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Defense bigs ask '24' to cool it on torture

NY Daily News | February 12, 2007  
OWEN MORITZ

The grossly graphic torture scenes in Fox's highly rated series "24" are encouraging abuses in Iraq, a brigadier general and three top military and FBI interrogators claim.
The four flew to Los Angeles in November to meet with the staff of the show. They said it is hurting efforts to train recruits in effective interrogation techniques and is damaging the image of the U.S. around the world, according The New Yorker.

"I'd like them to stop," Army Brig. Gen. Patrick Finnegan, dean of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, told the magazine.

Finnegan and others told the show's creative team that the torture depicted in "24" never works in real life, and by airing such scenes, they're encouraging military personnel to act illegally.

"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 U.S. Army interrogator in Iraq and attended the meeting.

"The kids see it, and say, 'If torture is wrong, what about '24'?" Finnegan said.

The show's co-creator and executive director, Joel Surnow, 52, a self-described "right-wing nut," seemed stunned by the complaints, but gave no hint that the torture scenes would be toned down - or shown not to work. "We've had all of these torture experts come by recently, and they say, 'You don't realize how many people are affected by this. Be careful,'" Surnow conceded. "But I don't believe that."

Kiefer Sutherland, who is reportedly paid $10 million a year to play agent Jack Bauer, admits to being "anti-torture" and "leaning toward the left." He says he tries to tell people the show "is just entertainment."

Joe Navarro, an FBI interrogation expert who was at the meeting, said he wouldn't want anyone like Bauer on his team. "Only a psychopath can torture and be unaffected," he said. "You don't want people like that in your organization. They are untrustworthy, and tend to have grotesque other problems."

Bauer, as a counterterrorism agent, has just 24 hours to stop a terrorist plot endangering the U.S. and invariably chooses torture to force suspects to divulge critical secrets.

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