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Is that Constitution still living? Slap it a few times to make sure.
June 19, 2007 8:41 AM   Subscribe

"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. ... I don't care about holding people. I really don't." Justice Scalia on 24 and torture. 24 and torture previously.
posted by ibmcginty (94 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm beginning to really like my "conservatives can't think" hypothesis.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 8:49 AM on June 19, 2007 [3 favorites]


Give me a wet telephone book and a pillowcase full of lemons and I can change his mind. No jury would convict me!
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:51 AM on June 19, 2007 [4 favorites]


I'm glad to see that the inability to distinguish between reality and bullshit TV fantasy isn't just for socially awkward basement-dwelling teenagers anymore.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:51 AM on June 19, 2007 [5 favorites]


Note: previous comment meant as satire only.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:51 AM on June 19, 2007


It's all the ends justify the means with these people. Principle means nothing. However, he is on to something. If a real Jack Bauer really did save a million lives through torture no jury would ever convict him even if what he did was technically illegal. The difference is that is should still remain illegal.
posted by caddis at 8:53 AM on June 19, 2007 [7 favorites]


Hmm, well The question isn't whether we would convict Jack Bauer, but whether or not we would convict the actual people doing the actual torturing in the real world.

Now, I haven't actually seen the show 24, but if I was on a Jury and I saw evidence that led me to believe a person tortured might be innocent, then certainly I would convict the person who tortured them, regardless of what they thought at the time. I would certainly convict the people who tortured Jose Padilla and others who have been released (like that German guy)
posted by delmoi at 8:59 AM on June 19, 2007


Hmm....torture on TV. I'm not really against torture on TV. As long as it's tastefully done, of course.
posted by MarshallPoe at 8:59 AM on June 19, 2007


I'm beginning to really like my "conservatives can't think" hypothesis.

The problem isn't that they can't think, it's just that they don't give a damn.
posted by delmoi at 8:59 AM on June 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'll bet Scalia plays a mean game of Splinter Cell
posted by EatTheWeak at 9:01 AM on June 19, 2007


................sigh

Is this really all that fucking complicated? Torture is fucking illegal. However, if I was stuck in a room with a criminal we were 100% positive had info on a nuclear strike I'd do my best to beat it out of him. I'd be first in line if we were positive. Then, regardless of the situation, I'd turn myself in and hope for a fair trial.

So it's legal to commit a crime to save 100,000 lives? How bout 20? How bout 1? what about robbing a liquort store to feed one's family?

Scalia needs a kick in the nads
posted by slapshot57 at 9:01 AM on June 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


Wow. When did the great American hero become such a desperate coward?
posted by zennie at 9:02 AM on June 19, 2007


Boy, it makes me feel so fantastic to know that a justice of the United States Supreme Court, the highest legal deliberative body in all the land, is basing his judicial philosophy regarding constitutional protection, on the exploits of a character Keifer Sutherland plays on the teevee.



Jesus wept.
posted by stenseng at 9:03 AM on June 19, 2007


The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the individual. What a lovely communist concept for a conservative like Scalia to support. ;)
posted by caddis at 9:03 AM on June 19, 2007


Sometimes it works.
Sometimes it doesn't work.
Sometimes we don't know.

I love the "yeah but Jack Bauer finds out The Truth so it must work" line of argument. So spurious.

Damn you, Scalia, for so undermining American jurisprudence.
posted by imperium at 9:06 AM on June 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


Whatever It Takes:

This past November, U.S. Army Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan, the dean of the United States Military Academy at West Point, flew to Southern California to meet with the creative team behind “24.” Finnegan, who was accompanied by three of the most experienced military and F.B.I. interrogators in the country, arrived on the set as the crew was filming. At first, Finnegan—wearing an immaculate Army uniform, his chest covered in ribbons and medals—aroused confusion: he was taken for an actor and was asked by someone what time his “call” was.

In fact, Finnegan and the others had come to voice their concern that the show’s central political premise—that the letter of American law must be sacrificed for the country’s security—was having a toxic effect. In their view, the show promoted unethical and illegal behavior and had adversely affected the training and performance of real American soldiers. “I’d like them to stop,” Finnegan said of the show’s producers. “They should do a show where torture backfires.”...

Before the meeting, Stuart Herrington, one of the three veteran interrogators, had prepared a list of seventeen effective techniques, none of which were abusive. He and the others described various tactics, such as giving suspects a postcard to send home, thereby learning the name and address of their next of kin. After Howard Gordon, the lead writer, listened to some of Herrington’s suggestions, he slammed his fist on the table and joked, “You’re hired!” He also excitedly asked the West Point delegation if they knew of any effective truth serums.

