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Does '24' encourage US interrogators to 'torture' detainees?

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Gary Solis, a retired law professor who designed and taught the Law of War for Commanders curriculum at West Point, told the New Yorker that his students would frequently refer to Jack Bauer in discussions of what permissible in the questioning of terrorist suspects.

He said that, under both US and international law, "Jack Bauer is a criminal. In real life, he would be prosecuted." Yet the motto of many of his students was identical to Jack Bauer's: "Whatever it takes." His students were particularly impressed by a scene in which Bauer barges into a room where a stubborn suspect is being held, shoots him in one leg, and threatens to shoot the other if he doesn't talk. In less than ten seconds, the suspect reveals that his associates plan to assassinate the Secretary of Defense. Solis told me, "I tried to impress on them that this technique would open the wrong doors, but it was like trying to stomp out an anthill."

The New York Daily News reports that the terrorism experts told the staff that almost all of the interrogation techniques depicted in "24" would not work in real-life situations.

"People watch the shows, and then walk into the interrogation booths and do the same things they've just seen," said Tony Lagouranis, who was a US Army interrogator in Iraq and attended the meeting.

According to the Parents Television Council, in the five years before 9/11 there were 102 scenes of torture on prime time TV. In the three following years, that number increased to 624, they said. The PTC said that with 67 scenes of torture during its first five seasons, "24" was the number one show in terms of showing torture.

Rick Moran, of the blog American Thinker, called the New Yorker piece "serious and thoughtful," but nevertheless disagrees with the idea that a TV show can affect the way American interrogators do their job.

I have no doubt that General Finnegan and the agents are genuinely concerned about the show's impact on the troops. But the idea that some of the abuse of prisoners meted out by American soldiers is the result of watching a television show is absurd on its face. Blame it on our not giving the prisoners Geneva Convention protections or on poor discipline or leadership. But the intelligence professionals who carry out the overwhelming number of interrogations on prisoners can't all be that stupid. ...

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