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Did Bush WH torture Gitmo prisoners with R.E.M., Pearl Jam, Sesame Street? Musicians demand records

Torturing detainees with waterboarding is one thing. But now a coalition of musicians is demanding the details of the Bush administration practice of blasting music -- everything from the Meow mix jingle to Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA" -- to try to coerce information from terrorist suspects at Guantanamo Bay.

“The fact that music I helped create was used in crimes against humanity sickens me,” said Tom Morello, once with the rap metal band Rage Against the Machine. “We need to end torture and close Guantanamo now.”

Rosanne Cash, daughter of famed country singer Johnny Cash, is also troubled by the allegation. “It seems so obvious," she said. "Music should never be used as torture.” 

Apparently not that obvious to the Bush administration, according to the National Security Archive -- a research institute that filed a Freedom of Information request on behalf of musicians demanding that the government declassify and make public all the musical torture records.

A full listing of the bands who joined the FOI request -- part of a campaign to pressure President Obama to keep his promise to close GItmo in the first year of his presidency -- is below.

For the record, the Obama White House says it no longer uses music as an instrument of torture.

But we wonder. Is listening to nonstop Britney Spears really inhumane?

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo: Sesame Street's Big Bird and friends perform at the 76th Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in Herald Square on Nov. 28, 2002, in New York City. Credit: Matthew Peyton/Getty Images

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A Freedom of Information Act request filed on Thursday names 35 musicians or songs that it said were used against detainees at U.S. military detention centers, including the one at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The National Security Archive -- the Washington-based independent research institute that filed the request -- said the documents it is seeking "contain explicit references to the following bands or songs":

  • AC/DC
  • Aerosmith
  • Barney theme song (By Bob Singleton)
  • The Bee Gees
  • Britney Spears
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • Christina Aguilera
  • David Gray
  • Deicide
  • Don McLean
  • Dope
  • Dr. Dre
  • Drowning Pool
  • Eminem
  • Hed P.E.
  • James Taylor
  • Limp Bizkit
  • Marilyn Manson
  • Matchbox Twenty
  • Meatloaf
  • Meow mix jingle
  • Metallica
  • Neil Diamond
  • Nine Inch Nails
  • Pink
  • Prince
  • Queen
  • Rage Against the Machine
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • Redman
  • Saliva
  • Sesame street theme music (By Christopher Cerf)
  • Stanley Brothers
  • "The Star Spangled Banner"
  • Tupac Shakur

Comments () | Archives (6)

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I thought I was the only one who felt contemporary popular music was cruel and inhumane. My heart bleeds for the poor terrorists. We should have a concert. Pop musicians could play their music to make money to help alleviate the suffering of those who have been forced to listen to their music.

awesome. Play more Meatloaf.

Why not just kill the terrorists, so we don't have to worry about torture.

It's funny to listen to this administration go to great lengths to protect the rights of
murderous-terrorist-bastards, but fight for the legal right to partial-birth abortions.

Now music is being referred to as 'torture'. Gimme a freakin' break. It's so sad how the left loves to throw around tht word without contempaltng its real meaning.

The Obama White House might not be using music to torture - but we don't know what intelligence agencies are doing on Obama's watch. In the 60's and 70's during the FBI's COINTELPRO program agents strong-armed parents, employers, landlords, school officials and others to cause trouble for activists. We don't know if something similar is happening today. All we do know is that Obama's surveillance policy is a carbon copy of Bush's. Some questions that need to be answered are:
1. When congress pulled the plug on the Terrorist Information and Prevention System (Operation TIPS) did George Bush put it in place in secret anyway? Underground did it become even more virulent? Are citizens from a secret TIPS program being used in a program of conspicuous surveillance of some people put on Watch Lists?

2. When the Attorney General's Guidelines released in May 30, 2002 rescinded anti-COINTELPRO regulations did the COINTELPRO program start up again - this time with a new twist - using organized gang stalking as a tactic with citizens from TIPS all over the United States participating? Were gag orders used to keep what they were doing secret? Is Obama, who said at the Joint Terrorism Task Force Headquarters on October 20 - "I'm going to continue to be standing behind you each and every step of the way - continuing what George Bush put in place?

3. Is the United States with a new COINTELPRO program engaged in a program of torture against some of its own citizens using techniques used in the CIA torture program of terrorists (it might be thought of as torture-lite) - sleep deprivation, NOISE, social isolation, psychological torture (double-binds)?

4. What was the FBI trying to hide when it deleted almost the entire section on the - "undisclosed participation" by the FBI OR ITS INFORMANTS IN DOMESTIC GROUPS - in its Domestic Investigations and Operations Guidelines published on its website in response to two Freedom of Information Act lawsuits?

So maybe the Obama White House isn't using music to torture, but maybe a neighbor who is part of the TIPS program is using music in a COINTELPRO type attack to harass the person next door being targeted by the FBI as a domestic terrorist.

That's why we need a bipartisan independent investigatory commission charged with finding out what has gone wrong with our policies in the War on Terror and recommending solutions.

Bush tortures terror suspects, Obama gives them room service and reads them their Miranda rights! Long live W!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Endless replay of that Meow Mix jingle would be quite torturous.


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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