Torchwood: Miracle Day Episode 8

The story continues. More plot development this week than last week, but we’re starting to go a bit off the rails in terms of legal analysis. One of the basic premises of the Law and the Multiverse project is to apply existing, real-world law to fictional settings that are like reality unless noted.

But when the show, as was the case in this episode, explicitly notes that there are laws in this world that do not exist in the real world, we basically have to take a step back and see how the writers are going to handle things. Here we have a reference to the “Miracle Security Act”. This hasn’t been mentioned before, but it was presumably passed in a manner similar to the Patriot Act right after 9/11: a hastily thrown together beefing up of the federal government’s powers to deal with a crisis, real or perceived. Clearly, the Torchwood gang has been doing stuff the federal government would rather they didn’t, at least not by themselves. So even though the CIA agent in question turns out to be working for the Family, he might not actually be wrong. We don’t have any way of knowing.

One gets the sense that this sort of thing, i.e. the situation is now governed by some fictional set of laws, is going to happen with increasing frequency as the show goes on. It’s been a few weeks, it seems,* which is theoretically long enough for various governments to throw together some kind of organized response. It may not be very organized, and it may not be pretty, but if 9/11 proved anything, it’s that when a real, honest-to-goodness external, non-political crisis rears its had, Congress can still turn things around pretty quickly. We hope.

Still, there is one thing that bears mentioning. Olivia and Gwen both make some assertions about the scope of the CIA’s power. These may or may not be correct, even under existing law. Olivia suggests that the CIA has no jurisdiction over US soil. This is… not precisely true, at least not anymore. There may be some confusion here with the NSA, which really is supposed to be limited in its ability to conduct surveillance and operations domestically. But while the CIA does not possess domestic police authority, it has always been a little more active on US soil than the NSA. Particularly in the wake of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, the CIA’s ability to coordinate with domestic law enforcement and intelligence communities has been greatly expanded. But really, Shapiro’s reaction is probably the most realistic response: “Tell her to line up her lawyers so I can piss on them long and hard.” The fact that the CIA isn’t technically allowed to do something has not, to put it mildly, been a universally effective means of keeping CIA operatives within the bounds of the law. What Shapiro is doing may not be entirely legal, but he’s got a bunch of guys with guns working for him.

Two episodes to go. We’re really not that much closer to figuring this thing out than we were eight weeks ago. At this point it’s going to take writing which is way, way better than anything we’ve seen so far (Where did Angelo come from anyway? Why wait seven episodes to introduce him?) to save this thing. Here’s hoping.

*It’s hard to know, really. The show airs once a week, and probably took longer than ten weeks to write and produce. The elapsed time since Miracle Day is probably less than the eight weeks it’s been since the first episode aired, but it’s probably been longer than eight days. I mean, Torchwood drove from DC to Los Angeles, which takes almost a week right there. But one is starting to get the impression that the writers are just having trouble keeping the timeline straight. Assuming they even care.

10 responses to “Torchwood: Miracle Day Episode 8

  1. I thought it was a little weird the Esther’s sister could sign her kids up for the ovens. Especially since she presumably hadn’t even regained custody yet.

    • Yeah, I wondered about that too. Hopefully it was a case of “Yes, yes, we signed them up, you crazy person, we are telling you we did exactly as you wanted.”

    • I sort of read that as her sister still being kind of nuts. She’s the only one who’s talked about volunteering for the ovens, and she’s not the most reliable of narrators.

    • And considering she’s in the loony bin, I’m sure the grandparents would have more legal guardianship status than her and be able to insist on her wearing the jacket with the really long, wrap around, sleeves…

  2. Actually, here’s a (fairly basic) question: while the episode has no doubt that Scanlon(?)/John De Lancie’s character could make it happen, can the CIA deport people easily? The implication is that Gwen is on the next flight out, but would the CIA have to call in Immigration and otherwise go through channels?
    (Although since Gwen’s in the country on an illegal passport, it’s not like she’s going to complain too much.)

    • Can the CIA formally, legally deport people? Not really. Not as such. But in practice, they can sure as hell stick you on the next flight back home, particularly if they’re relying on the “men with guns” argument.

    • Isn’t Gwen -technically- in the US in CIA custody in the first place? I mean, granted she flew back to the UK and then back to the US again, but given the under-the-radar nature of both flights, I’d think they’d “cancel out” so to speak.

  3. When you factor in some of the stuff going on in Torchwood‘s companion series for other age groups(IE: Doctor Who, the Sarah Jane Adventures, etc.), the existence of laws specific to this particular fictional version of the world isn’t much of a surprise.

  4. Dennis Castello

    Speaking of the deporting of Gwen Cooper… I have a friend who was a tactical officer for ICE. He once told me that he is often assigned to the drug and gang task forces of various agencies as there is some law that allows the task forces members to share powers, so having him on the task force meant that the other officers gained legal powers they otherwise wouldn’t have. Apparently some powers of detainment, search, deportation, etc. are special to ICE, but not other law enforcement agencies. Was my friend making this up — or perhaps oversimplifying things?

    But if this is true, then it seems an easy matter for the CIA to deport Cooper if they have an ICE agent on TDY with their squad or simply retro-fit the paperwork to show that an ICE agent was present.

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