Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Justice Scalia and Jack Baeur

Andrew Sullivan is angered by Justice Scalia's recent admission that he (a) watches the television show 24, and (b) thinks it's unrealistic that people would convict Jack Bauer for some of his extreme interrogation methods. Here's a clip from the news story from the Canadian paper "Globe & Mail" that describes Scalia's remarks:

Senior judges from North America and Europe were in the midst of a panel discussion about torture and terrorism law, when a Canadian judge's passing remark - "Thankfully, security agencies in all our countries do not subscribe to the mantra 'What would Jack Bauer do?' " - got the legal bulldog in Judge Scalia barking.

The conservative jurist stuck up for Agent Bauer, arguing that fictional or not, federal agents require latitude in times of great crisis. "Jack Bauer saved Los Angeles. ... He saved hundreds of thousands of lives," Judge Scalia said. Then, recalling Season 2, where the agent's rough interrogation tactics saved California from a terrorist nuke, the Supreme Court judge etched a line in the sand.

"Are you going to convict Jack Bauer?" Judge Scalia challenged his fellow judges. "Say that criminal law is against him? 'You have the right to a jury trial?' Is any jury going to convict Jack Bauer? I don't think so.

"So the question is really whether we believe in these absolutes. And ought we believe in these absolutes."

Scalia is both absolutely right and yet completely wrong. He's absolutely right that, if we know that Terrorist Bad Guy X planned to blow up Los Angeles with a nuclear weapon, and that Jack Bauer stopped Mr. X from doing so by torturing him to reveal the location of the bomb, then we shouldn't criminally prosecute Jack Bauer.

But he's absolutely wrong that we should "believe in these absolutes" that exist only in the fertile imaginations of Fox's 24 writers. Frankly, I've yet to see any evidence that the "ticking time-bomb scenario" has ever occurred, or been prevented through use of torture. And we for damn sure shouldn't be relying on a television show to help draw the line between security and civil liberties.


Blogger AJH said...

Agreed. I met a woman in L.A. who works on the show. She says the Executive Producer is a right-wing fanatic. Rush Limbaugh has been to the set. This is not just a TV show. It is a fascist fantasy TV show. America: please stop watching.

11:01 AM  
Blogger AJH said...

Also, I have another story posted on my blog.

11:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's possible to imagine a situation in which emergency surgery has to be conducted without anesthesia and with a rusty knife. However, it would be insane to adopt it as normal hospital procedure....

-- Big Daddy

11:55 AM  

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