Who’s on the Line?

Would a jury convict Jack Bauer?...Justice Antonin Scalia doesn't think so

Would a jury convict Jack Bauer?...Justice Antonin Scalia doesn't think so

From a longer Washingtonpost.com article about TV and movie representation of surveillance:

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who back in June reportedly went to great lengths to defend Jack Bauer. …At a legal conference in Ottawa, responding to another participant who warned against asking, “What would Jack Bauer do?”

Scalia mounted a spirited defense, saying, “Jack Bauer saved Los Angeles. . . . He saved hundreds of thousands of lives.”

The Globe and Mail of Canada reported on the event.

Scalia then apparently hammered at the legal conundrum of prosecuting the likes of Bauer:

“Are you going to convict Jack Bauer? Say that criminal law is against him?”

He asked: “Is any jury going to convict Jack Bauer? I don’t think so.”

Condi the true believer

President Bush Returns To White House
Media Matters has a great analysis of the Katie and Condi show that aired recently on US 60 Minutes. The interview was pure Couric and pure 60 Minutes and represents what is best and worst about both those brands. Couric sits with that intense look that somehow manages to convey admiration and slight approbation at the same time but doesn’t convey the import of either emotion. She asks how you ask the Secretary of State out on a date (Rice: “I’m not going to go there”) and uses a quote from her daughter “Who made us the boss of them” as a question about American intervention in the Middle East. There are moments when she pulls Rice up: “But that’s not the question…” but she basically gives her a free ride and doesn’t challenge her on any substantive point. Significantly for Couric who’s move to CBS was wrapped up in the rhetoric of wanting to do serious journalism she never comes back at Rice or argues a a single question based on research.

But the show does what it sets out to do brilliantly, it produces a powerful piece of television which appears to grant the viewer unique and intimate access to the most powerful women in America. And just as the segment title proclaims, Rice is a “True Believer”. This is the myth of Rice that we see played out again and again. The girl who rose from Bombingham and emerged with determination and ambition. The loyalist who selflessly serves her president. The woman of conviction who wants to change the world. This is summed up in a little set piece Rice delivers early in the interview:

“I probably have at one level, a better understanding, or perhaps, let me say a more personal understanding of what the dark side of human beings can look like. I remember very well in 1963 when Birmingham was so violent. When it acquired the name ”Bomb-ingham. That even with my wonderfully protective family, you had to wonder why are they doing this to us? And on the other hand, I have a great faith in the ability of people to triumph over the dark side of human beings.“

She also uses her experience growing up in the pre-civil rights south to great effect to counter criticisms of the Bush administration’s push to ”spread democracy“ in the Middle East:

”And so when I look around the world and I hear people say, ‘Well, you know, they’re just not ready for democracy,’ it really does resonate. I hear echoes of, well, you know, blacks are kind of childlike. They really can’t handle the vote. Or they really can’t take care of themselves. It really does roil me. It makes me so angry because I think there are those echoes of what people once thought about black Americans.“

Many profiles of Rice draw comparisons between her and the President: sport, faith, fitness and steely conviction. As Nicholas Leeman once wrote: ”When you hear Rice speaking, that is what Bush would sound like if he was as articulate as she was.“

 

Rice and Bush are an intermingled myth she is always by his side, always whispering in his ear. Of all his advisers Rice is the one that is most visibly by the side of the decider. There has been speculation about the extent or power of her actual influence at different points but her most powerful role of being the other Bush – the same but different – has not changed. It can’t change without fundamentally altering the whole script: she’s a true believer.

Technorati Tags:

OpinionJournal – Jack Bauer Insurance

Can CIA agents be sued for protecting America with too much vigor?:

Tuesday, September 12, 2006 12:01 a.m. EDT

What would Jack Bauer do? If he worked at the CIA in real life today, the anti-terror hero of Fox’s “24” would apparently be buying insurance in case the ACLU or John Kerry decided to sue or subpoena him for protecting America with too much vigor.

The Washington Post reported yesterday that more CIA counterterrorism officers are signing up for private insurance that would pay for civil judgments and legal costs if they are sued or charged with a crime. These are the agents who interrogated Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah and other jihadis, using what President Bush last week called methods that were legal but “tough.” Those methods succeeded in breaking these men into divulging information that led to the arrest of other al Qaeda bigs, and to the foiling of plots that could have killed thousands.

