Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Crime Government United Kingdom

Alan Turing Pardoned 415

Posted by samzenpus
from the least-we-could-do dept.
First time accepted submitter a.ferrier writes "Today's computing would be unthinkable without the contributions of the British mathematician Alan Turing, who laid down the foundations of computer science, broke Nazi codes that helped win World War II at the famous Bletchley Park, created a secure speech encryption system, made major contributions to logic and philosophy, and even invented the concept of Artificial Intelligence. But he was also an eccentric and troubled man who was persecuted (and prosecuted) for being gay, a tragedy that contributed to his suicide just short of the age of 42 when he died of cyanide poisoning, possibly from a half-eaten apple found by his side. He is hailed today as one of the great originators of our computing age. Today he received a royal pardon."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Alan Turing Pardoned

Comments Filter:
  • Not enough, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kenja (541830) on Monday December 23, 2013 @06:31PM (#45770243)
    Charges should have been dropped. A pardon implies that he was actually guilty of something worthy of criminalization .
    • Re:Not enough, (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Highland Deck Box (2786087) on Monday December 23, 2013 @06:37PM (#45770277)
      That is basically dropping the charges. You can't go back to 1952 and make the case disappear, but they can say that they regret what happened. It's entirely symbolic anyway since he's long since dead, and would be even if he had lived to old age.
      • Not the same. Getting a Pardon won't allow someone to work in sensitive jobs or Law Enforcement as the criminal record is only removed from public records, not erased. Try crossing into the US with only your Canadian pardon. you won't be able to.

        But I agree it doesn't change anything as he's been dead for long...

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Charges should have been dropped. A pardon implies that he was actually guilty of something worthy of criminalization .

      The poor bastard had to deal with the horseshit while he was alive. This pardoning and whatever long after he's dead accomplished nothing.

      It's just PR for little political people that want to pander to the Gay and Lesbian community.

      • by phantomfive (622387) on Monday December 23, 2013 @08:06PM (#45770935) Journal

        It's just PR for little political people that want to pander to the Gay and Lesbian community.

        And it works.

        And why not? Any time you can do a little thing that makes people happy, why not? Even if it's a silly thing.

      • by Wootery (1087023)

        It's just PR for little political people that want to pander to the Gay and Lesbian community.

        It's symbolic, sure, but that doesn't warrant your cynicism.

        The question is whether it's a worthwhile symbolism. Personally I'm all for government apologies and pardons. If anything I'd like them to go further, and not just apologise and pardon only Turing himself.

        It would also be good if they'd cut out this kind of shit [tommorris.org] (one could blame the ISP, but the whole bullshit censorship initiative was the UK government's idea).

      • by n1ywb (555767) on Monday December 23, 2013 @09:26PM (#45771459) Homepage Journal

        Charges should have been dropped. A pardon implies that he was actually guilty of something worthy of criminalization .

        The poor bastard had to deal with the horseshit while he was alive. This pardoning and whatever long after he's dead accomplished nothing.

        It's just PR for little political people that want to pander to the Gay and Lesbian community.

        Of course it's accomplished something. It's sent two powerful signals. One, that the government admits it fucked up; nobody likes to admit they were wrong ESPECIALLY governments so lets give credit where credit is due. Second and more importantly, it signals that the government is serious about supporting LGBT rights. Thirdly it vindicates Turing's important legacy, his family, friends, supporters, and those like me who have always looked up to him. It would have been nice if it came 61 years ago, but better late than never.

      • by dnavid (2842431) on Monday December 23, 2013 @09:33PM (#45771535)

        Charges should have been dropped. A pardon implies that he was actually guilty of something worthy of criminalization .

        The poor bastard had to deal with the horseshit while he was alive. This pardoning and whatever long after he's dead accomplished nothing.

        It's just PR for little political people that want to pander to the Gay and Lesbian community.

        That's pretty harsh considering that's tantamount to accusing the members of the gay and lesbian community that advocated a pardon as merely seeking a little PR and pandering.

        In any case, in the UK a pardon implies the person in question was technically guilty according to the letter of the law, but deserves to escape the legal consequences of the conviction because of a belief they are not "morally guilty." It says nothing about "worthy of criminalization." And the legal issue here seems to be that at one time the power of the pardon in the UK was reserved for people that were "morally and technically innocent" of the crime they were convicted of, but in modern times that distinction is split. The constitutional government has the power to pardon criminals under exceptional circumstances but almost never does because if a strong case can be made for "technical innocence" there's an appeals court designated to handle such cases. But the legal process is essentially to invoke an appeal of the case and a new trial which would be nonsensical for Turing. The alternative rests with the constitutional monarch who can pardon for "moral innocence" which doesn't involve being technically innocent under the law.

