The television show 24 has become a foreign policy guide for the right wing. Numerous conservative pundits have cited 24 as a sanction for harsh interrogation practices. In September, Laura Ingraham stated, “The average American out there loves the show 24. … In my mind that’s close to a national referendum that it’s OK to use tough tactics against high-level Al Qaeda operatives as we’re going to get.”
Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan recently told the 24 producers that he was concerned that the show’s promotion of illegal torture “was having a damaging effect on young troops.” In a new interview with Newsweek, former U.S. Army specialist Tony Lagouranis, who left the military with an honorable discharge in 2005, confirms Finnegans fears — that U.S. soldiers did take cues from 24 to torture prisoners:
Interrogators didn’t have guidance from the military on what to do because we were told that the Geneva Conventions didn’t apply any more. So our training was obsolete, and we were encouraged to be creative. We turned to television and movies to look for ways of interrogating. I can say that I saw that with myself, also. I would adopt the posture of the television or movie interrogator, thinking that establishing that simple power arrangement, establishing absolute power over the detainee, would force him to break. …
[We adopted mock] executions and mock electrocution, stress positions, isolation, hypothermia. Threatening to execute family members or rape detainees’ wives and things like that.
Lagouranis has teamed up with Human Rights First to advocate against torture, noting that what is seen on 24 “is not an effective technique for gaining intelligence.” Kiefer Sutherland, the actor who stars as Jack Bauer, has also said that the torture techniques employed in the show are not effective ways to get information in real life. He recently agreed to speak with cadets at the West Point military academy to teach them that torture is wrong.