Talking Torture With the Casts of 24, Lie to Me


Is Jack Bauer saying goodbye to the days of breaking bad guys' fingers?


Over the last eight years, the 24 hero has represented - some would say encouraged - the kinds of harsh interrogation techniques permitted during the Bush Administration. Just Wednesday, the Washington Post reported the torture of a man suspected of planning the 9/11 attacks.


But with a new administration comes new policies, and another Fox show, Lie to Me, makes the case for interrogations free of physical force. The show - which happens to debut Jan. 21, the day after Barack Obama's inauguration - stresses lie detection techniques pioneered by Dr. Paul Ekman.


"He's talked to a lot of interrogators, a lot of guys who have used his methods," Brendan Hines, one of the show's stars. "They say almost overwhelmingly that the way to do it is to establish a rapport, to find out motivations for why people are behaving in a certain way, and to get at the truth that way. They say most of the time any sort of forced confession leads more often than not to false information."


Ekman's techniques include reading raised eyebrowns, downturned mouths, and other facial expressions or body language to detect emotions at odds with people's words.


Of course, harsh interrogations have their defenders - including Jon Voight, an addition to the 24 cast this season.


"Let's talk about waterboarding. It's something that scares the pants off of people but it keeps them alive. It doesn't kill them," Voigt said. "If there's such a thing as that, I'm for it. If even 10 percent ... can give us information that will save lives, I'm for it.


A 2007 New Yorker story said military officials have met with 24 executives to air their concerns that torture on the show undermines the training of real U.S. soldiers. Bauer has resorted to mock executions, beatings, and breaking bones to make suspects talk.


Actor Carlos Bernard said the show isn't to blame for real-life behavior.


"I think there are certain people in the world that are influenced by the wind, and there's nothing you can do about them," he said.


On Tuesday, Kiefer Sutherland stressed at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour that torture is "simply used as a dramatic device" on 24 and that the show doesn't endorse it any more than it endorses killing your boss, which Bauer has also done. He said the show will add to the debate this season.


"It was never meant as some kind of validating this kind of behavior in the real world," he said. "But as this became an issue for this country in the real world, to bring that debate throughout the course of these 24 episodes I thought was a really important thing to do."


What do you think? Do Bauer-like techniques have any place in interrogations? What about the Lie to Me techniques?


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Jan 15, 2009 9:17PM EST

Both make for good television.
If micro-expression reading works for interrogation of the average criminal and non-criminal, it should be used.
Torture is not an effective means to extract a confession in the first place. Eventually anyone will crack and tell the person what they want to hear to stop the pain.
The exception to that rule should be the criminals who state they are guilty in normal interrogation, and brag that they hid a bomb (kidnapped a child, buried a person alive, etc.) but they are "never" telling where it or he or she is located. When another life or lives are at stake, and only in the case where the person admits guilt but refuses to provide the details to save the life or lives, torture could be an effective means to extract that information to save that life or lives.

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