Jane Mayer, an uncompromising journalist who’s become a thorn in the side of the Bush administration (for her reporting on current U.S. torture tactics and the method of “extraordinary rendition”), has written a New Yorker profile of Joel Surnow, one of the creators of the hit television show 24. Her profile focuses on Surnow’s support of torture and his show’s over-reliance on what security experts call the “ticking time bomb scenario”—a hypothetical situation used in 24 to justify torture, but which has never occurred in real life.
In her article, Mayer reveals that “several copies of the C.I.A.’s 1963 KUBARK interrogation manual can be found at the ’24’ offices.” I find this simply amazing. The KUBARK manual, which I mentioned in an earlier post on the CIA , is infamous for its straightforward tips on how to conduct coercive interrogations. Even more amazing, the lead writer for 24 admits that most of the torture scenes in 24 are not inspired by the CIA. Gordon tells Mayer, “for the most part, our imaginations are the source. Sometimes these ideas are inspired by a scene’s location or come from props—what’s on the set.” Gordon goes on to say that he (and reportedly Kiefer Sutherland, who plays Jack Bauer) are running into torture “fatigue.” They’re getting tired of it.
Maybe they should, as U.S. Army Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan (who also happens to be the dean at West Point) suggests, “do a show where torture backfires.” Because in real life, that’s what happens. Not only is torture illegal and unethical. It simply doesn’t work.
Here is Mayer herself, talking about torture in 24: