Friday, January 23, 2009

The Jack Bauer Exception

What Atrios said.

I've been arguing for a few years now that the problem with the Bush approach to the issue of torture is not the question of whether it is a good idea to do whatever is necessary to save lives but is instead the enshrining of "extra-legal" procedures through formal authorization. In other words, torture should never be the official policy of the United States. We should denounce its practice as an official policy of any nation, including our own.

But, as Atrios points out, a mythical "Jack Bauer" type, even in a rule-of-law/we-don't-torture society, would most likely not be prosecuted and would never be convicted if his actions demonstrably lead to the saving of lives.

There is no need to make an official "Jack Bauer Exception" because such an exception already has a de facto existence.

(To site another example of this in popular culture, there was a "Boston Legal" episode a few years back in which a cop was being prosecuted for torturing a witness to a child-kidnapping case. The torture was awful, but it did produce information that allowed the police to find and rescue the child. The jury in that case refused to convict the cop who tortured the witness even though it was clear that he was technically guilty.)


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