At other moments, the discussion was more strained. Finnegan told the producers that “24,” by suggesting that the U.S. government perpetrates myriad forms of torture, hurts the country’s image internationally. Finnegan, who is a lawyer, has for a number of years taught a course on the laws of war to West Point seniors—cadets who would soon be commanders in the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. He always tries, he said, to get his students to sort out not just what is legal but what is right. However, it had become increasingly hard to convince some cadets that America had to respect the rule of law and human rights, even when terrorists did not. One reason for the growing resistance, he suggested, was misperceptions spread by “24,” which was exceptionally popular with his students. As he told me, “The kids see it, and say, ‘If torture is wrong, what about “24”?’ ” He continued, “The disturbing thing is that although torture may cause Jack Bauer some angst, it is always the patriotic thing to do.”

posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:08 AM on June 19, 2007 [7 favorites]


Christ, what an asshole.
posted by trondant at 9:08 AM on June 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


For Scalia, there's nothing in the Constitution about torture being wrong, so have at it with those needlenose pliers Jack Bauer! It's a strict interpretation.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:10 AM on June 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


Shorter version:
Nothing is true, everything is permitted
posted by uri at 9:12 AM on June 19, 2007


Scalia said, "So the question is really whether we believe in these absolutes." (As in torture is an absolute wrong.)

The question is whether we believe in the example of one fictional character who saves hundreds of thousands with (usually) 30 seconds of torture or whether we believe in non-fictional characters given carte blanche to torture thousands to save us from the Teen Aqua Hunger Strike Force menace that faces our country.

Bombs do not have digital clocks that count to zero and bin Laden doesn't sit in a hollowed-out volcano lair petting a Persian cat.

The real Jack Bauers of the world are idiots like General Boykin. (He of the Black Hawk Down, Iran rescue, Abu Ghraib, Waco, Guantamano, and Noriega capture, and every-freaking American fiasco fame.)

Why do conservatives have to ruin a good fantasy TV show by taking it seriously?
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 9:14 AM on June 19, 2007


Fiction is hard.
posted by bshort at 9:14 AM on June 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


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

Or whether, in fact, torture has ever once in real life prevented a terrorist attack. I say this not because I'm sure it hasn't, but because I've never heard of it and would like to know if it has. I have my doubts, but I'd like to know if I'm wrong.
posted by shmegegge at 9:17 AM on June 19, 2007


Not that we needed it, but it's just further evidence that Scalia doesn't have a judicial philosophy beyond "whatever I like at the time," despite his constant attempts to make himself seem like he's making consistent and rational arguments.

I've long been holding out hope that he does indeed hold a consistent and rational view about the Constitution, but it's just not to be, I suppose.
posted by wierdo at 9:17 AM on June 19, 2007


Effective countermarketing: "Murphy Brown opposes torture"
posted by Benny Andajetz at 9:19 AM on June 19, 2007


Astro Zombie: Give me a wet telephone book and a pillowcase full of lemons and I can change [Scalia's] mind. No jury would convict me!

Ladies and gentlemen, meet the newest resident of Guantanemo! ;-)
posted by WCityMike at 9:30 AM on June 19, 2007



You are going to convict Jack Bauer, or else you are a craven asshat.
posted by From Bklyn at 9:30 AM on June 19, 2007


if I was stuck in a room with a criminal we were 100% positive had info on a nuclear strike I'd do my best to beat it out of him. I'd be first in line if we were positive. Then, regardless of the situation, I'd turn myself in and hope for a fair trial.
Fair enough. Especially if you turned out to be wrong or if torture didn't work (or both).

People seem perfectly willing to claim they'd "sacrifice their life" to safe someone else. If they think that, then they should have no problem serving 25 years to life for committing torture if they think it might save lives.
posted by deanc at 9:31 AM on June 19, 2007 [3 favorites]


What is it with right-wingers and 24? I've only seen it a couple of times but what I saw seemed pretty darn silly. I don't get it.
posted by octothorpe at 9:34 AM on June 19, 2007


Wasn't series 2 the one where Bauer beheads someone to get an in with a suspect?
posted by biffa at 9:35 AM on June 19, 2007


I seriously that this was an Onion article at first.

At this point they could segue into reporting actual news and no one would be able to distinguish the two.
posted by motherfather at 9:35 AM on June 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


"But the U.S. Supreme Court judge choked on that position, saying it would be folly for laws to dictate that counterterrorism agents must wear kid gloves all the time. While Judge Scalia argued that doomsday scenarios may well lead to the reconsideration of rights, in his legal decisions he has also said that catastrophic attacks and intelligence imperatives do not automatically give the U.S. president a blank cheque - the people have to decide. "If civil rights are to be curtailed during wartime, it must be done openly and democratically, as the Constitution requires, rather than by silent erosion through an opinion of this court," he dissented in a 2004 decision. The judicial majority ruled that a presidential order meant that an American "enemy combatant" wasn't entitled to challenge the conditions of his detention, which happened to be aboard a naval brig."
posted by gyc at 9:38 AM on June 19, 2007


Torture is a terrorist attack.
posted by wah at 9:41 AM on June 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


shmegegge,
But see, that's the thing that's so wrong and horrible with Scalia's philosophy. There's absolutely no oversight or accountability:

"But the U.S. Supreme Court judge stressed that he was not speaking about putting together pristine prosecutions, but rather, about allowing agents the freedom to thwart immediate attacks."

