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Seattle Journal for Social Justice

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In the opening scene of Steven Spielberg’s 2002 film adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s short story The Minority Report, we see stylistically edited, disjointed images that appear to depict a man murdering two lovers. It is soon made clear that the images are the video representations of precognitive predictions of a future crime that were made by members of a futuristic crime prevention agency.

Later in the film, we see the same man, at home with his wife—the woman he is shown murdering in the earlier images—and it becomes clear that we are watching the last few moments before the predicted murder. While retrieving the daily paper, the husband notices a familiar man standing in the park across the street from the house and becomes suspicious. Instead of leaving for work as he normally would, he hides behind a tree after leaving the house and watches his wife open the door to let this man inside. Unnoticed, the husband follows his wife and her lover upstairs, hiding while they have sex. When he finally reveals himself, he picks up the scissors we have already seen him kill the lovers with, but he is grabbed from behind by the chief of the crime prevention unit just before he lunges at his wife. The police enter the bedroom, and the husband is quickly taken into custody. The chief tells the man: “By mandate of the District of Columbia Precrime Division, I am placing you under arrest for the future-murder of [your wife and her lover] to take place today, April 22nd, at 0800 hours and four minutes.” The man responds, “No, I didn’t do anything. . . . I wasn’t going to do anything!”

Later, we see the man has been taken to a detention facility that houses other pre-murderers, all encased in individual glass cells, in a state of permanent suspended animation, forced to eternally relive the video predictions of the crimes they would have committed.

The Minority Report’s fictional, futuristic depiction of a law enforcement unit that prevents predicted crimes before they occur, fanciful as it might seem, bears a striking resemblance to post-9/11 law enforcement and national security policies implemented by the United States government. On June 23, 2006, in Miami, Florida, for example, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arrested seven men who belonged to what was described as “a homegrown terrorist cell.” The federal officials asserted that the accused individuals—who would come to be known as the “Liberty City Seven”—intended to carry out domestic terrorist activities, including a “plan” to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago, Illinois.

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Criminal Law Commons



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