Protesting Use of Music in Torture: Trent Reznor, Tom Morello, REM, Pearl Jam and Others


Musicians, including R.E.M and Pearl Jam, launched a formal protest of the use of music used in conjunction with torture that took place at Guantanamo Bay and other facilities. And they’ve announced they are supporting an effort seeking the declassification of all secret government records pertaining to how music was utilized as an interrogation device.

Both Tom Morello and Trent Reznor–the music of Rage Against the Machine and Nine Inch Nails were used as part the torture of inmates–are involved in the campaign.  Says Morello in a statement:

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 ear drums.

Morello, Rage Against the Machine’s guitarist, adds:

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.

Also on board united in finding out about the abuse: Jackson Browne, Billy Bragg, Michelle Branch, T-Bone Burnett, David Byrne, Rosanne Cash, Marc Cohn, Steve Earle, the Entrance Band, Joe Henry, Pearl Jam, Bonnie Raitt, R.E.M., Rise Against, and The Roots. The campaign was organized by long time music fan and political organizer Trevor FitzGibbon.

These musicians  support the call under FOIA to release still-secret documentation from CIA, U.S. Special Operations Command, and FBI, among other agencies, pertaining to how the music was chosen and the specific role it played in interrogations of detainees at the base and other detention facilities. On Thursday morning the FOIA requests and documentation will be available at

The coalition of  rock musicians have  joined the National Campaign to Close Guantanamo which includes retired generals retired Generals Robert Gard, John Johns and former member of Congress Tom Andrews.

When music was deployed, it was constant, 24 hrs a day, thumping, excruciating  mostly Western rap or heavy metal played all over the prison—from cells to the shower room and ear splitting volume. This was done, to humiliate, terrify, punish, disorient, and deprive detainees of sleep, in violation of international law.

A 2004 Defense Department report on abuses at the military base in Cuba stated that the futility technique included the playing of Metallica, Britney Spears and rap music.

An investigation by the Senate Armed Services Committee cited one detainee who was subjected to hours of the Drowning Pool’s “Let the Bodies Hit the Floor.”

Other detainees have been quoted as saying they were blasted with hours of the music of Eminem, Bruce Springsteen and the Bee Gees played a loud volumes, as a sleep deprivation technique.

R.E.M. said in a statement:

We signed onto the campaign in complete support of President Obama and the military leaders who have called for an end to torture and to close Guantanamo. As long as Guantanamo stays open, America’s legacy around the world will continue to be the torture that went on there.  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.

The Roots said:

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.

Tim McIlrath, lead singer of Rise Against said

Guantanamo Bay has been synonymous with torture and inhumanity since its inception.  Coupled with its complete ineffectiveness, the shameful legacy it will leave behind in American history is something Americans will have to deal with forever. Let us be the generation that erases this symbol of injustice and fear-mongering from the map so that we can begin to learn from our mistakes. has letter which can be sent to members of Congress.

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Lisa Derrick

Lisa Derrick

Los Angeles native, attended UC Berkeley and Loyola Marymount University before punk rock and logophilia overtook her life. Worked as nightclub columnist, pop culture journalist and was a Hollywood housewife before writing for and editing Sacred History Magazine. Then she discovered the thrill of politics. She also appears frequently on the Dave Fanning Show, one of Ireland's most popular radio broadcasts.