A group of prominent musicians are joining a campaign to close Guantanamo Bay and demanding the release of records about what music was used during the potential torture of detainees there and at other facilities.
Some of the more famous names in the music industry are formally lending their prestige to an effort being led by retired generals, progressive groups and a former member of Congress to shut GITMO down. The list includes Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, R.E.M., Pearl Jam, Jackson Browne, Rise Against, Rosanne Cash, Billy Bragg and the Roots, all of whom are joining the broader National Campaign to Close Guantanamo which was launched earlier in the week.
Hoping to cast further light on the potential illegalities that took place at the detention facility, the group is also working to obtain records about why and how music was used (under laws authorized by the Bush administration) to effectively torture suspected terrorists. The musicians have officially endorsed a Freedom of Information Act request for the declassification of all secret government records pertaining to music utilized during interrogations. At least two members of the coalition, Reznor and Morello, have had their music linked to interrogations.
"Guantanamo is known around the world as one of the places where human beings have been tortured -- from water boarding, to stripping, hooding and forcing detainees into humiliating sexual acts -- playing music for 72 hours in a row at volumes just below that to shatter the eardrums," said Morello, in a statement provided by the NCCG. "Guantanamo may be Dick Cheney's idea of America, but it's not mine. The fact that music I helped create was used in crimes against humanity sickens me -- we need to end torture and close Guantanamo now."
The National Security Archives will be officially filing the FOIA request on behalf of the National Campaign to Close Guantanamo (NCCG).
The FOIA request comes on the heels of a renewed effort on behalf of the NCCG and others to compel Congress to complete GITMO's closure. The group launched a national ad campaign earlier in the week, in which it argued that the continued operation of the detention facility was undermining America's reputation in the world community and Congress' standing as a legislative body.
That spot, as well as the broader NCCG effort, was put together by retired Generals Robert Gard, John Johns, as well as former member of Congress, Tom Andrews (D-Maine), and Vote Vets Chairman and Iraq War veteran, Jon Soltz, all of whom have been vocal critics of the use of GITMO to house suspected terrorists. The Obama administration has echoed the campaign's concerns. But they have also all but conceded that the facility will not be shut down in the 2009 calendar year.
The decision behind issuing a FOIA request for additional information actually took root well before the National Campaign to Close Guantanamo came to fruition. Working with the New York University School of Law's Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, Trevor FitzGibbon -- a well-known progressive communications adviser -- began looking into the use of music as an interrogation method on terrorist suspects. Over the course of six months the idea of putting a microscope on this sliver of interrogation policy festered until he brought it to others who were pushing to shut GITMO down. FitzGibbon, who is doing much of the public relations work for the NCCG, was able to recruit musicians to the cause due, in part, to his past work with the industry on other political issues.
The FOIA, which is officially being distributed on Thursday, will be sent to the Department of Defense, the Department of the Army, the U.S. Southern Command, U.S. Central Command, U.S. Joint Forces Command, U.S. Army Special Forces Command, DOA Criminal Investigative Task Force, Defense Intelligence Agency, Federal Communications Commission, FBI, CIA, and the Department of Justice.
It requests "all documents, including but not limited to intelligence reports, briefings, transcripts, talking points, meeting minutes, memoranda, cables, audio/visual recordings and emails produced by the Central Intelligence Agency concerning the use of loud music as a technique to interrogate detainees at U.S.-operated prison facilities at Guantanamo, Iraq and Afghanistan during 2002-the present."
The use of jarring music during the interrogation of suspected terrorists has been reported in many works documenting the authorization of torture during the Bush administration. At least 20 declassified documents currently exist that reference the use of "loud" music to "create futility" in uncooperative detainees. Among the artists whose music is believed to have been used include Metallica, Britney Spears, the Drowning Pool, Eminem, Bruce Springsteen and the Bee Gees.
Not all of these bands and musicians signed on to the NCCG FOIA. But others, whose music was not reportedly used, did so out of philosophical objections.
"We have spent the past 30 years supporting causes related to peace and justice," read a statement from REM, "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."
Added the hip-hop band The Roots: "When we found out that music was being used as part of the torture going on at Guantanamo, shackling and beating people -- we were angry. Just as we wouldn't be caught dead allowing Dick Cheney to use our music for his campaigns, you can be damn sure, we wouldn't allow him to use it to torture other human beings. Congress needs to shut Guantanamo down."