Kevin Drum watched "24" last night, and comes away concerned...
...it's obvious that the show is going to deal head on with the subject of torture this season. Episode 1 opens with Jack testifying before a Senate committee about his past transgressions, which he wearily but defiantly confesses to, and then rolls through two hours of FBI agents wondering "how far he'll go" — because, you see, Jack's exploits with the dark arts are apparently the thing of legend in the hallways of the Bureau.
Is there any way for this end other than badly? After all, here in the blogosphere we opponents of torture like to argue that we don't live in the world of 24, guys. And we don't. But Jack Bauer, needless to say, does live in the world of 24. And in that world, there are well-heeled terrorists around every corner, ticking time bombs aplenty, and torture routinely saves thousands of lives. What are the odds that it won't do so again this season — except this time after lots of talk about the rule of law blah blah liberals blah blah it's your call blah blah?
It's clear the FOX has decided to have a fictional "debate" about torture in a widely viewed arena here—though I suspect only a fraction of the show's original season viewers have stuck with it. Bauer will be unashamedly portrayed as a hero subjected to second-guessing by a chamber of desk jockey pussies in D.C. You can be sure that any Congressman (or likely a faux-Pelosi Congresswoman) who questions Bauer in a hearing will be portrayed in the weakest pansy-ass liberal light possible. I can pretty much see this scenario working out with Jack getting to channel Col. Jessup, "You NEED ME on that wall!"—except without the plot twist that nails Jessup in the film.
My position has always been this: Torture needs to be illegal. Period. No allowances for "ticking time bombs" and "24-scenarios." And penalties need to be extremely harsh—the same as a kidnapper who tortured or killed a victim-harsh. If it is left in the toolbox for interrogators under ANY circumstance it will be reached for all the time. There needs to be the utmost deterrence for anyone involved in a potential decision.
Conjure up your worst Jack Bauer scenario...a nuclear bomb about to destroy L.A., and Jack needs to get those codes. Assuming torture works (which it doesn't), any Agent Bauer would need to gamble his own potential jail time versus saving millions of lives. If someone in that scenario actually believed they and everyone in a 20-mile radius would die, and there was no other course available, they'd sacrifice themselves for the cause, so to speak—"I'll spend the rest of my life in jail for this, but otherwise ten million people are dead in five minutes—I can live with that." But short of that, the knowledge they will rot in a cell would bring them (or an authorizing superior) up short.
If in retrospect, it somehow demonstrably worked, its likely they would be pardoned before any jury had a chance to (not) convict them.
Even that involves hypotheticals that have never occurred and likely never will, and no one in there right mind would think otherwise. Oh, wait...
"Scalia responded with a defense of Agent Bauer, arguing that law enforcement officials deserve latitude in times of great crisis. “Jack Bauer saved Los Angeles . . . . He saved hundreds of thousands of lives,” Judge Scalia reportedly said. “Are you going to convict Jack Bauer?” He then posed a series of questions to 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,” Scalia reportedly answered himself. “So the question is really whether we believe in these absolutes. And ought we believe in these absolutes.” Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia
Asshat. Even "Jack Bauer" himself doesn't believe it...
“You torture someone and they’ll basically tell you exactly what you want to hear, whether it’s true or not, if you put someone in enough pain,” Sutherland said last year.