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Musicians Protest Use of Their Songs as Torture

October 22, 2009

A group of musicians, including Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, R.E.M., Pearl Jam, Jackson Browne, Rise Against, Roseanne Cash, Billy Bragg, the Roots, and many more, have joined the National Campaign to Close Guantanamo, which is urging President Obama to fulfill his promise to shut Gitmo down.

This morning, the National Security Archive filed 12 FOIA requests for government documents “concerning the use of loud music during detention and/or a technique to interrogate detainees at U.S.-operated prison facilities used in its War on Terror at Guantanamo, Iraq and Afghanistan during 2002-the present.” We filed these on behalf of the artists whose works have been used without their knowledge, and certainly without their consent.

Our website alert includes a small sample of US government documents already available that mention the use of loud music at facilities in Gitmo, Iraq, and Afghanistan, sometimes mentioning specific songs or artists. These FOIA requests aren’t just shots in the dark; we’re not grasping at straws here.

Nor is the use of loud music as a military tactic completely without precedent. Recall the US invasion of Panama in December 1989 (or Operation Just Cause) and the relentless playing of rock music, supposedly to prevent eavesdropping from parabolic microphones.

By the time I got into work, the story had already hit the papers–The Washington Post and The New York Times were already featuring the musicians’ protest. We’ve been fielding calls and requests for information all day, and it’s amazing to see the attention this is getting:

Deputy Director and Director of Research Malcolm Byrne will appear on FOX news tonight, on our local station WTTG Channel 5 at 6pm. Radio interviews in New York and Boston and with BBC radio, and more television appearances are in the works, including with CNN.

It’ll take some time before we get responses from the agencies about these requests, but already the impact is noticeable.

  1. Sonja permalink
    October 25, 2009 4:19 am

    In the Netherlands it is illegal to use any popmusic in any way unless it’s permitted by the record company and/or paid for a special license. There’s a real witch hunt going on. But when it’s used as torture anything goes?

  2. Rod Such permalink
    October 26, 2009 4:10 pm

    Loud music as a torture tactic was also used in Chile following the coup against Allende.

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