Thursday, July 31, 2008

Fiction to Justify Torture.

This summer, there's been a of talk in the US media about "The Dark Side" (here or here), a book by New Yorker investigator Jane Mayer on how the Bush administration has twisted the Constitution and the rule of law to justity torture, which has been reframed "enhanced interrogation techniques".
I haven't read it yet, but I have listened and read extensive interviews of the author and her work seems well documented and factual. In fact, so far no one has contradcted the facts she's presented.
But the book is not only about torture, it is also about the exercise of power of an imperial executive and the disregard of the legal contrainsts provided by the constitution, thanks to "executive privilege" and the exploitation of fear that resulted from 9/11.
The most unbelievable part is when a sitting judge at the Supreme Court uses fiction to justify torture. As we mentioned last year, Judge Scalia did exactly that last summer at a convention in Canada:
“Jack Bauer saved Los Angeles … He saved hundreds of thousands of lives... 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."
As Newsweek reminded us this week, reality is very different from what '24' shows on tv. [Just in case you wondered....)
For one thing, Jack Bauer operates outside the law, and he knows it.
Bauer is also willing to accept the consequences of his decisions to break the law. In fact, that is the real source of his heroism—to the extent one finds torture heroic. He makes a moral choice at odds with the prevailing system, and accepts the consequences of the system's judgment. The "heroism" of the Bush administration's torture apologists is slightly less inspiring.
And finally, not only U.S. interrogators rarely if ever encounter a "ticking time bomb," someone with detailed information about an imminent terror plot, but [experienced interrogators know that] information extracted through torture is rarely reliable.


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