Atrocity has gained a disquieting prominence in the US since the advent of the “war on terror.” A quarter of a century ago, when torture and “disappearance” characterized the worst face of authoritarian regimes in the Southern Cone and of political conflict in Central America, who would have guessed that Congress, Federal courts, and the executive branch of the US would publicly and earnestly debate the legitimacy and legality of these practices at home? In order to finesse US law, “enhanced interrogation techniques” and suspension of habeas corpus have been institutionalized offshore. Nonetheless, torture in particular has entered public consciousness as a practice that takes place inside the boundaries of American political life. The Fox TV espionage/thriller series 24 both registers this shift and dramatizes a rationale for torture at the hands of...

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