Skip to content

US believes the fiction that torture is OK

In the Fox TV show “24”, counterterrorism agent Jack Bauer tortures someone around 12 times a day. While Bauer’s use of torture magically always elicits the truth from its deserving victims, the lawyers who are designing our nation’s interrogation policies seem to be basing their opinions more on this fictional TV show than on either the poor results actually obtained from torture, or on the law (including the constitution):

  • British lawyer Philippe Sands says that Bauer was an inspiration at early “brainstorming meetings” of military officials at Guantanamo in September 2002.
  • Diane Beaver, the staff judge advocate general who gave legal approval to 18 new and controversial interrogation techniques (including water-boarding, sexual humiliation, and terrorizing prisoners with dogs) said that Bauer “gave people lots of ideas.”
  • Michael Chertoff, the chief of homeland security declared in a panel discussion on “24” organized by the Heritage Foundation that the show “reflects real life”.
  • John Yoo, the (former) Justice Department lawyer who was responsible for the torture memos, writes in his book “War by other means” — “What if, as the popular Fox television program ’24’ recently portrayed, a high-level terrorist leader is caught who knows the location of a nuclear weapon?” (incidentally, it is unlikely this has ever happened in real life).
  • Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia in a speech used Bauer as part of a legal argument “Jack Bauer saved Los Angeles. … He saved hundreds of thousands of lives. Are you going to convict Jack Bauer?”

Is it any surprise that the Bush administration built its torture policy around Jack Bauer?