The National Campaign to Close Guantanamo has received its share of criticism, but the support from popular musicians and members of the music industry have further encouraged the Obama administration to follow through on their efforts to close the controversial prison. Both REM and Pearl Jam have joined with the likes of Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, Roseanne Cash, and Rage Against the Machine in protest against the interrogation practices applied at the institution.
Most recently, the coalition has spoken up against CIA interrogators using music to “encourage” the detainees to reveal information relative to their involvement in terrorist plots and/or organizations. It has been reported that music from Britney Spears, AC/DC the Bee Gees, and Marilyn Manson has been used in prisoner control procedures, as well as songs from Sesame Street, Barney, and the Meow-Mix theme song. The songs were pumped into prisoners’ cells at near-deafening levels in what the CIA describes as an attempt to maintain prison security rather than “punitive purposes.” The National Security Archive is filing a request through the Freedom of Information Act to create a list of the exact songs that have been used at the prison. Thomas Blanton, executive director of the National Security Archive, said, “At Guantanamo, the U.S. turned a jukebox into an instrument of torture.”
One of the newest members of the campaign, REM, has released the statement:
“We have spent the past 30 years supporting causes related to peace and justice. 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.”
In even the most basic, non-political objection to the CIA’s interrogation techniques, this unauthorized use of music is a violation of copyright laws that have been essential to artists throughout the history of the U.S. After all, even “Top 40” radio stations (which I consider as a horrific form of torture) have to pony-up money to record companies in order to play music “freely” to the listening public.