Chicago Tribune’s Maureen Ryan spoke with Mike Baker, a former cover field-operations officer that worked for the CIA for 14 years before becoming the CEO of Veritas Global, a security and risk-management firm. Here’s his take on what’s real and what’s not when it comes to 24:

Main character: Counter-terrorism expert Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland)

What’s his deal? Bauer tracks and hunts bad guys over the course of a single season-long, very bad day.

What’s real: Though Bauer’s 24-hour bad days are at the extreme end of the spectrum, Baker says secret agent work “can be non-stop if you’re out in the field, depending on what you’re involved in.”

As for an agent’s family being put at risk (Bauer’s wife was shot by a bad guy in Season 1, and at other times other loved ones have been at risk), Baker says the danger to families isn’t usually very great, but it does exist — so it’s common for undercover types to not tell the neighbors what they really do for a living.

What’s not so real: Jack’s known for his rule-breaking ways, but spy agencies and anti-terrorist squads “are not lawbreaking organizations, despite what some conspiracy theorists want you to believe,” Baker says.

The least believable thing about “24″? The shocking lack of paperwork. “An independent operator like Jack would get beaten over the head with boxes of forms in triplicate,” Baker says. “I’ve never seen the guy do an expense report!”

Source: Chicago Tribune

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