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Who's on the Line? These Days, It Could Be Everyone

And what precisely is "the genie"?

"The genie is the lowest level of privacy that human beings have had in their history," Levinson says. "We just have to get used to it. It's a question of redefining what our public and private lives are."

Tony Soprano knew the difference; rarely did he conduct "family" business on the phone. What wiretapping couldn't do, however, a plain old wire could. When Soprano found out his lieutenant had worn a wire for the feds, he sent him to sleep with the fishes.

Soprano's character was modeled on Ruggiero "Richie the Boot" Boiardo, the head of a New Jersey crew of the Genovese crime family who was taken down by wiretapped evidence in the 1960s.

Art imitates life.

But is that a good thing? We raise the question because of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who back in June reportedly went to great lengths to defend Jack Bauer. (Justice Scalia was not available for comment.)

At a legal conference in Ottawa, responding to another participant who warned against asking, "What would Jack Bauer do?," Scalia mounted a spirited defense, saying, "Jack Bauer saved Los Angeles. . . . He saved hundreds of thousands of lives." The Globe and Mail of Canada reported on the event.

Scalia then apparently hammered at the legal conundrum of prosecuting the likes of Bauer:

"Are you going to convict Jack Bauer? Say that criminal law is against him?"

He asked: "Is any jury going to convict Jack Bauer? I don't think so."

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