If there are no set rules, who gets to say when and in what situations it's okay to use torture? The agents themselves, any time they want? Then if something like the mistakes in the Arar case happen, how do you punish anyone, since there are no rules on when torture's okay? slapshot57 is right: what kind of danger constitutes a crisis? With no definition, it's whatever the agent wants it to be, and you can't really question that later. Torture, apparently, is like obscenity: you know it when you see it and judge by community standards, except in this case the community is the one person doing the torturing.

To bring it back to what shmegegge said, even worse is that we will never know if it ever works or not, not that that even matters. The government will and does classify that kind of information as secret. Why is this guy in Guantanamo? Sorry, we can't say. Why did you strap electrodes to his balls then let him go? Can't say, national security. Not only are there no standards, but there is no way to measure or investigate anything going on at all because no information can be obtained.

Also, this is a very oddly constructed quotation:
"When the panel opened to questions and commentary from the floor, a senior Canadian government lawyer said: 'Maybe saving L.A. is an easy question. How many people are we going to torture to save L.A.?' asked Stanley Cohen, a senior counsel for the Justice Department, who specializes in human rights law."
posted by Sangermaine at 9:41 AM on June 19, 2007


It's not so much torture that gets conservatives it's anything that demotes human beings into a tool to be used. The real danger of liberal philosophy is that it places all ends -- from the government to the church -- inside each individual and thus "absolutes," those precious ends that are supposed to exist beyond the individual are lost. Torture, illegal wiretapping, holding without trial, it's all good as long as it's for the right family-approved end. Though this has always been the case it really is somewhat shocking to see how no effort is made even to hide such illiberal thought anymore, indeed now it's customary to brag about it since boldly declaring "I don't care about civil rights" is met with applause instead of exile.

And given the rapturous effect 24 has had on the discourse, well, I think we can safely blame television now.
posted by nixerman at 9:45 AM on June 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


is anybody else completely confused by what nixerman just said?
posted by shmegegge at 9:47 AM on June 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


Thank God even Bush wasn't dumb enough to raise this man who can't distinguish between his masturbatory wet daydreams of redemptive sadism and something that actually could happen in any possible world to Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.
posted by jamjam at 9:54 AM on June 19, 2007


You are going to convict Jack Bauer, or else you are a craven asshat.

And yes, to defend Jack Bauer, what people like Scalia never realize is that Jack's thinking is never simply the 'end justify the means.' (Mostly. The writers do get lazy sometimes.) When he does go outside the law it's always with full knowledge that what he's doing is very wrong and that there will probably be consequences which he's fully prepared to face. And while he's never been expressly punished for it (really he should have gone to jail in season 2 after the beheading and season 3 with the prison riot) there's never been any triumphalism or pride on his part for his actions. Only an unsophisticated mind previously distorted with fear and resentment could seriously watch 24 and derive that torture is acceptable and the Constitution isn't something worth fighting for.
posted by nixerman at 9:56 AM on June 19, 2007


Mark Bowden wrote a thoughtful, if testosterone-filled, piece a time back on interrogation, "The Dark Art of Interrogation." Although I read this several years ago, I recall the upthrust was: interrogation is more effective when it slowly alters the captive's perceptions. Torture doesn't get solid information. You don't have ticking time bomb situations (I think one was mentioned for someone who had been practicing this for twenty years). Torture should be reserved for such extreme and unusual circumstances - and to ensure that it is, the torturer should be put on trial. The circumstances wherein torture may be justifiable are rare enough that the consequences of review by trial is not a great imposition.

Contrast this to our gung-ho mentality where all we have is torture for torture's sake.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 9:59 AM on June 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


Only an unsophisticated mind previously distorted with fear and resentment could seriously watch 24 and derive that torture is acceptable.

So it's only a good argument for torture to mainstream, post-9/11 Americans?
posted by wah at 10:01 AM on June 19, 2007


What couldn't you justify this way? Why not just say that if someone expects a worst case scenario, then all laws go out the window?

If torture were to become policy, we would all be less safe, not more. Our commitment to human rights is widely respected. Once you throw that out, you get more terrorists and immediate abuse of the policy. That much is clear from recent events.

