On 24

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  …

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