Friday, July 3, 2009

Blame it on Jack Bauer

It scares me that U.S. interrogation policy during the Bush administration was more influenced by Jack Bauer from the TV show "24" than it was by the U.S. constitution.

The legal team that established U.S. policy, along with people like Michael Chertoff, Secretary of Homeland Security, thought they were setting a prudent, rational course for America when they cited the TV show in legal opinions and allowed military personnel to follow the example of the gung-ho, take-no-prisoners-and-follow-no-rules TV character in places like Guantanamo.

Slate Magazine's Dahlia Lithwick wrote that Jack Bauer was "the prime mover of American interrogation doctrine" and "the most influential legal thinker in the development of modern American interrogation policy."

Didn't these people realize the real world is not a prime time TV show and real people were suffering real consequences while they were busy playing super-spy?

Even the Supreme Court got into the act. In 2007, Justice Antonin Scalia defended Jack Bauer's torture of terrorists to save Los Angeles. "Are you going to convict Jack Bauer?" he asked at a judicial conference in Canada. “Say that criminal law is against him? ‘You have the right to a jury trial?’ Is any jury going to convict Jack Bauer?”

A Supreme Court Justice using the plot of a TV show to justify torture?

Next stop, "The Twilight Zone."

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