        Its unclear if the government has the legal option to drop Turing's charges or vacate them because there exists no legal evidence he was innocent of the crime he freely confessed to commiting at the time of the conviction.

    • Re:Not enough, (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 23, 2013 @06:40PM (#45770303)

      But... at the time it was illegal to be gay, so yeah, at the time he was guilty technically.

      • Re:Not enough, (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Immerman (2627577) on Monday December 23, 2013 @06:51PM (#45770415)

        What do you mean, technically? He committed a crime, there were witnesses, AND he confessed. You don't get any more guilty than that.

        Sure the law was completely unjust by modern standards, but that doesn't change anything. You'd be similarly guilty in most of the world today if you decided to marry more than one person. Or consumed particular psychoactive plants. These are the problems you run into when you try to legislate morality rather than restricting your judicial system to making sure people don't hurt or cheat one another.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by ImdatS (958642)

          He pleaded that he "did have an intimate relationship with a man" (to paraphrase). Whether that is guilt and/or criminal is decided by others not him.

          The fact that laws at that time defined this action as criminal does not make it criminal per se. Laws are supposed to be as just as possible and not necessarily always reflect current morals. If we accept current morals as the benchmark for laws, we are doomed to never develop as a species... we should aspire to have ethics as the basis for laws, not current

          • Re:Not enough, (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Dynedain (141758) <{slashdot2} {at} {anthonymclin.com}> on Monday December 23, 2013 @08:06PM (#45770939) Homepage

            The fact that laws at that time defined this action as criminal does not make it criminal per se.

            Actually, that's exactly what it does. Lawbreaking (and conviction) is what makes an act criminal.

            Whether or not a law is just, morally right, or ethical (all different things, by the way) has no bearing on whether violation of the law makes you a criminal.

            He was convicted of a crime. Ego, by definition, he was a criminal. He was unjustly convicted of an crime against the moral standards of the time as defined in law. Today we see that law as unethical, and pardoning him posthumously is the only just action we can take. However, we should extend the same pardon to anyone convicted under the same crime. His patriotism and contributions to computing shouldn't be the driving argument for his individual pardon.

          • In Oklahoma [anvari.org] it is illegal to get a fish drunk. Now, work on the morality aspect of that one if you will.

            • Re:Not enough, (Score:4, Interesting)

              by damnbunni (1215350) on Monday December 23, 2013 @09:39PM (#45771571) Journal

              Usually these 'weird laws' turn out to be not so weird.

              When you investigate them, generally the 'weird law' is an overly specific interpretation of a law that's perfectly sensible. For example, one list had a town in Montana where it's illegal to tie a whale to a fire hydrant. When you track down the law, it bans tying any animal to a fire hydrant - so yes, tying a whale to one WOULD be illegal, but the law wasn't written that way.

              I'm willing to bet the Oklahoma issue is much the same - a ban on feeding animals alcohol. I bet it was done because of health issues with pigs being fed brewery leftovers, or something like that.

    • Re:Not enough, (Score:5, Insightful)

      by makellan (550215) on Monday December 23, 2013 @06:42PM (#45770329)
      To be fair to the Queen, he was guilty of something that was illegal at the time so a pardon is appropriate. The fact that it should never have been an issue, much less a criminal one, is, technically, not her fault. What she should do is pardon everyone who was ever convicted of being gay.
      • Re:Not enough, (Score:5, Interesting)

        by icebike (68054) on Monday December 23, 2013 @06:46PM (#45770369)

        A pardon removes a conviction.
        A conviction defines guilt.
        So the pardon removes guilt.

        Guilt is not a fact. Guilt is simply a societal pronouncement.

        • Re:Not enough, (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Nerdfest (867930) on Monday December 23, 2013 @07:14PM (#45770603)

          Now that that's out of the way, how about a knighthood. I can't think of many that have deserved it more.

          • Re:Not enough, (Score:4, Insightful)

            by PopeRatzo (965947) on Monday December 23, 2013 @07:47PM (#45770827) Homepage Journal

            Now that that's out of the way, how about a knighthood.

            That is the most insightful comment so far.

