Campaign Against Music as Torture Seeks U.S. Artists

A British-based campaign aimed at ending the use of loud music by U.S. interrogators as a means of exerting psychological influence over detainees is reaching across the pond in an effort to bring American musical icons Bruce Springsteen and Eminem on board.

A diverse group of mostly British artists and musicians has already joined the “Zero dB” campaign, launched last December by Reprieve — a legal charity that is representing more than two dozen Guantanamo detainees.

U.S interrogators have been using the music — pumped into cells at extremely loud levels for as much as 20 hours a day, for days on end — at detention centers around the globe as part of the war against terrorism. Beyond Guantanamo, according to Reprieve, the technique is known to have been used at three prisons in Afghanistan and six detention facilities in Iraq — including, the group claims, Abu Graib.

The interrogators’ playlist reads like a “who’s who” of rock, combined with popular children’s music: Barney the Dinosaur and Sesame Street rub shoulders with Metallica, AC/DC, Britney Spears, the BeeGees, Aerosmith, Dr. Dre, Christina Aguilera, Eminem and Bruce Springsteen, among other artists.

Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. — one of the world’s most recognized anti-war songs of all time — seems like a particularly cynical inclusion. But the use of educational music for young children stands out as well.

The U.S. military has favored the technique as a non-violent way to induce fear and disorientation, thereby allegedly facilitating questioning. Opponents consider it clear-cut torture — especially since it is reportedly accompanied by long periods of sleep deprivation, with detainees held in stress positions and kept in extreme temperatures.

The “Zero dB” campaign hopes to get individual governments — particularly the U.S. — to recognize that such use of music constitutes torture, with its ultimate goal a global ban. The United Nations and European Court of Human Rights have already spoken out against the practice.

Reprieve is also considering launching legal action in association with the artists over copyright infringement, as a way to prevent future use and raise the campaign’s profile.