The Guardian published an interview on February 2 with Kiefer Sutherland that focuses on his perspectives on how torture is portrayed on 24 and the influence it has had on the views of its audience. Evidence collected by my organization (Human Rights First) and journalists show that soldiers in Iraq and at Guantanamo Bay have copied Jack Bauer’s brutal interrogation techniques.

But Sutherland says that "24 is not the problem." He insists, at times, that real life has nothing to do with what happens on the program and that real life infuses the program, depending on the question. The reporter, Decca Aitkenhead, concludes that "the only really consistent thread in the logic of his defence of 24 might be an intellectual motto of ‘Whatever it takes.’"

An On-Line Application to Be Kiefer Sutherland’s Publicist

Dear Mr. Sutherland,

You are great at torturing terrorists, talking sense to over-stressed politicians, and stopping plots to blow up major cities. But one thing you don’t seem to be so good at (I mean this nicely! Don’t come after me with a set of wire cutters!) is good, old-fashioned public relations. I can help.

My first bit of advice: stop talking to The Guardian. Man, that interview with you that they ran this week did you no favors.

Second, I don’t want to overtax the writers you work with at "24" but is it possible for them to come up with a plotline that does not depend on you torturing someone? That might do wonders for your image! (Plus it might reduce the numbers of viewers who watch your show and come away thinking "torture works!")

Third, don’t allow the wardrobe people to put you in that khaki jacket you wore to your hearing in front of the Senate investigative committee in episodes 1-4. It makes you look a little old and boring. And for a show that has been on as long as "24" and that is as repetitive – (no more terrorists with nukes please!) – we don’t need clothes that do anything but suggest new and fresh!

Fourth, you might want to actually read some of the reports from U.S. soldiers who say they have imitated Jack Bauer’s torture techniques in the field. It’s a little embarrassing to keep having to tell reporters (like The Guardian and Charlie Rose) that you have not read these reports. Maybe just read one.

For example, take a look at Philippe Sands book. He interviews a Lieutenant Colonel named Diane Beaver who worked at the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. She says that your show was "hugely popular" and that it "gave people a lot of ideas."

Again the point here is not that we care about torture. The point is that the show will likely be on the air for longer if you at least pretend that you are concerned. You are an actor. Fake it if you have to.

I think we should also plan a nationwide "listening tour" to soften your image. Maybe we can get Justice Scalia to come along. He seems to think you actually "saved Los Angeles."

Finally to prove that these human rights types are the namby-pamby, one-worlders that we know them to be, let’s stage a photo-op that will send every paparazzi scrambling for his camera lens. I want you to "turn yourself in" at the headquarters of one of those groups like Amnesty International (are they a human rights group?) to be arrested for using torture. They probably won’t even have handcuffs on hand! What amateurs!

My point here is that Jack Bauer has to adjust with the times or retire. It’s all about accountability now. Obama is in the White House, not Bush. You led the trend when it was all about torture, now you can lead the trend when it is all about putting the torturers in jail. If possible, you should try and bring someone like Donald Rumsfeld with you.

Thanks for considering my application. I look forward to working with you.


David Danzig directs The Primetime Torture Project at Human Rights First. Danzig organized a briefing that brought military leaders to the set of "24" to urge the producers of the program to change the way they show torture.