WASHINGTON - Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is joining the debate over the Senate's torture report by saying it's hard to rule out the use of extreme measures to extract information if millions of lives were threatened.
Scalia told a Swiss broadcast network that American and European liberals who say such tactics may never be used are being self-righteous.
The justice, 78, said he doesn't "think it's so clear at all," especially if interrogators were trying to find a ticking nuclear bomb. Scalia has made similar comments in the past, but he renewed his remarks on Wednesday in an interview with Radio Television Suisse, a day after the release of the Senate report detailing the CIA's harsh interrogation of suspected terrorists. RTS aired the interview Friday.
"Listen, I think it's very facile for people to say, 'Oh, torture is terrible.' You posit the situation where a person that you know for sure knows the location of a nuclear bomb that has been planted in Los Angeles and will kill millions of people. You think it's an easy question? You think it's clear that you cannot use extreme measures to get that information out of that person?" Scalia said.
Scalia also said that while there are U.S. laws against torture, nothing in the Constitution appears to prohibit harsh treatment of suspected terrorists. "I don't know what article of the Constitution that would contravene," he said.
The interview touched on a range of topics, including the financing of political campaigns, the death penalty, and gay marriage, about which Scalia said he should not comment because it is likely the court soon will have the issue before it. Asked about money and U.S. elections, Scalia scoffed that "women may pay more each year to buy cosmetics" than is spent on local, state and federal elections combined.
His comments about interrogation techniques echoed remarks he also has made to foreign audiences. In 2008, he used the example of the hidden bomb. "It seems to me you have to say, as unlikely as that is, it would be absurd to say you couldn't, I don't know, stick something under the fingernail, smack him in the face. It would be absurd to say you couldn't do that," he said.