Liberal Journos Use End of '24' to Claim 'Torture,' Liken Intelligence Officials to Jack Bauer

March 29th, 2010 1:22 PM

With the recently announced end of Fox's hit series "24," many liberal pundits are parading the show as a false depiction of the notion that "torture works." Contrary to their accusations, the Jack Bauer interrogation methods bear exactly zero resemblance to any actual interrogation techniques used by American military, law enforcement, or intelligence agents.

"On '24,' torture saves lives," the New York Times's Brian Stelter writes, disapprovingly. James Poniewozik, writing on a Time Magazine blog, attributes the show's supposed approval of harsh interrogations to the "conservative politics of co-creator Joel Surnow."

Any American who has serious doubts that our military and intelligence officials would allow interrogators to, say, directly threaten the lives of a terrorist's family (let alone inflict tremendous physical pain) to elicit information has a better grasp of interrogation techniques -- and the integrity of our men and women in uniform -- than most of the liberal media.

The Times writes,

“On some level ‘24’ is just a big ole’ ad for torture,” David Danzig, a deputy program director of Human Rights First, a nonprofit group, wrote in an e-mail message. “Those of us who watch the show a lot — and there are tens of millions of us who do — know exactly what is going to happen as soon as Bauer starts to beat a suspect up. He is going to talk.”

The torture sequences were misleading, Mr. Danzig said, because they contributed to a “pervasive myth” that torture was effective. He recalled that Gary Solis, the former director of West Point’s law of war program, once called “24” “one of the biggest problems” in his classroom.

In an e-mail message this month, Mr. Solis said that when he would preach battlefield restraint in class, a “not infrequent cadet response” would be something to the effect of “Yeah? Well, did you see Jack Bauer last night? He shot a prisoner right in the knee, and that dude talked.”

The cadets knew right from wrong, and the comments were usually made with a grin, Mr. Solis said. Still, “24” presented a conundrum for the law of war professors, some of whom personally enjoyed the show but wished the torture scenes could be toned down if not eliminated altogether.

The Times's implied comparison of Jack Bauer to American interrogators is incorrect and irresponsible. As has been documented by, among others, former Bush administration official Marc Thiessen, the furious, unrestrained, and condemnable techniques used by Keifer Sutherland's fictional agent of the Counter Terrorism Unit bear absolutely no resemblance to actual enhanced interrogation techniques.

Thiessen noted the disconnect in the January 18 edition of National Review, where he also documented some of the more egregious instances of misinformation parroted by the liberal press:

The public view of interrogations had been shaped by the fictional Bauer, who captures a terrorist and proceeds to torture him — holding down his head in a bathtub full of water, using a Taser to shock him, lopping off his fingers with a cigar cutter — while screaming questions until the terrorist finally breaks and gives up the location of the nuclear bomb that is about to go off.

For some critics of U.S. interrogation policy, this is not fiction, but a depiction of reality. In Newsweek, Dahlia Lithwick has written that “high-ranking lawyers in the Bush administration erected an entire torture policy around the fictional edifice of Jack Bauer.” And Philippe Sands, author of the book Torture Team, has written that the show has been the “midwife” for torture’s “actual use on real, living human beings.” None of this is true.

Unlike these critics, I have had the chance to actually meet the real Jack Bauers — the CIA officials who questioned Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other senior terrorist leaders and got them to reveal their plans for new terrorist attacks. They explained to my why their approach has nothing in common with the methods used by Bauer on the fictional 24.

Read the entire piece, or Thiessen's recent book Courting Disaster, for more detailed accounts of the actual interrogation methods used.

Thankfully, most American media outlets stopped short of their British counterparts in proclaiming American intelligence officials a bunch of Jack Bauers. One writer for the British paper the Independent claimed that "the neocons" had "been itching to get their hands on a bucket of water and a fishy-looking foreigner since about 1987. 24 has simply caught up."

Of course any examination of the actual interrogation methods used demonstrates that there is nothing even remotely similar to Jack Bauer-esque techniques used by the CIA or any other American agency.

But the end of "24" has given the Times and other liberals in the media the chance to repeat once again these false charges.