It seems that as reality television becomes more scripted, scripted television dramas become more real. Last night’s episode of “Scandal” was a good example of how writers and producers of these types of programs are taking their story lines straight from the headlines, bringing real life issues to our televisions.
One of Olivia Pope’s employees, a broken but devotedly loyal man named Huck, had been taken into custody under the Patriot Act for the attempted assassination of the president. He didn’t actually shoot him, but was framed by another group, who had hired a woman to seduce Huck, letting his guard down just long enough to be used in the plot. The story ended fairly well, with the female agent being taken into custody, with Huck’s help. It was what happened to Huck, while he was being held in the darkest place beneath the headquarters of the CIA that turned this program from just a television show into something much more noteworthy.
Huck was detained as an enemy combatant, a term which took on a new meaning in the post 9/11, Homeland Security world. Simply stated, an enemy combatant is an unlawful combatant, one without a uniform or an organized and established military, and therefor, one not easily recognized by any opposition forces. Under the Patriot Act, it means that the rules and terms of the Geneva Conventions don’t apply. Just about anything is fair game, including how we treat these new prisoners of war.
While Huck was being held, he was subjected to “enhanced interrogation techniques”, a much more benign and polite way of saying “torture”. He was stripped naked, beaten to within an inch of his life and water boarded. Having been trained to carry out missions that most of us don’t even want to know about, Huck didn’t cave and confess to anything he hadn’t done. The same can’t be said for most of those who undergo the same brutal and unconscionable treatment. When these interrogation techniques were questioned, one of the characters on the show who was supposed to be representing the CIA and Homeland Security said that the United States of American didn’t exist in that room, that Huck, an American citizen, had lost his Constitutional rights. All that mattered was that a confession be extracted – the methods and means could be justified by the desired end result.
When Huck was finally released, after giving the agents information leading to the real assassin, he was unceremoniously dumped on the sidewalk, where a waiting Olivia Pope took him back to their office. It wasn’t fun to watch – not the torture, nor the beatings, nor the sworn American officials who said that this was the way things are done now. The Patriot Act has had its’ share of critics – I’m among them. Just last week, President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013. By reinstating the law, the plan to close Guantanamo Bay prison camp looks more and more unlikely. The military will be allowed to detain, indefinitely, American citizens on suspicions of supporting terrorism. It also means that enhanced interrogations will continue, and that the information received during these ordeals may or may not bring about any results even worth reaching.
During last night’s episode there was a message on the screen for Twitter followers. It said #FreeHuck and there were tweets aplenty in support of this fictional character and his plight. Huck is free, safely back in the welcoming arms of Pope and Associates. The same can’t be said for the untold numbers of Americans who are being detained right now and suffering a much worse fate – all in the name of freedom.