Performers angry their music used in Guantanamo interrogations

October 22, 2009

Interrogators at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay liked to blast rock ‘n’ roll music at inmates to try to induce them to talk.

Now some of the folks that made that rock ‘n’ roll music are blasting back.

Trent Reznor, Tom Morello, Jackson Browne, T-Bone Burnett, Rosanne Cash, Bonnie Raitt, R.E.M., Pearl Jam and other musicians have joined the National Campaign to Close Guantanamo.
The newly formed campaign, led by retired Lieutenant General Robert Gard and retired Brigadier General John Johns among others, is increasing pressure on the Obama administration to move ahead with the president’s pledge to close the prison.

“Guantanamo is known around the world as one of the places where human beings have been tortured,” Morello said in a statement released by the campaign, charging that some inmates had been subjected to loud music for 72 hours in a row.

“Guantanamo may be Dick Cheney’s idea of America, but it’s not mine,” he added. “The fact that music I helped create was used in crimes against humanity sickens me — we need to end torture and close Guantanamo now.”

Thomas Blanton, executive director of the National Security Archive, said his group has obtained at least 20 declassified documents that refer to blasting Guantanamo detainees in an effort to “create futility” and encourage them to talk.

Gard, a senior military fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, said “the torture that went on there is disgraceful and puts our troops at risk every day.”

“Guantanamo will remain al Qaeda’s biggest recruitment tool unless it’s shut down,” he added. “I sympathize for the musicians whose music was used without their knowledge as part of the Bush administration’s misguided policies.”

USA-SECURITY/CHENEYThe musicians joined the campaign just a day after former Vice President Dick Cheney gave a spirited defense of U.S. interrogation methods during a speech to the Center for Security Policy.

“To call enhanced interrogation a program of torture is not only to disregard the program’s legal underpinnings and safeguards,” Cheney said. “Such accusations are a libel against dedicated professionals who acted honorably and well.”

He said alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed would not have begun giving U.S. interrogators useful intelligence against al Qaeda had he not been subjected to the harsh techniques.

“To completely rule out enhanced interrogation in the future, in favor of half-measures, is unwise in the extreme,” Cheney said. “In the fight against terrorism, there is no middle ground, and half-measures keep you half exposed.”

For more Reuters political news, click here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Deborah Gembara (Prisoners at Guantanamo Bay take part in morning prayers); Reuters/Joshua Roberts (Cheney speaks at American Enterprise Institute in May)


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see

Sue the buggers for all they have for copyright infringement and false light. That might get their attention.

Posted by borisjimbo | Report as abusive

If rock and roll artists played better music, this wouldn’t be an issue in the first place.

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive

Heh, funny.

Angry rock bands are angry that their angry political music is being played to make terrorists angry.

Reality is stranger then fiction, any day.

Posted by Johnisgood | Report as abusive

the greatest recruiting tool is the weakness of america, whether real or percieved. Good luck thinking radical islam will go away with our pandering to it. It’s just liberal philosophy at work here. I can’t stand some of the modern rock music and I am sure it is torture to the gitmo inmates like it is to me.

Posted by tom dashel | Report as abusive

“To call enhanced interrogation a program of torture is not only to disregard the program’s legal underpinnings and safeguards,” Cheney said. “Such accusations are a libel against dedicated professionals who acted honorably and well.”
Honorably and well??? I have to disagree with that entirely. The interrogation program was torturous and to not be allowed to say so, is an infringement on free speech, on of the many things that America is trying to defend with its war on “terror”.
Im with the artists on this one,, as many other decent and intelligent people would be. Many of the American elite that are so intent on running this war on terror will stop at nothing to achieve their unnatainable goals.This is probably one of the more restrained policies that they have!
A war on terror will only produce more terrorism.
Stop the wars and bring troops back to their countries. Persue a different route to peace. This way is never gonna work. Where is Obamas promise of getting the troops out? Did he lie to get into office?
Wake up people!!! Or else war will be peace!

Posted by tom | Report as abusive

I think that this is abominable and future occurrences should be prevented. I have extremely sensitive hearing that I have worked all my life to protect, and would have my hearing severely damaged at volumes lower than 79 decibels. Statistically, most persons have some level of hearing damage. Those at Guantanamo may not. The officials are acting on the assumption that these persons are in the majority — I am not, and I know from personal experience that this could be permanently damaging to their hearing.

Posted by Calculator Ftvb at | Report as abusive

After serving 2 combat tours in Iraq! I believe GITMO is a great place to keep these terrorists and I do believe they should have a trial a lot faster than things are moving now…. But, for the Rock bands to be upset over the use of their music is insane. America has not been attacked since 911 their is a reason for it! Plus, I have had numerous friends serve at the prison and they said they are treated better than most Americans! I believe it! There are so many rules and regulations to follow because of all these hippies in the US that is why our Men and Women in the service are getting killed! It’s war people! It’s not pretty, nor is it supposed to be!