“ ‘There are a lot of people who think that subpoenas could be coming’ from Congress after the November elections or from federal prosecutors if Democrats capture the White House in 2008,” wrote the Post, quoting a retired intelligence officer close to the CIA’s Directorate of Operations, which conducted the interrogations. This is not paranoia. We reported yesterday how Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat, is blocking Bush nominees simply for having been mentioned in passing in emails about Guantanamo. Some of us also remember the infamous Frank Church hearings of the 1970s that pilloried the CIA and weakened it for decades.

Though the government pays the premiums for this kind of insurance, it is a sorry spectacle that these agents must now fear partisan retribution for having done precisely what the country asked them to do. The story is one more reason Congress should follow through on Mr. Bush’s request to put its stamp of approval on such interrogations, including ex post facto immunity for these CIA officers.

Intelligence is the front line of this anti-jihadi conflict, and the danger from the current political second-guessing is that CIA officers will go back to the FBI’s law enforcement mentality of reading terrorists their Miranda rights that failed the country leading up to 9/11. The country needs Jack Bauer insurance, too.

Technorati Tags:

News, Community Service and TV drama

Monday’s episode of 24 began with a casually dressed Kiefer Sutherland and a message for viewers:

“Hi. My name is Kiefer Sutherland. And I play counter-terrorist agent Jack Bauer on Fox’s ‘24’. I would like to take a moment to talk to you about something that I think is very important. Now while terrorism is obviously one of the most critical challenges facing our nation and the world, it is important to recognize that the American Muslim community stands firmly beside their fellow Americans in denouncing and resisting all forms of terrorism. So in watching 24, please, bear that in mind.”

The episode continued the story line of an American Muslim sleeper cell who had been planning a massive attack on the nation’s nuclear power plants for years. One of the focuses of the episode was the attempt by one of the lead terrorists to find and kill his fifteen year old son who had begun to have cold feet. He says to his distraught wife: “We can allow nothing to interfere with what we have worked for. We will have time to mourn later.”

The episode was as usual punctuated with ads for the news, which concerned terrorism. This connection to wold events was firmly made with the extended “news break” that was shown at the end of the program. The lead items included: the arrest of one of the London bombers and discussion of his statements that the second attacks were only meant to scare, this was disputed by a legal expert who speculated that this was only a ploy to establish a good story for court. This was followed without a break about the case of a local muslim Qantas baggage handler who was being tried for terrorist links, he was shown handcuffed and in arabic garb. Next we were told that PM JH had contested the assertion of those on trial for the bombing of the Australian embassy in Jakarta that the attack was payback for Australian involvement with Iraq.

Where as 24 presents its transitions between the simultaneous events being narrated with breakout frames and multiple screens, the news coverage of these three events was presented with a continuous stream of images and voice over and only verbal transitions such as: “In London/In a sydney court/in Indonesia”. One of the effects of this breathless presentation is to collapse the events into a single narrative and the narrative is not about possible motivations or the events themselves it is about the overarching story line of “Muslim Terrorists”.

The news then segued into another program: Threat Matrix, also about an elite counter-terrorism unit and in one of the early ad breaks Kiefer Sutherland was again urging us not to stereotype Muslims.

Technorati Tags:

24 Season 4

Jack Audrey Heller Driscoll

The synergy between news and entertainment was apparent in the Australian premiere of season 4 of 24 tonight.

The first episode begins with a train bombed and derailed by terrorists, then, cross to the first ad break: a news update which leads with the latest on the London subway bombing.

The double episode ended with the usual promo for next week with the announcer urging us to tune in to see “what lengths the terrorists will go to”. After the credits Seven led into an extended news update which included footage of London’s mayor Ken Livingston catching a train and a “back-to-work-we-wont-let-them-win” theme.

The dialectic between the visceral build up of tension produced by the “live” structure of 24 and its hero’s inevitable triumph is mirrored in the contrasting message of terror and hope embodied in a grim-faced Livingston boarding a train. Although 24 plays the traditional hero myth it also re-wrote the rules of this serial genre by allowing the death of key figures such as Jack’s wife in series one. We know that Jack will win but we can no longer be sure at what cost.

Similarly the news is constantly telling us that “we” will win even though we can no longer be sure “what lengths the terrorists will go to”.

Other news included John Howard’s denial that Britain was preparing a withdrawal from Iraq which would necessitate Australia sending more troops but a confirmation that Australia would be sending further troops to Afghanistan. This reminder of the nexus between Australian, British and US military operations highlighted the “reality” of the 24 terrorists claim that this was an “us” (muslim) against “you” (western nations) battle.

In this new world the best we can do is get up and get back on the train. Just like Livingston. Just like Jack.

Technorati Tags: