Wednesday, June 20, 2007


And I'd Stick John McClane For Property Damage, Too

You know, it's one thing when Republican pundits cite a fictional character as an example of why the US is right to torture the hell out of people who haven't even been charged with a crime. When a standing judge on the highest court in the land does it, however, it becomes a whole other thing.

enior 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."

As a matter of fact, Mr. Scalia, I do happen to believe in those absolutes. I happen to believe that there may very well be times when good people must do bad things in order to prevent unbridled catastrophe. I happen to believe that, in a time like that, I might possibly force myself to make that choice and do the wrong thing for the right reasons.

But I wouldn't get up on a pedestal and ask for a goddamn medal for it. And I most certainly would not ask that, due to the one incident where I had no option but to perform a bad act for good reasons, we should throw open the floodgates and play Pin The Diodes On The Suspected Terrorist's Nipples until we get some tasty, tasty data. In fact, I would turn myself over to the proper authorities and face my judgment. Maybe, as Scalia argues, I'd get off easy in a case of jury nullification.

But Scalia doesn't even want such cases to go to trial. He argues for leniency, not judgment. He argues that, because a fictional man of action routinely does horrible things to save the day, it's only right that we do it in the real world, where none of us have narrative or executive producers behind us to make sure that the guy we're torturing is really a terrorist leader. And the minute we start doing bad things without even thinking about facing the consequences, we are no longer the good guys.

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