On the other hand, what about this dirty bomb scenario where you strongly suspect that many people will die if you don't torture someone fast!!!! It's never happened. Never. That's why military analysts are so outraged over 24.
posted by xammerboy at 10:01 AM on June 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


The whole "ticking bomb in NYC" scenarios that's always trotted out is silly to begin with. What terrorist in his right mind would crack, knowing that if he just holds out for a little while the bomb will just go off? That actually seems like the #1 scenario in which torture would do no good whatsoever.
posted by Legomancer at 10:07 AM on June 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


That actually seems like the #1 scenario in which torture would do no good whatsoever.

Logic, I'd like you to meet Fox. Yes, I know you two have never met and kinda hate each other. At least give it a chance.
posted by wah at 10:13 AM on June 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


How many people are we going to torture to save L.A.?
posted by taosbat at 10:17 AM on June 19, 2007


I don't particularly care what a jury thinks. They've been sucking 24 and its ilk down, whole-teat, for some time now.

My concern is what a tribunal at the Hague is going to think. I'll bet they won't be so willing to set aside the standards of human decency as it seems many red-blooded, 'christian' Americans would be.

Hopefully, the American public and Rumsfeld/Cheney/Bush will learn a little lesson Hague-style.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 10:21 AM on June 19, 2007


Actually, I always thought the specific episode that Scalia references was precisely where the show jumped the shark. For those who haven't seen it:

Jack Bauer has captured Syed Ali, notorious terrorist behind the nuclear bomb that's set to go off and destroy Los Angeles, killing millions of people. Smacking him around doesn't get the information out of him, so Jack has the security forces back in Ali's home country capture his family and hold them hostage. He tells Ali that he'll have his children and wife killed, one at a time, if he doesn't cooperate.

Now, this is fantastic stuff, dramatically (if a bit improbable). It asks the very difficult question of whether it's morally acceptable to sacrifice one innocent life to save a million. It also puts Jack in a tough personal position, as just last season, he was faced with having his own family kidnapped and held hostage to force him into assassinating a presidential candidate. Very tense, very dramatic.

In the process of interrogation, Jack has one of Ali's children shot in the head, at which point he cracks and tells them where the bomb is. It turns out, though, that it was a trick! The kid is fine, and the execution was faked through the magic of video editing.

This is a huge cop-out, and it's where I quit watching the show. I understand why you wouldn't want to put your protaganist in the role of child-murderer, but with this scenario, FOX wanted to have their cake and eat it too.
posted by EarBucket at 10:22 AM on June 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


The question is whether we believe in the example of one fictional character who saves hundreds of thousands with (usually) 30 seconds of torture or whether we believe in non-fictional characters given carte blanche to torture thousands to save us from the Teen Aqua Hunger Strike Force menace that faces our country.

Bombs do not have digital clocks that count to zero and bin Laden doesn't sit in a hollowed-out volcano lair petting a Persian cat.


Bingo. This is all speculating highly-charged scenarios that simply (AFAIK, IANASecretAgent) don't exist in reality. We might as well start asking our Supreme Court justices whether they think we ought to detain Martians as illegal immigrants.
posted by mkultra at 10:25 AM on June 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


Scalia's intemperate, ill-conceived words are going to prove even more damaging than Rehnquist's angry dissent in the 1978 Tripper v. Hurley decision.
posted by PlusDistance at 10:25 AM on June 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


We might as well start asking our Supreme Court justices whether they think we ought to detain Martians as illegal immigrants.
posted by mkultra at 10:25 AM on June 19 [+] [!]


The correct analogy is "Our Supreme Court justices might as well start asking us whether we ought to detain Martians as illegal immigrants, and ruling on cases with this in consideration."

You may be horrified now.
posted by mek at 10:29 AM on June 19, 2007


And while he's never been expressly punished for it (really he should have gone to jail in season 2 after the beheading and season 3 with the prison riot) there's never been any triumphalism or pride on his part for his actions. Only an unsophisticated mind previously distorted with fear and resentment could seriously watch 24 and derive that torture is acceptable and the Constitution isn't something worth fighting for.
nixerman

Please. It's a case of "do as I do, not as I say". Yeah, sure, he's shown feeling bad and under stress. But the overwhelming message of his actions is that he's a hardcore badass who does what it takes to save the country when the pansy whiners won't do it. He gets slaps on the wrists or no negative consequences at all, because the audience knows that he's doing the right thing at all times. That's the message. He doesn't have to celebrate, the show does it for him by portraying him as doing what has to be done and that those who oppose him are just weak and would abandon the country. It's like watching any action movie where the hero is reluctantly drawn into an orgy of ass-kicking and death. You're not supposed to walk away thinking, "Man, he did some awful things, and taking a life is a serious step. He was conflicted, and we too should carefully consider our own beliefs." They think, "Man, Jack Bauer doesn't take shit from anyone. He gets shit done and saves everyone."
posted by Sangermaine at 10:37 AM on June 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


And yes, to defend Jack Bauer, what people like Scalia never realize is that Jack's thinking is never simply the 'end justify the means.' (Mostly. The writers do get lazy sometimes.) When he does go outside the law it's always with full knowledge that what he's doing is very wrong and that there will probably be consequences which he's fully prepared to face.

