Jack Bauer Syndrome
By Eric Greene
If you’re looking to us for realistic advice on how to fight terrorism we’re all in real trouble.
–24 Co-Creator Robert Cochran
You say that nuclear devices have gone off in the United States, more are planned, and we’re wondering about whether waterboarding would be a bad thing to do? I’m looking for Jack Bauer at that time!
–Congressman Tom Tancredo, Republican Presidential Candidate Debate, May 15, 2007
Sometimes . . . you have to do . . . terrible things, even unforgivable things, for the sake of your country.
–Graem Bauer, 24 (6-7)
During the May 15, 2007, Republican Presidential primary debate, conservative newscaster Brit Hume posed the following version of the oft-cited “ticking time bomb” hypothetical: three suicide bombings have killed hundreds of Americans and “a fourth attack has been averted when the attackers were captured . . . and taken to Guantanamo. . . . U.S. intelligence believes that another, larger attack is planned. . . . How aggressively would you interrogate [the captured suspects]?”
In response, Congressman Tom Tancredo assured the crowd–to enthusiastic applause–that he would be “looking for Jack Bauer at that time.” Tancredo invoked no historical precedent, military commander, or interrogation expert. Rather, this United States Congressman and candidate for Commander-in-Chief instead declared his reliance on a TV character. Tancredo was reduced to relying on a fictional hero because real-world historians, military commanders, and interrogators largely oppose torture as illegal, immoral, and ineffective.1
And while ever-present in America’s torture debate, the ticking …