Posted by Scott | Report as abusive

Amen Scott

Posted by GENECA | Report as abusive

One’s man junk is another mans treasure.
One’s man entertainment is another man’s misery.

So, the military doesn’t find these entertainers so entertaining.

Do these artist care what people do after they buy it on line? NOPE

All about the money. Sure the Gov’s got plenty. Sue em..just what we need right now.

Apparently the said entertainers are struggling artist!

Posted by What | Report as abusive

im sick of hearing about all this shut down gitto and that we tortured people.i want to know if these same big mouth people saying this would feel the same way if a terrorist had info concerning their loved one.would they feel the same? thats why this country is getting weaker b/c of all this stupid political correctness.its just ridiculous

Posted by STEVE | Report as abusive

[…] musik sebagai sarana penyiksaan tahanan / alat interogasi ekstrim dalam penjara Guantanamo. Berikut artikel dari Blog […]

Posted by Pearl Jam, REM Dalam Koalisi Musisi Untuk Penutupan Penjara Guantanamo « PJ.Id | Report as abusive

[…] David Alexander: Interrogators at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay liked to blast rock ‘n’ roll music at inmates to try to induce them to talk. […]

Posted by Automatic For The Prisoners « Around The Sphere | Report as abusive

OSHA has determined that 90 decibels is damaging to the human ear. Intentionally sustained exposure to sound waves in excess of that threshold is not legally defensible, regardless which politician or God allows you to declare that criminal offense perpetrated “for the good of the people.”

Defending the use of torture is heretic in the extreme. We have allowed ourselves to become the best recruiting tool in use by the terrorists. The other ones, ‘them’ ..

Posted by Psyllicon | Report as abusive

This is ridiculous. So we play loud music to try to get information from prisoners, these prisoners could be the same kind of people that decapitate Americans and then send the video out to news feeds. Think about it this way, what is worse…the surprise military attack on Pearl Harbor OR…9/11 and all the other terrorist attacks that have originated in the middle east? I mean we NUKED japan TWICE for pearl harbor, now we are playing loud music to our enemies. Oh no, somebody stop the madness! (sarcasm)
Besides, who do these “artists” think they are, they have no say in what the govt. does behind closed doors, maybe they should have went into politics instead of raping the american people for $20 a CD so that they can live in 5 million dollar houses while we eat ramen and try to make rent.

Posted by Bush | Report as abusive

Good lord! These mediocre rock bands sound just like our commie president. Once I purchase an album with my hard earned money, I’ll play it whenever and where ever I wish. What the he** is wrong with these people. You artists can’t dictate who’s allowed or not allowed to play to your music. Get over it! You don’t have to worry about me though, cuz I’ll never purchase any of your music again anyway. Has Beens!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by morris | Report as abusive

If they would play Bob Dylan’s music to prisoners, I guarantee results.

Posted by Mufaso | Report as abusive

I wonder if the sound of a truck or roadside bomb going off in a major city in the US will eclipse OSHA’s safe exposure guidelines for sound? Maybe the victims will have legal recourse to sue Al-Qaida for potential hearing damage caused within the blast radius.

Posted by Matt | Report as abusive

I wonder how many people posting here served in the US military ? I served 4 years honorably (long ago). I believe in defending our country – BUT, make sure we are defending from the true BAD guys. MOST of the 9/11 terrorists were from Saudi Arabia, NOT Iraq. We should NEVER have gone into Iraq ! We never finished in Afghanistan, and NOW that has re-emerged as a large problem again! I think it should be a LAW that ALL Americans serve 2 years in one of the branches of the Armed Forces – Absolutely NO ‘Dick Cheney’ style exemptions. THEN, some day, all senators and congressmen will be people who have served in the military (and ALL THEIR CHILDREN will serve also !), and they might search for the REAL culprits (terrorists) before we again invade a country and start a war. Watch that old Mel Gibson movie where he plays an American Soldier fighting the British 200 years ago. He did whatever he had to to protect his family, defend his homeland. We made the British back down using Guerilla (sp?) warfare. Did we learn nothing from this ? It seems the Iraqis are now defending their country from us the same way we defended from the British (and there are terrorists there as well, killing innocent people!) What a MESS !. We need to educate people all over the world, and reduce the extremist religious influence, whether Islamic, Christian, or any other ! Otherwise there will always be suicide bombers – both foreign, and the domestic Tim McVeigh types.

Posted by J | Report as abusive

I think the singers are just mad because their music was used for torture.

Posted by CoCo | Report as abusive

What would Ted Nugent say?

Posted by RH | Report as abusive

What? No Ozzy?

Posted by Doc | Report as abusive