Dear God, people, it is a television show. It is not real. Pro wrestling is more real. See, Jack doesn't think, because Jack doesn't ever think. Keifer thinks about how to recite his lines and react to the ones he knows are about to be spoken, but Jack doesn't do anything because there is no Jack Bauer. Jesus Christ.

And to respond to Scalia's question, "Is any jury going to convict Jack Bauer?" The answer is yes. My jury.

See, in this episode, Justice Scalia, Jack is on trial for torture, and I'm the jury foreman. While the jury is sequestered, I secretly and seperately threaten and torture each juror to force them to vote to convict Jack when we vote the next morning.

I'm justified in threatening their lives, because I'm a defending the Constitution by ensuring that an agent of the government who used torture gets convicted and sent to prison. I'm not an agent of the government, so my torture does not implicate the Constitution.

So there you have it. My totally fictitious jury convicts a totally fictitious character of torture.
posted by Pastabagel at 10:42 AM on June 19, 2007 [4 favorites]


I like how the framing of these arguments is always of the form of "Would it be okay for the US, in the wake of 9/11, to torture a terrorist with detailed knowledge of a ticking nuclear bomb that'll kill thousands?" and never "Would it have been okay for the WWII-era Japanese, in the wake of Hiroshima, to torture an American with detailed knowledge of Fat Man?".
posted by mhum at 10:43 AM on June 19, 2007 [10 favorites]


So wait, does that mean it's okay to shoot heroin if I'm trying to save the world? 'Cause I really, really need to save the world right now. Like, now.
posted by NationalKato at 10:50 AM on June 19, 2007


What really pisses me off about this is that the conservatives are the first to jump all over the "moral relativism" issue.

"Those damn liberals! Don't they know there's only one morality?" Yet, time and again, look who comes out trotting specious relativism to justify their own position? Surprise, surprise! It's the conservatives.

And it's a bunch of shit, too, because certain things ARE morally relativistic, but liberals DO have a set of ethical absolutes.

So, STFU Scalia, you fucking hypocrite. You're reading this, right? Surely he's a closet member, please please please. Oooohhh, is THAT the secret identity of Paris Parasmus?
posted by symbioid at 10:54 AM on June 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!
Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
William Roper: Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!
Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
posted by imperium at 11:00 AM on June 19, 2007 [17 favorites]


Dude, howabout a fucking spoiler warning on that link. Some of us haven't seen the show yet.
posted by stet at 11:02 AM on June 19, 2007


"I don't care about holding people. I really don't," Judge Scalia.

I believe two separate contexts were intentionally conflated for dramatic affect:

One context was the highly contrived scenarios in 24, where abhorrent activities like torture and illegal detainment have the affect of stopping a crises presently underway -- the highly improbable circumstances found almost exclusively in television shows. The other context was introduced by the article itself, in describing an audience member. The second context involved the detainment of Syrians in Canada, and their rendition back to Syria where they were tortured.

The editing in this article leads us to believe that Scalia was speaking directly to both contexts, when in fact he may have been only addressing the specific scenarios conjured up in 24. Without a transcript of the event we cannot know for certain the specific situation involving the Syrians was even broached.
posted by ogre at 11:05 AM on June 19, 2007


It's all funny and snarky and stuff, sure. But step back for a moment. A US Supreme Court justice is citing an American television fantasy as justification for torturing prisoners of war. It's horrifying.
posted by Nelson at 11:07 AM on June 19, 2007 [5 favorites]


Legomancer wrote:
The whole "ticking bomb in NYC" scenarios that's always trotted out is silly to begin with. What terrorist in his right mind would crack, knowing that if he just holds out for a little while the bomb will just go off? That actually seems like the #1 scenario in which torture would do no good whatsoever.


Dragnet dealt with just that back in the late 60s in the episode entitled "The Big Explosion." The suspect kept asking what time it was. He made the mistake of saying "something big is going to happen at 7 o'clock. (or something, I don't remember the exact time, nor do I feel like watching the episode again just to get the information) Eventually Friday tells him it's 7:10, when it's really 6 o'clock.

