There’s all the torture. All the dead people. There’s the gratuitous gunplay, quite palpably not followed up with proper paperwork. I’m even pretty sure there’s a bit on YouTube where you can see him change lanes without signalling.
Background from the Globe and Mail:
Justice Antonin Scalia is one of the most powerful judges on the planet.
The job of the veteran U.S. Supreme Court judge is to ensure that the superpower lives up to its Constitution. But in his free time, he is a fan of 24, the popular TV drama where the maverick federal agent Jack Bauer routinely tortures terrorists to save American lives. This much was made clear at a legal conference in Ottawa this week.
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.”
What happened next was like watching the National Security Judges International All-Star Team set into a high-minded version of a conversation that has raged across countless bars and dinner tables, ever since 24 began broadcasting six seasons ago.
Jack Bauer, played by Canadian Kiefer Sutherland, gets meaner as he lurches from crisis to crisis, acting under few legal constraints. “You are going to tell me what I want to know, it’s just a matter of how much you want it to hurt,” is one of his catchphrases. Every episode poses an implicit question to its viewers: Does the end justify the means if national security is at stake? On 24, the answer is, invariably, yes.
Because God loves karma just as much as any Hindu, Maer Arar‘s lawyer was also present, and presented his own rather pointed, and highly effective argument: against torture, for trying Bauer.
Practially speaking, over three-quarters of the information gathered through torture is found to be inaccurate or plain lies. It isn’t efficient; it does. not. work. But it’s great television.
When I was studying political philosophy, we got the torture-the-terrorist question on our final exam (hey, some things never go out of style), and oh, how I wish I had that paper with me today, because it was the first perfect paper they’d ever seen in that course. My basic point was that you cannot break moral rules for practical reasons, because you have no control over the outcome (like, if he lies to you), no control over anything whatsoever in this world except one thing: your own actions. If what you actually DO is wrong, then you are wrong. And you must stop.
Can Bauer save your life? Not really; he might be able to postpone your death, but you’re going to die anyway, therefore preventing that through means that might or might not work anyway isn’t a realistic objective. If he gets the right information out of the terrorist, does that guarantee him the time or the ability to do anything about it? Of course not. He can’t control time any more than he can assure immortality.
But seriously, I said it way better, with quotations and everything. The only one I can remember is the most embarassing one, the one I used to conclude the paper, the Chris de Burgh one:
Sweet Liberty is in our hands. It’s part of the plan. Or is it a state of mind?
Those absolutes that Scalia dismisses, I remind you, include the Constitution of the United States of America as well as the Bill of Rights, both of which he is sworn not only to obey, but to uphold in his work on the Supreme Court.
Subverting the Constitution is not the job of the Supreme Court; it is, quite obviously, the job of the White House. Is Scalia thinking of tossing his powdered wig into the ’08 Presidential race? He’s clearly got what it takes.
And don’t you forget it.