, interfering, and punishing, whether those authorities are the government, t

        • It's too easy to end up with laws just as stupid and evil as those against "impaired driving". The wrongdoing isn't impaired driving, it's incompetent driving, incompetent for WHATEVER REASON, but even then only as a condition in an event which involves injury to other people and destruction of their property. Otherwise no wrong has been done to anyone.

          I see your point, however, you should consider that this is the sort of law that by its very nature must not be written exactly at the "fence line" where impairment actually kills people. In other words, the line has to be drawn some distance over on the safe side of things. This is an inconvenience to people who can hold their liquor and drive safely, but raising the legal BAC limit would open the floodgates of homicidal drunk driving. If a mental/physical coordination test were exclusively administered

          • by fnj (64210)

            "Preventive" laws are immoral, evil, presumptive and do not work. Ever see Minority Report?

            Maybe if the war of escalation in which cars are made more and more like fortresses and the occupants elaborately cushioned had never been begun, more drunk and incompetent drivers would have killed themselves, reducing the danger to others. But this is pretty far afield from the topic.

  • ... because his suicide was a direct result of his prosecution and punishment. So unless they can return Alan Turing to life this pardon doesn't mean shit.

    • So unless they can return Alan Turing to life this pardon doesn't mean shit.

      What is means is that the people in power are pandering to those currently living in the hopes of getting future votes.

    • by Vreejack (68778)

      The suicide verdict at the inquest was an awful decision. It is just as likely that his death was an accident. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-18561092 [bbc.co.uk]

      • by fnj (64210)

        No, despite the mental masturbation exhibited at the link, it was not an "awful decision". It was an absurdly incompetent investigation, and doesn't result in any certitude, but it found the most likely cause. Yeah, it could have been an accident; it could have been murder; but more likely it was suicide. You take away from somebody who they ARE and you have taken away everything.

  • This might be an unpopular sentiment, but why.

    Don't get me wrong, I am all for sexual equality, and have nothing against gay people. But why go through and change history. At the time, it was considered illegal, and the world was a much more conservative place. Pardoning him posthumously does nothing for him, and only makes the current generation of politicians and people feel good and they did something, which in reality has no real meaning.

    It is like South Africa, where I grew up. Today, they are chan

    • by Xtifr (1323)

      Don't get me wrong; I understand where you're coming from. This clearly does Turing no good at this point. But at the same time, if I lived on Adolph Hitlerstrasse, I might be very happy to have the government change the name. There's a thin line between trying to hide the past, and not wanting to celebrate past misdeeds that were once considered good.

      Look at it this way: if they don't pardon Turing, then people might object to erecting a statue or naming a street after him, on the basis that he was a convi

  • support a bill that would issue a posthumous pardon to Alan Turing ... was charged with and convicted of "gross indecency" in 1952 for being gay.

    The announcement marks a change of heart by the government, which declined last year to grant pardons to the 49,000 gay men, now dead, who were convicted under the 1885 Criminal Law Amendment Act.

    One down, 48,999 pardons to go.

  • fucking time
  • by jcr (53032) <jcrNO@SPAMmac.com> on Saturday July 20, 2013 @01:54PM (#44337651) Journal

    A pardon is the government forgiving someone for doing something wrong. What the British government should do in this case is admit that the government was wrong to ever enact the statute in question, and exonerate everyone ever punished under it.

    -jcr

    • by Inda (580031)
      They have admitted it. There was an official apology back in 2009.
      • by jcr (53032)

        Good for them for apologizing, but what I said stands. Turing shouldn't be pardoned, he should be exonerated.

        -jcr

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