            Elton John was granted knighthood and Alan Turing was sent to prison. Maybe societies should learn to think carefully about what they consider "eternal" truths about morality and human behavior. I'm pretty sure there were lots of people, even in the early part of the 20th century, who realized that persecuting gay people for what they do in private was wrong, just as there were people in 18th century America who knew that slavery was wrong.

          • by AC-x (735297)

            Apparently a knighthood is a living title; Anyone holding a knighthood loses it on death so I don't think it can be awarded posthumously (according to the Cabinet Office [theguardian.com])

          • Re:Not enough, (Score:5, Informative)

            by ImdatS (958642) on Monday December 23, 2013 @08:11PM (#45770979) Homepage

            Actually, he is an OBE (Officer of the Order of Most Excellence of the British Empire - wow, what a title) - (or was it an MBE?)

            As I understand, OBE is the fourth-level. The highest level is something like Knight Grand Cross of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (GBE). According to Wikipedia, this is the order:

            1. Knight Grand Cross or Dame Grand Cross of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (GBE)
            2. Knight Commander or Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE or DBE)
            3. Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE)
            4. Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE)
            5. Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE)

            Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Order_of_the_British_Empire [wikipedia.org]

            Once he reaches Level 2 or 1, we can then finally call him "Sir Alan Turing", which he more than deserves...

        • Well wrote.

          But are you suggesting that such decisions are not necessary?

      • by Immerman (2627577) on Monday December 23, 2013 @06:55PM (#45770451)

        >What she should do is pardon everyone who was ever convicted of being gay.

        But how would that reinforce the important and long-standing tradition that VIPs should get special treatment? Next you'll tell me that celebrities and politicians should face the same sentences for criminal acts as the commoners.

      • Re:Not enough, (Score:4, Insightful)

        by bongomanaic (755112) on Tuesday December 24, 2013 @04:00AM (#45773489)
        The problem with issuing a blanket pardon for anyone convicted of the same offence as Alan Turing is that 'indecency' was applied broadly to a range of sexual behaviours, some of which remain illegal (e.g. sex with a person under the age of 16). When the crimes of indecency between men and buggery were abolished a procedure was put in place to remove legal disadvantages from those with convictions for behaviour that was no longer illegal. Speaking as a gay man I don't think it would be a worthwhile use of government resources to re-examine all previous convictions to determine which are worthy of a pardon -- the apology and pardon for Alan Turing makes the point well enough.
    • by Etherwalk (681268)

      A pardon is within the Queen's power and less politically controversial. I am not sure offhand whether dropping the charges would be within the Queen's power and it would also be more likely to step on toes within the bar or bench.

    • Re:Not enough, (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MondoGordo (2277808) on Monday December 23, 2013 @06:46PM (#45770363)
      No. A pardon implies nothing of the sort. He pleaded guilty to a criminal charge. The only way to reverse that under the law is a Pardon. Whether or not homosexuality actually constitutes Gross Indecency (it doesn't btw) or even if Gross Indecency should be a criminal act is another matter entirely.
      • by mysidia (191772)

        What point does a posthumous pardon have?

        They can't exactly reverse the sentence or atone for it, now that he's already dead.

        Or did I miss the part from the article, where they showed how the government is going to excavate his grave: bring him back to life, and reverse all effects of decay and aging, so he'll be as young and wily as the day before he was charged of a crime?

        • What point does a posthumous pardon have?

          PR. What more did you expect?

          Perhaps it's another attempt to persuade the public to forgive the tories for Section 28 (not that labour are blameless for not repealing it the minute they took power).

    • Re:Not enough, (Score:5, Insightful)

      by magic maverick (2615475) on Monday December 23, 2013 @06:46PM (#45770365) Homepage Journal

      Moreover, it should apply to all those criminalized, and convicted under this awful law. Alan Turing was a great man, sure enough. But he was not the only victim of this sadistic state. The least the state can do is a blanket pardon, apology, and striking from the records of the "crime" of being gay and acting on it.

    • She should have posthumously censured all the legislators who voted for the act in the first place, as well as the person who lodged the complaint.

    • Charges should have been dropped. A pardon implies that he was actually guilty of something worthy of criminalization .

      The government can charge you with being a turnip, but unless it can convict you of tuberousness, then you are not a turnip.

      Even if it does, your are still not a turnip, but legally you must be, because a jury agreed. That's because legality and morality/righteousness are not closely related.

    • A pardon implies that he was actually guilty of something worthy of criminalization .

      Quite. A pardon for Turing does nothing to condemn the law he was convicted under.

      I wonder if the UK government would be so kind as to pardon *everybody* convicted under these laws going back as long as required? Not to dismiss Turing's contributions, but why should it just be for him?

    • He was convicted of laws on the books at the time. A Pardon is the best he can get.

    • by TheCarp (96830)

      Exactly. The government should have pardoned itself and expunged his record. Or Pardon the Queen herself if you want to express the appropriate level of shame.

  • That's great! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Now he can start enjoying life, oh wait, we're just trying to make people feel good. move along, there is nothing here

  • Alan Turing (Score:2, Interesting)

    by MindPrison (864299)
    Alan is one of the smartest people on this planet. The way he was treated is a direct display of our inhumanity. He is on my wall now, framed in gold, hanging on my silk-spun wall of fame (not that it matters to anyone), but I will forever remember him as one of the most important mathematicians of his time and even our time. I've placed him next to Benoit Mandelbrot for a reason (can you figure out why?).

    We as a species are very different when it comes to our mind, our culture, our background. People will
  • Who literally owe their current non-occupied existence to the work performed by heroes like Mr. Turing?

  • A gesture that the UK Govt did wrong at the time ...

    We must never forget that sometimes, the laws are wrong and cause great people to suffer or die.

  • This should have happened decades ago. Since the 70s his contribution to winning the WWII are known and there are very, very few humans that can rival his impact.

  • by hsmith (818216) on Monday December 23, 2013 @06:52PM (#45770419)
    Lots of men were charged with these insane laws. Why aren't they all pardoned? I see it as nothing more than a cute gesture. Everyone persecuted under these bullshit laws should be given full pardons.
  • about damned time (Score:2, Insightful)

    by roc97007 (608802)

    ...but should have been an apology instead of a pardon.

  • by Punto (100573) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `botnup'> on Monday December 23, 2013 @07:31PM (#45770717) Homepage

    by the grace of god, of the united kindom, the queen, pardoned Alan Turing has, hmmm?

  • hypocrisy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 23, 2013 @07:34PM (#45770737)

    The thing that bugs me about this is that all you fuckers on the band wagon saying he should be pardoned in 2013 would be the first to call for his castration if you had been living in the UK in 1950. Seriously people are just as prejudiced now as they were 50, 100, or 1000 years ago.

    The boogey man just changes. Today it is (Nazi|pedophiles|Muslims) , before that it was homos, before that it was commies, before that it was Jews, a long time ago being a Canaanite could get you killed. I think the apology / pardon is utter bullshit, when people are treating others like shit and continue to treat each other like shit, and apology is just a way to make people feel better about themselves, and say hey 'We are better than those assholes living 50 years ago.' Well you aren't. Sure you would not castrate someone today for being a homo, but you would surely say that pedophiles need to be castrated. Yes that is right an 18 year old man having sex with, or even seeing a naked 17 year old girl has committed a sex crime and is considered by law to be a pedo. Most people would have no problem whatsoever killing / locking up pedos.

    Human nature does not change. It cracks me up when every generation thinks they are better more tolerant than those racist thugs who polluted society 20 - 30 years in the past. Those racist thugs that you hate so much are yourselves.

  • by davidbrit2 (775091) on Monday December 23, 2013 @07:52PM (#45770859) Homepage
    ...Turing complete?
  • by enter to exit (1049190) on Monday December 23, 2013 @08:12PM (#45770991)
    The reason they can't just drop the charges and offer regret is mainly political.

    Turing was in violation of the law at the time. The law was definitely unjust, but he was in violation of it.

    Dropping the charges or showing remorse would open up a can of worms regarding liability. Doing so would create precedent and a mechanism for descendants to air grievances over historical wrong doings - it will never end and may be costly.

    Practically, this is the best they will ever dare do.
  • by loufoque (1400831) on Monday December 23, 2013 @08:24PM (#45771061)

    Regardless of what you think about homosexuality, he behaved against the law that was in place at the time.
    It's a shame we lost a great man because of this, but law is arbitrary, and sometimes it destroys some people.

    He wasn't wrongly accused or anything. This is only being done out of pressure to make a statement. It is legally entirely stupid.

  • It is not widely publicized nowadays but one of the chief propaganda items leading to the US entering WW II against Germany was the assertion that the Nazis were gay.
  • by tchdab1 (164848) on Monday December 23, 2013 @09:35PM (#45771543) Homepage

    Thanks for linking to the Royal Pardon - just the wording of that made my day.

The bogosity meter just pegged.

Working...