The Counter Terrorist Unit (also referred to as the Counter Terrorism Unit or CTU) was an intelligence and law enforcement agency in the United States of America which worked to investigate and prevent terrorist acts within U.S. borders. CTU had divisions established in cities all over the country and had prevented several imminent terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.
After Day 6, CTU was disbanded following the supposed extralegal activities of several agents and was under investigation for human rights violations. Its functions were then delegated to other agencies, and the personnel had their government clearance revoked. However, following Day 7, CTU was resurrected with the help of Rob Weiss, who convinced President Taylor to reestablish the agency in full capacity.
Position within U.S. Government
The Counter Terrorist Unit was the Department of Homeland Security's intelligence arm, under the National Protection and Programs directorate. The agency was also overseen by both the Secretary of Defense and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. CTU was established after the first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993. The parent organization of CTU is the CIA, who utilizes the agency as a domestic branch.
CTU was headquartered in Washington, D.C., and established domestic counter-terrorism divisional field offices in major U.S. metropolitan areas. CTU was to investigate the activities of domestic or foreign terrorists inside America's borders. CTU operations were overseen by both Congress and the Executive Branch of the federal government.
A trial was launched into the past activities of CTU in tracking down and torturing suspects, preventing attacks, and in their methods of practice and activity. CTU was disbanded and all its personnel had their government status revoked. Some were offered jobs at other agencies, but most were left jobless.
A Senate Subcommittee subpoenaed former agent Jack Bauer to stand trial for violations of human rights set forth in the Geneva Convention. Evidence relating to the charges was collected from Bauer's classified dossier, including information on his torture of Ted Cofell, Graem Bauer and Ibrahim Haddad, his cold-blooded killing of Nina Myers, Marshall Goren and Christopher Henderson, his former heroin addiction, his illegal assault on the Chinese consulate and many others.
The hearing was interrupted by the FBI, who required Jack's assistance in tracking down former CTU agent and supposedly deceased Tony Almeida. The halting of the trial led to Jack stopping several terrorist attacks including an attempt on the President's life and the discovery of biological weapons. However, in the process Senator Blaine Mayer, who was leading the charges against Jack, was killed.
- For more information on this undercover mission, see Taylor administration conspiracy
Bill Buchanan and Chloe O'Brian, along with Tony Almeida, were still working where they liked to call "CTU," albeit underground. They were attempting to bring down a conspiracy within the President's government and decided to not cooperate with any agency as they did not know how deep the corruption within the government ran.
As part of the operation, Tony went undercover with David Emerson and his mercenary group to get to the CIP firewall and eventually Ike Dubaku, who had the names of all the people within the government working against President Taylor. Their aim also was to stop Dubaku from unleashing his attack on America.
They, along with Jack Bauer, were successful in bringing down the conspiracy by getting to Marika Donoso, Dubaku's American girlfriend who was unaware of his past crimes. She sacrificed her life to help CTU get to Dubaku. With the chip Jack retrieved from Dubaku, almost 100 corrupt government officials were taken out. However, in the process of the operation, Bill Buchanan lost his life.
Partial re-establishment within the FBI
In an effort to find Tony Almeida and his cabal, who were in control of a prion variant bioweapon, Jack Bauer suggested that the FBI used the old CTU servers that were decommissioned when the agency was shut down. President Taylor agreed and signed off on the proposal, whilst agent Renee Walker contacted the Department of Justice where the servers were being held. Jack then asked Chloe O'Brian, a former CTU analyst, to come in and work on using the servers as she was familiar with the CTU system.
By Day 8, CTU had been re-established as a pilot program at the New York City domestic unit, operating out of a subterranean compound on Roosevelt Island in the East River. Rob Weiss personally spearheaded the new program, and selected Brian Hastings as the unit's Director. The agency boasted a new logo and infrastructure, as well as more fundamental changes - in keeping with President Allison Taylor's policy positions, torture as a means of interrogation was strictly forbidden. However, the new CTU used advanced biometrics and other innovative interrogation methods, and maintained a fleet of aerial drones that provided surveillance of the entire New York metropolitan area.("Day 8: 4:00pm-5:00pm", "5:00pm-6:00pm", "12:00am-1:00am")
During Day 8, CTU New York contended with an assassination attempt against visiting Kamistani President Omar Hassan by a rogue faction within his own government, and later attempted to stop a radiological bomb that the separatists planned to detonate in Manhattan. Their efforts were compromised by Dana Walsh, a CTU New York analyst who had been trained as a spy by the Russian government to aid the separatists and stop the peace treaty between the U.S. and Kamistan. While the radiological attack was stopped, the terrorists managed to kidnap and execute President Hassan before he could be rescued. Soon thereafter, agents at CTU New York - including Cole Ortiz, and Chloe O'Brian - covertly assisted Jack Bauer in his efforts to expose the Russian government's role in providing aid to the separatists. (Season 8)
Agents at CTU's National Headquarters, notably National Director Rebecca Ingram, carried out a years-long manhunt for Ibrahim Bin-Khalid, culminating in Bin-Khalid's death and a severe blow to his terrorist organization during a Yemen raid by the United States Army Rangers. Six months later, however, most of the Rangers involved were killed by the remnants of Bin-Khalid's organization, as a prelude to the attack he had been planning at the time of his death: the simultaneous activation of dozens of sleeper cells already embedded around the United States. (24: Legacy – Season 1)
Field agents reported to the Director of Field Operations and the Assistant Director. Analysts reported to the Internet Protocol Manager or the Senior Analyst. The Director of Field Operations and Senior Analyst in turn reported to the Deputy Director. The CTU Director headed all field and intelligence activities, reporting directly to Division HQ, which oversaw all southern California operations. Division reported to District which oversaw West Coast operations. Both Division and District had offices in Los Angeles.