Then the suspect happily talked about the death and destruction at whatever place the bomb was and Friday made a phone call, thus saving the day, no torture needed. Of course, that wouldn't fly on TV today. God forbid that you have drama without someone getting the crap beaten out of them.
posted by wierdo at 11:07 AM on June 19, 2007


Scalia is living proof violence on television destroys the mind.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 11:09 AM on June 19, 2007


The editing in this article leads us to believe that Scalia was speaking directly to both contexts

Depends on what your definition of "is", is.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:18 AM on June 19, 2007


My first reaction is, "Torture is wrong, so don't do it." My second reaction is, "If torturing people stopped terrorism then Israel would be safe now." Israel has been been torturing people for years, decades maybe, and see how effective it's been for them.
posted by RussHy at 11:35 AM on June 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: There is no Jack Bauer!
posted by lysdexic at 11:39 AM on June 19, 2007


If you beat this prick long enough he'll tell you who started the goddamn Chicago fire but that don't necessarily make it fuckin' so!

-- Nice Guy Eddie points out the flaw in Scalia's logic.
posted by Ickster at 11:43 AM on June 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


Prof. Jeremy Waldron's take on the "ticking time-bomb" question, both as a policy matter and a rhetorical tactic in the torture debates:

"The question is corrupt for a number of reasons. It is designed to bring the opponent of torture down to the level of the defenders of torture for a single case. The question is corrupt factually; it supposes that torture is capable of getting accurate information. The war on terror is a war of information and intelligence. To think primarily in terms of TV scenarios of massively important pieces of information that we know are there is not realistic. The nature of the relationship between torturer and victim means that the victim will tell the torturer what the torturer thinks he wants to know.

Also, the question assumes that somehow we have the people who are trained to torture, yet who will do it only in this one case. There will be a cadre of torturers sitting around looking for work. There will be a culture of torture developed, changing the politics, training and discipline of the CIA and FBI. Everything we know about torture from the 20th century is that it grows out of control. We unleash everything depraved and sadistic in human affairs. We need to think about the trauma to the legal system, of having it be known that we have concocted room for torture. Everything that's had its reference on respect for human dignity begins to totter and crumble under this response of torture."
posted by footnote at 11:48 AM on June 19, 2007 [7 favorites]


I don't suppose we could convince him to recuse himself from future torture cases, based on his statements that he wouldn't support the laws of the land...
posted by Riki tiki at 11:54 AM on June 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


And much like someone with 'Love' tattooed on one hand and 'Hate' on the other, I want a pair of bracelets. One will read WWJBD? The other WWFRD?

Because that is the yin and yang of it, Jack Bauer vs Fred Rogers.
posted by quin at 11:55 AM on June 19, 2007


In the process of interrogation, Jack has one of Ali's children shot in the head, at which point he cracks and tells them where the bomb is. It turns out, though, that it was a trick! The kid is fine, and the execution was faked through the magic of video editing.

It's also pretty stupid. All they had to do was put the kids in LA so that they'd get nuked along with everyone else. Then, if the terrorist cared, he'd tell them where the bombs where.
posted by delmoi at 12:13 PM on June 19, 2007


Actually, I always thought the specific episode that Scalia references as precisely where the show jumped the shark.

I was coming here to comment on that exact same quote. The interesting thing about that episode and one or two others during the second season is that these are effectively the last times we see the producers and writers paint torture as anything other than a necessary means to an end. In this particular case, Jack isn't alone in the room with Syed Ali; there's an onlooker, Kate Warner, whom he's rescued from earlier in the day and is essentially an innocent bystander in all of the proceedings.

As all of this goes down, we occasionally see reaction shots from Kate, whose mixture of disgust and disbelief would be plain on her face, except that the actress playing Kate kinda uses similar facial expressions throughout the season's run to communicate all sorts of distress (sorry Sarah Wynter). Even after the reveal—hey lady, I didn't actually kill that kid!—there's a definite sense of "something feels wrong about what just happened here" from Kate. And because she's the "civilian" in all this, and because the camera largely treats Kate as the focus of attention after the torture bit (at least from my memory of the scene), a fair assumption can be made that we're supposed to sympathize with her perspective rather than Jack-the-superman-CTU-agent.

In other words, the whole scene was intended to not just be another gloriously tense, gripping bit of violence porn, but also to raise the question explicitly of "does this go too far," and tentatively answer in the affirmative. Of course, even at this early point in the show's run, the producers perhaps didn't take as strong a stance against torture as we would've liked. But back in the second season, 24 was still just a TV show, and one that had just survived the brink of cancellation at that. No one in their right mind thought the show would also have to double as a civics lesson, much less for a Supreme Court Justice.
posted by chrominance at 12:54 PM on June 19, 2007


I don't suppose we could convince him to recuse himself from future torture cases, based on his statements that he wouldn't support the laws of the land...

Why? Heck, the fact that Scalia even watches TV is vaguely reassuring - he might accidentally see something other than what he's fed by handlers. Our President lives in a quaint little world, sheltered from reality by layer upon layer of flappers. Our Congress is so friggin' corrupt and clueless it's a wonder Janus hasn't taken a Senate seat and Epithemus isn't squatting in the House, fought over by lobbyists and special interest groups.

