Scalia Tips His Hand on Torture

Views

In an extraordinary interview with the BBC, Justice Antonin Scalia dismissed what he called the smugness and self-satisfaction of torture opponents:

In the interview with the Law in Action programme on BBC Radio 4, he said it was “extraordinary” to assume that the ban on “cruel and unusual punishment” – the US Constitution’s Eighth Amendment – also applied to “so-called” torture.

“To begin with the constitution… is referring to punishment for crime. And, for example, incarcerating someone indefinitely would certainly be cruel and unusual punishment for a crime.”

Justice Scalia argued that courts could take stronger measures when a witness refused to answer questions.

“I suppose it’s the same thing about so-called 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?” he asked.

“It would be absurd to say you couldn’t do that. And once you acknowledge that, we’re into a different game.

“How close does the threat have to be? And how severe can the infliction of pain be?”

We are indeed into a different game.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.
LIKE US ON FACEBOOK