American Samizdat

Friday, February 23, 2007. *
The West Point commander and real interrogators raised serious objections with writers, due to the show's false representation of torture's effectiveness and the show's influence on WP cadets. Surnow's conclusion: "I don't believe it [that torture is ineffective]. Surnow chose not to attend the actual meeting with the general.
The show’s appeal lies less in its violence than in its giddily literal rendering of a classic thriller trope: the “ticking time bomb” plot.

...Bob Cochran, who created the show with Surnow, admitted, “Most terrorism experts will tell you that the ‘ticking time bomb’ situation never occurs in real life, or very rarely. But on our show it happens every week.”

According to Darius Rejali, a professor of political science at Reed College and the author of the forthcoming book “Torture and Democracy,” the conceit of the ticking time bomb first appeared in Jean Lartéguy’s 1960 novel “Les Centurions,” written during the brutal French occupation of Algeria. ... In his view, the story line of “Les Centurions” provided French liberals a more palatable rationale for torture than the racist explanations supplied by others (such as the notion that the Algerians, inherently simpleminded, understood only brute force).
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This past November, U.S. Army Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan, the dean of the United States Military Academy at West Point, flew to Southern California to meet with the creative team behind “24.” Finnegan was accompanied by three of the most experienced military and F.B.I. interrogators in the country. [They] had come to voice their concern that the show’s central political premise—that the letter of American law must be sacrificed for the country’s security—was having a toxic effect. In their view, the show promoted unethical and illegal behavior and had adversely affected the training and performance of real American soldiers. “I’d like them to stop,” Finnegan said of the show’s producers. “They should do a show where torture backfires.”

Navarro, who estimates that he has conducted some twelve thousand interrogations, replied that torture was not an effective response. “These are very determined people, and they won’t turn just because you pull a fingernail out.” A ticking time bomb, Finnegan pointed out, would make a suspect only more unwilling to talk. “They know if they can simply hold out several hours, all the more glory—the ticking time bomb will go off!"

DVDs of shows such as “24” circulate widely among soldiers stationed in Iraq. Lagouranis, [an Army interrogator who has worked in Iraq] said, “People watch the shows, and then walk into the interrogation booths and do the same things they’ve just seen.” “In Iraq, I never saw pain produce intelligence.” Lagouranis told the “24” team what the U.S. military and the F.B.I. teach real intelligence professionals: “rapport-building,” the slow process of winning over informants, is the method that generally works best.

[After the meeting] Lagouranis said of the “24” team, “They were a bit prickly.They have this money-making machine, and we were telling them it’s immoral.”

On the other hand, Chertoff at Homeland Security and Lynn Cheney are big fans. Says Chertoff, “Frankly, it reflects real life.

Roger Director, Surnow’s friend, joked that the conservative writers at “24” have become “like a Hollywood television annex to the White House. It’s like an auxiliary wing.
posted by Uncle $cam at 3:13 PM
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