There was an impression that the TV show '24' was projecting the image that U.S. government officers routinely torture anybody they feel like, that it went on all the time. Whether it's true (or was) is irrelevant; the perception was out there because of the show. The producers felt the heat from that; it will be toned down this year. But torture is a part of '24's' DNA, so it won't go away completely. Expect the good guys to be more on the receiving end this year, I would guess. Of course, Jack Bauer's probably taken as much torture as he's dished out over the years, and 'Redemption' included such a scene as part of its calculated effort to paint Jack as martyr/messiah, lest we forget. That's where this season begins.
Of course, torture is not exclusively the province of '24', either. Anyone who's been keeping up with Showtime's superb drama 'Brotherhood' was witness to some serious torturin' in the series finale that was far more realistic, and disturbing, than anything '24' has yet dished out. It's a matter of perception. '24' is a live action cartoon, full of unrealistic "ticking time bomb" scenarios (at least once an episode, seems like) that most people, even those who find torture reprehensible and a betrayal of American ideals, would condone under such dire and imminent circumstances. But there can't be a perception out there that the real government uses it as a routine investigative tool, and that was the fear.
Not now, of course. But there has been a good bit of evidence unearthed to indicate it was not only tolerated, but condoned and actively encouraged all the way up to the Vice President's Office. The "isolated rogue element" defense never really did pass the smell test, and now we know of the CIA secret extraordinary rendition program, etc. All those rocks have not yet been overturned; FOI requests/reveals will shed further light on that issue as the months go by, I suspect. At any rate, any further discussion of it exceeds our mandate here. Suffice it to say that these sorts of things will be toned down this season on '24', and that Jack will likely receivith more punishment than he will givith given recent events in the real world. All's I'm saying is that maybe that's not such a bad thing. Jack will still be Jack: the baddest dude on the planet. He'll just kill 'em instead of torturing 'em. That's still okay, after all.