Scalia on ‘smacking’ and other torture techniques

If a major U.S. city were in danger of an imminent terrorism threat, and authorities had a suspect in custody, Justice Antonin Scalia has no problem with the notion of roughing the guy up a bit to get some information out of him.

As the debate over the Bush Administration’s use of aggressive interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding, reaches a crescendo in Washington, Scalia is weighing in with his thoughts on torture.

“Is it really so easy to determine that smacking someone in the face to determine where he has hidden the bomb that is about to blow up Los Angeles is prohibited in the constitution?” Scalia asked during a BBC interview. “It would be absurd to say you couldn’t do that. And once you acknowledge that, we’re into a different game.”

If his scenario sounds a bit familiar, you’ve probably seen the Fox television show “24.” And Scalia is apparently a fan. Last year, Scalia said he believed the torture techniques used by show’s fictional terrorism stopper Jack Bauer would be justified if the city of Los Angeles were in peril to save “hundreds of thousands of lives.”

(He’s probably as disappointed as the rest of the show’s fans that the delay caused by the just-ended writers’ strike means the series will likely not return until 2009.)

In the BBC interview, Scalia also brushed aside criticism by Europeans of the use of capital punishment in the States, saying if the issue was left up to the European people, they’d have the death penalty too.

“If you took a public opinion poll, if all of Europe had representative democracies that really worked, most of Europe would probably have the death penalty today,” the justice said. “There are arguments for it and against it. But to get self-righteous about the thing as Europeans tend to do about the American death penalty is really quite ridiculous.”


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