THE capture of al Qaida No 2 Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the man accused of masterminding the September 11 atrocity, was hailed by the Bush administration as likely to yield "a treasure trove'' of information about the terrorist network.

But a terrorist as fanatical as Shaikh Mohammed, passionately convinced of the rightness of his cause, is hardly likely to say: "A fair cop, guv. Now, what you would like to know?'' Indeed, since his arrest, Mohammed has spent hours in an apparent trance reciting passages from the Koran. CIA officials dub it his Koran-athon.

So whatever Mohammed might be able to reveal will have to be extracted from him. How might he be "persuaded" to talk?

From a variety of well-informed sources, details of techniques have emerged. On capture, other al Qaida prisoners are said to have been blindfolded and pushed violently against the walls of their cells. Still blindfolded, they have been tied with tape in painful positions for long periods, during which they have been deafened with loud music. After the blindfolds have been removed, they have been subject to very bright light for 24 hours.

A former US special forces' commander has observed: "In Mohammed's case, our guys may have kicked him around a little in the adrenalin of the immediate capture.''

Injuries not considered life threatening are usually not dealt with quickly, if at all. Last week, post-mortems on two al Qaida suspects held at Bagram, the US military base in Afghanistan, concluded that they had been beaten with blunt instruments. But though their deaths have been recorded as "homicide", a CIA official is said to have commented, off the record: "I don't think the Bush adminstration is going to be wasting much time investigating this.''

A battery of psychological techniques is also used. Questioning by a female interviewer can disturb a Muslim, who regards women as subordinate. Switching between "hard" and "soft" interviewers is another device.

But big-fish terrorists like Shaikh Mohammed know these techniques and practice resisting them. So how do you unlock that "treasure trove". A CIA insider admits: "Let's say we are not averse to a little smacky face... After all, if you don't violate a prisoner's human rights some of the time then you aren't doing your job.''

I offer no judgement but invite you to consider what parts of this pattern of interrogation YOU believe are compatible with the civilised values that anti-terror campaigns are designed to protect.

BRENDAN Fearon, the burglar shot in the leg by Tony Martin while burgling Mr Martin's home, is receiving legal aid to claim compensation for his injury. Yet Diane Blood was denied legal aid to seek the right for her late husband to be named the legal father of her two children.

Her success was a victory for the living, since relatives of legal fathers who die before their child's conception become legal grandparents, aunts, uncles or whatever. In not assisting this hugely important test case, while backing a burglar's shameful attempt to "cash in", the legal aid Johnnies discredit the whole system.