Musicians and bands including REM and Pearl Jam have endorsed a series of requests filed under the Freedom of Information Act to discover whether their music was ever used during interrogation sessions at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.
The requests are being filed in conjunction with Close Gitmo Now, an initiative dedicated to shutting down the Guantanamo Bay facility, where detainees in the so-called “war on terror” have been held since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001. Among the controversial interrogation techniques employed there and elsewhere is the playing of music, typically heavy metal and rap but also, according to CNN, even children’s tunes, at extremely high volumes during questioning.
The problem in the eyes of musicians like Trent Reznor and Tom Morello, whose music is known to have been used during questioning, is that the technique amounts to torture – and they object to their art being put to such uses. Similar concerns have been expressed by others, including Rosanne Cash, Billy Bragg, Jackson Brown and Steve Earle, all of whom have endorsed the requests to determine whether their music was in fact used during torture sessions.
“The use of music as no-touch torture at Guantanamo is nothing new. In fact, most of the abuses we’ve become far too familiar with… are part of a comprehensive arsenal of techniques first institutionalized in the CIA’s cryptically named KUBARK manual from 1963,” the website says. “Outraged over these tactics and the thought that their music might have been used to torture has compelled a growing list of artists to act. Encouraged by the the unequivocal call to end torture and close Guantanamo by President Obama and respected military leaders like former Secretary of State, General Colin Powell, they’ve courageously spoken out.”
I’m not sure how much “courage” is required to give the thumbs-up to a FOIA request being filed by somebody else and more to the point, I’m unclear as to what the next step will be if the military says, “Yes we did.” I suppose the group could ask for receipts to prove that former Vice President Cheney did in fact pay for that copy of The Downward Spiral, but assuming there’s no copyright violation involved, what’s left? Debates over the definition of torture notwithstanding, do musicians have the right to determine what people do with their music?