Why should the Supreme Court be any different? At least Scalia isn't a friggin' windsock - once evil, he stays predictably evil.
posted by FormlessOne at 1:26 PM on June 19, 2007


Epimetheus. That's what I get for making an elitist reference without first looking it up.
posted by FormlessOne at 1:28 PM on June 19, 2007


It's a false dilema. First, because we're probably not getting much reliable information from the torturees. But suppose we were. Would it be justified then?

No, because we're not torturing people so that we can prevent attacks on US soil. The chief objective of the military and the intelligence services right now is to crush middle east resistance to US policy. Any intelligence we aquire - whether it's through the use of torture or not - is going to go towards that end first.

So for every mall-bombing cell we round up in Detroit or St. Louis, there are thousands of Iraqis, Afghans, and Palestinians dying. And each of those deaths makes future terrorist attacks against the US more likely. The president and his generals know this and accept it as part of the cost of doing business.
posted by Clay201 at 1:31 PM on June 19, 2007


As long as all this stuff stays legal when we have a Democratic president and start going after conservative war criminals and christian fundamentalists, you'll get no argument from me.
posted by troybob at 1:38 PM on June 19, 2007


I don't suppose we could convince him to recuse himself from future torture cases, based on his statements that he wouldn't support the laws of the land...

I'm beginning to really like my "conservatives can't think" hypothesis.

Scalia was merely articulating the common law criminal defense of necessity. It exists, in some form, in most American jurisdictions.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 1:56 PM on June 19, 2007


It's also pretty stupid. All they had to do was put the kids in LA so that they'd get nuked along with everyone else. Then, if the terrorist cared, he'd tell them where the bombs where.

If it was a real terrorist, they would have studied the life of Keyser Soze and laughed in Scalia/Bauer's face.
posted by wah at 3:25 PM on June 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


In A Series of Unfortunate Events, towards the end of the run (I believe The Penultimate Peril), the hapless children must go to trial. The infant sibling Sunny has not yet mastered English, rather mutters inside-joke "gibberish" that only Klaus and Violet understand. In an odd interpretation of court proceedings, the children have their eyes covered, because "Justice is Blind."

Sunny comments on the situation: while meaning to say, "It doesn't seem like the literal interpretation makes any sense," she instead says simply "Scalia."
posted by adipocere at 4:18 PM on June 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


This is abhorrent.
posted by Flunkie at 5:15 PM on June 19, 2007


Wake me the fuck up when this is over.
posted by spitbull at 8:53 PM on June 19, 2007


This will never be over. What you have experienced is only the beginning.
posted by taosbat at 9:04 PM on June 19, 2007


Will the press here in the US make a big deal out of this please? Notice how Nino makes these obscene statements only when he is abroad. I'm not even sure why he deigns to go and join panels of international jurists, given his self-proclaimed disdain for international law and human rights standards, not least the Geneva Conventions. Oh, wait, I know: he is devoid of all principle and free junkets are too tempting.
posted by Azaadistani at 9:11 PM on June 19, 2007


Notice how Nino makes these obscene statements only when he is abroad.

You're really overreacting.

Scalia is actually correct. American law doesn't completely bar torture and never has. There's no absolute Constitutional ban on torture and no absolute statutory ban. The common law doesn't absolutely ban torture.

Torturing some guy, if necessary to prevent a nuclear weapon from detonating in Los Angeles, is completely legal.

Moreover, Scalia is pointing out that absolute criminal liability for torture doesn't fit within most American's values anyway, and probably shouldn't. People who think Jack Bauer shouldn't have hurt somebody to save thousands of lives are a bit soft-headed.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 10:15 PM on June 19, 2007


If our legal system is going to be based on television, I wish Scalia et al were watching this fair-to-middling show: Criminal Minds.

Normally don't watch it myself but everytime I visit mum and the stepdad, I'm usually subjected to a few hours of pretty bad television and since I'm trying to atone for a misbegotten youth, I sit quietly and watch with them.

So this is one of their favorite shows and that night's episode involved a terrorist cell and a ticking time bomb scenario. The intrepid detectives go to Gitmo where they're going to interrogate the cell's captured leader in an attempt to stop the imminent bombings.

They find him nearly catatonic from torture and the guards think any further interrogation is useless since this guy hasn't talked once since he arrived at the prison. The older detective immediately removes him from the general prison population, treats him kindly, acts very sympathetic to all of the prisoner's grievances. The detective doesn't even start direct questioning immediately but concentrates on getting him little luxuries, a copy of the Koran, and, most importantly, makes sure the prisoner is told the time of each of his daily prayers, since there is no clock or window in his solitary confinement.

When the direct questions finally begin, the prisoner still isn't very responsive but he has warmed to the detective and starts to think of him as a friendly presence and even begins to look forward to his visits. Because of the connection they're developing, the prisoner inadvertently drops clues as to the timing, nature, and target of the attacks.

