Pro-torture conservatives liked to use the fictional TV show 24 to justify real life torture. The Washington Post reports that the real-life dynamic of the American torture program was considerably different from the dramatic ticking time bomb scenarios that powered the show.
As weeks passed after the capture (of Abu Zubaida) without significant new confessions, the Bush White House and some at the CIA became convinced that tougher measures had to be tried.
The pressure from upper levels of the government was "tremendous," driven in part by the routine of daily meetings in which policymakers would press for updates, one official remembered.
"They couldn't stand the idea that there wasn't anything new," the official said. "They'd say, 'You aren't working hard enough.' There was both a disbelief in what he was saying and also a desire for retribution -- a feeling that 'He's going to talk, and if he doesn't talk, we'll do whatever.' "
So, instead of a ticking time bomb scenario with lives on the line, we have conference rooms full of bored bureaucrats and political operatives ordering up torture because they've got nothing else to do.
And then they lied about it. It's interesting to note that virtually everything the Bushies and their defenders have said about torture has proven to be a lie.