Parents have long complained that loud rock music is torture; plenty of hipsters would say the same about Barney the Dinosaur and Christina Aguilera.
But now some of the musicians are banding together with the National Campaign to Close Guantanamo to protest the use of their songs as torture mechanisms.
Some of those musicians — Nine Inch Nails and Rage Against the Machine — say their music has been played at ear-splitting level to torment terror suspects and coerce confessions at the detention facility. Other petitioners want to know whether their works have been used in such capacity, including R.E.M., Pearl Jam, Jackson Browne and Billy Bragg.
“The fact that music I helped create was used in crimes against humanity sickens me,” said Tom Morello, former lead guitarist for Rage Against the Machine, an industrial rock band whose song “March of the Pigs” has been linked to torture tactics at the detention facility at the U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
“We need to end torture and close Guantanamo now,” Mr. Morello said.
Based on interviews and declassified documents, a spokeswoman with the National Security Archives says acts whose music is known to have been used covers the musical gamut — from AC/DC to the Barney theme song, Marilyn Manson to Neil Diamond, Tupac Shakur to Sesame Street, Limp Bizkit to Christina Aguilera.
And the Bee Gees.
The National Security Archive, a research division of George Washington University, filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests Thursday on behalf of the musicians, asking the federal government to declassify documents that explain how specific music is chosen, and what role it plays in interrogation techniques.
“There’s been a lot of outrage and bewilderment on how this could be and what went on,” said Kate Doyle, archive senior analyst. “The musicians are using the FOIAs to express their outrage and objection to the military using these songs and abusing their creativity in this way.”
The archive said it has already found 20 declassified documents that reference loud music used to “create futility” with uncooperative detainees.
“We have spent the past 30 years supporting causes related to peace and justice,” R.E.M. said in a statement. “To now learn that some of our friends’ music may have been used as part of the torture tactics without their consent or knowledge is horrific. It’s anti-American, period.”
But Debra Burlingame, a director with the national security policy group Keep America Safe, called the musicians’ effort “pathetic.”
“This is a preview of what the Gitmo defense attorneys are going to do with these hard-core terrorists in federal court. This torture narrative will completely eclipse justice for the 3,000 victims,” said Mrs. Burlingame, whose brother was a pilot killed the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
One prisoner, Mohammad al-Sliha, was exposed to “Let the Bodies Hit the Floor” by Drowning Pool. Another prisoner, Asif Iqbal, was shackled in a chair while a dance version of Eminem music was played repeatedly.
“The various bands involved want to know why was their music used without authorization or consultation, how was their creativity used in a way that was repellant to them,” Ms. Doyle said.
The National Campaign to Close Guantanamo, lead by retired Gens. Robert Gard and John Johns, said the base has been al Qaeda’s biggest recruitment tool and will remain such until it is shut down. Enhanced interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, were suspended at Guantanamo in 2003. President Obama has pledged to close the camp.
“The torture that went on there is disgraceful and puts our troops at risk every day,” Mr. Gard said. “I sympathize for the musicians whose music was used without their knowledge as part of the Bush administration’s misguided policies.”
Others weren’t so sympathetic.
“It’s almost laughable to think that heavy metal bands like Nine Inch Nails and Rage Against the Machine have a moral authority on national security issues,” Mrs. Burlingame said.
“They’re worried about torture of hard-core terrorists? This is really something I would expect to read in the Onion.”