CTU had clearance levels 1-6. An agent's clearance level - with one being the lowest - was initially determined by the Director upon first recruitment to CTU, and was subject to review every three months during an agent's overall performance evaluation. During such evaluations, an agent's supervisor would report to the Director as to whether it was necessary to upgrade their security level. Clearance was also occasionally upgraded on a temporary basis during times of crisis.
Codes of conduct
- It was CTU's policy to discourage personal relationships from developing. While in the past supervisors had merely looked the other way when such a romance developed, in later times a stricter stance was taken for the safety and security of agents.
- Do not converse with anyone who does not have the appropriate clearance level, no matter what kind of relationship you have with them.
- Stay objective and do not let romantic relationships cloud your judgement. The Official CTU Operations Manual gives the example of Milo Pressman sacrificing his life for Nadia Yassir on Day 6 because of their relationship.
- Under Section 1.12 of the Official CTU Operations Handbook it is acceptable to remove a superior from their post if they are deemed unstable. Case in point: Lynn McGill.
- Wireless protocol could be initiated in the instance of static interference or bad connection in phone lines ("Day 2: 10:00am-11:00am").
- In the circumstance of loss of power to the building (for example after an attack) the power could be restored and the CTU systems could come back online if a generator was connected to the A-Island. Such an operation occurred during "Day 2: 12:00pm-1:00pm" when Kevin performed this procedure.
Organization and structure
The National Headquarters of the Counter Terrorist Unit, also known as the National Counter Terrorism Unit, were based in Washington, D.C. Agents at the National Headquarters took part in identifying and tracking multiple terrorist networks both at home and abroad, as well as serving the role of a domestic unit for the D.C. metropolitan area. ("Day 10: 2:00pm-3:00pm")
- It is unclear whether the National Headquarters existed or functioned in the same capacity prior to CTU's disbandment before Day 7, or during its "test run" reinstatement before Day 8.
Several CTU offices were established in major cities and metropolitan areas across the country, each dedicated to investigating and preventing terrorist activities in their particular region.
District Command oversaw a larger region than Division Command, and reported directly to CTU Headquarters in Washington, D.C. When David Palmer flew to Los Angeles during Day 2, he operated out of District Headquarters. District had the authority to order a lock-down of domestic offices, as George Mason locked down CTU Los Angeles on the authority of District Office on Day 1.
Division Command oversaw the Domestic Units in a given region. Division also had the authority to order a lock-down, halting all operations within a unit.
CTU Domestic Units covered operations within a single city or metropolitan area. Domestic Units reported directly to Division Command, but were also subject to evaluation and interference from District. At least one Domestic Unit had an "old CTU substation" not far from its main office.
The domestic unit of CTU Los Angeles had been seen as the most active, as it responded to a wide variety of terrorist threats, including the attempted assassinations of Senator David Palmer, a nuclear bomb threat, a deadly viral threat, the abduction of Secretary of Defense James Heller, the attempted meltdown of multiple nuclear power plants, a nuclear missile launch, the theft of twenty canisters of weapons-grade nerve gas, and the threat of five Russian suitcase nuclear weapons. On many occasions, CTU LA was assisted by other domestic units.
Background information and notes
- Throughout the majority of the series preceding Season 7, CTU has often been associated with the recurring, distinct ring tone of the phones within CTU's Los Angeles branch. This four-noted tone, which in real life originated from the AT&T Merlin telephone system developed in 1984, is heard in the background of almost every scene that features CTU Los Angeles. The popularity of the show and the unique nature of this tone have led to it becoming one of the world's most recognizable ring tones.
- While there is no Counter Terrorist Unit in real life, the United States Department of Defense created the Counterintelligence Field Activity Agency in 2002, designed to investigate and repel terrorism within the United States and its interests. Another counterterrorism organization, the National Counterterrorism Center, was established in 2003. In a commentary track on "Day 7: 1:00am-2:00am," actor Jeffrey Nordling, who plays Larry Moss, mentions that he and other actors on the show visited NCTC while filming in Washington, D.C., remarking that many of its employees are fans of 24 and that the interior strongly resembles the old CTU sets. In Issue 2 of the Official Magazine an article looks at the Terrorism and Research Center, a supposed real life CTU counterpart. Issue 4 looks at "The Real Jack Bauer"; a.k.a. Charles Allen who is Chief Intelligence Officer of the Department of Homeland Security. He explains what the real-life counterpart of CTU actually does.
- In the 2004 Marvel comics film adaptation The Punisher, one of Frank Castle's first jobs was being an agent for CTU. Coincidentally, a CTU agent by the name of Lee Castle is featured in the fourth season of 24.
- CTU is also mentioned in The West Wing, Season 4, Episode 5 at 05:50, by President Bartlet on a telephone conference after having received the latest news about a military conflict between Israel and the fictional Arabic state of Qumar. Ken Kato says (over phone): "Sir, It's Ken. On your order, we'll put CTU on high alert."
- CTU is mentioned in a deleted scene from the radio drama UNIT: Time Heals by Big Finish Productions. It was then released on an audio issue of Big Finish Magazine.
- On the Indian version of 24, the CTU equivalent is the Anti Terrorist Unit, or ATU.