Armed with this information, the detective team puts together a fake news broadcast recounting the attacks as the prisoner described them, and then show the tape to the prisoner on the day when he thinks the attack will take place. The prisoner has no idea what day it really is since the detective team didn't give him the accurate time for prayers and shortened the time between each prayer, so the prisoner is completely fooled by the video and by the spurious passage of time, and in his joy over the success, spills the beans about the terror cell, allowing the bad guys to be caught and American justice to win yet again.

I thought it was interesting that a show aimed at a mostly red state audience would portray torture as something immoral and and as a useless tactic, and that the terrorists could be defeated with soft words and a bit of cleverness.

But I guess Scalia went to bed early that night.
posted by pandaharma at 10:17 PM on June 19, 2007


People who think Jack Bauer shouldn't have hurt somebody to save thousands of lives are a bit soft-headed.

People who think Jack Bauer exists and take legal and moral guidance from fictional television characters are a bit more soft-headed.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:30 PM on June 19, 2007


People who think Jack Bauer exists and take legal and moral guidance from fictional television characters are a bit more soft-headed.

Yeah.

Here is where I take BP's well stated comment and replace Jack Bauer with "Jesus" and point out that this is the failing of the human condition.

And here is also where I step back and acknowledge that this observation brings nothing worthwhile to this discussion.
posted by quin at 10:39 PM on June 19, 2007


People who think Jack Bauer exists and take legal and moral guidance from fictional television characters are a bit more soft-headed.

People who don't understand hypotheticals are just plain ol' stupid.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 10:39 PM on June 19, 2007


Good luck with your rant.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:10 PM on June 19, 2007


People who think Jack Bauer exists and take legal and moral guidance from fictional television characters are a bit more soft-headed.

Good thing on one in this thread is arguing that. Thumbs up.
posted by Snyder at 11:25 PM on June 19, 2007


Five to Four
posted by taosbat at 11:47 PM on June 19, 2007


Good luck with your rant.

Thanks, twit. I look forward to your next brainless bit of ankle-biting. Same place, same time, tomorrow?
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 12:05 AM on June 20, 2007


Thanks for confirming my suspicions.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:51 AM on June 20, 2007


I'd do my best to beat it out of him. I'd be first in line if we were positive. Then, regardless of the situation, I'd turn myself in and hope for a fair trial.
For all the conservative talk about taking responsibility, that kind of personal accountability is utterly foreign. "Well, sure, I could save a million lives in the next ten minutes -- but I might get jail time. Screw 'em!"
posted by verb at 5:45 AM on June 20, 2007


Okay, one more time for half-wits like "Fat Tony" Scalia: Torture does not work.

Torture may motivate people to tell you the truth eventually, but not before they've spouted every lie they can imagine. And then after they tell the truth, how do you know they're telling the truth? You don't, and so you keep torturing, and the victim goes on to further lies, all in the hope that you'll stop.

So, in the end, if you're looking for a needle in a haystack, torture just gives you more hay.

You're never just looking for more information -- you're looking for correct information. Torturing someone in the highly implausible "ticking bomb" scenario is actually going to make it less likely you'll find the bomb in time -- you'll have to waste all of your resources checking out every piece of information your victim has spewed.
posted by bshock at 1:35 PM on June 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


Torture may motivate people to tell you the truth eventually, but not before they've spouted every lie they can imagine.

Not that I'm disagreeing, but I've seen this a lot, and I was wondering what the source, or argument is behind this. Being a bit of a physical coward, I know I may give up everything I know at the first sign of torture, to minmize any torture I recieve? To people generally not act like this in conditions of torture, or what?
posted by Snyder at 2:39 PM on June 20, 2007


if you're looking for a needle in a haystack, torture just gives you more hay.

Very much like what Bruce Schneier had to say about data mining.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 2:56 PM on June 20, 2007


Not that I'm disagreeing, but I've seen this a lot, and I was wondering what the source, or argument is behind this. Being a bit of a physical coward, I know I may give up everything I know at the first sign of torture, to minmize any torture I recieve? To people generally not act like this in conditions of torture, or what?

Yeah, well, what do you suppose you would do in this situation if you didn't know anything your interrogators were interested in? You'd keep talking until something you said made them happy enough to stop applying the pliers to your nuts. Since the whole point of interrogation is to get information the interrogators don't already have, they can't really say for sure the person they're interrogating even has any useful information (or if they know without doubt that the person does have useful information, then in most cases, they should be able to craft a more skillful and precise approach to getting the information they need). That makes any information gathered in this way so unreliable it only increases the amount of uncertainty. So the best torture can do is muddle the facts up even more.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:52 AM on June 21, 2007


War And Other Peoples’ Children
posted by homunculus at 9:38 AM on June 21, 2007


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