Popular Songs The CIA Used To Torture Detainees

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One of the most potent ways of torture is without touch: first, confine the detainee in a windowless 6 x 9 ft. solitary cell, shackle them to the wall, leave a bucket for defecating and urination, and blast the Sesame Street theme song on repeat for a full 24 hours.

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s CIA torture report  revealed the agencies’ assortment of “enhanced interrogation techniques” used in detention facilities on detainees after the Sept. 11, 2011 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

In 2008, Mother Jones reported a “torture playlist”, based on a leaked interrogation log, chosen by guards and interrogators at Guantanamo Bay.

The songs include:

  • Christina Aguilera: “Dirrty
  • Drowning Pool: “Bodies
  • Janeane Garofalo/Ben Stiller: chapter from the Feel This Audiobook
  • Matchbox Twenty: “Cold
  • Rage Against the Machine: unspecified songs

According to the CIA torture report, song repetition was an effective touch-less torture technique used to disorient detainees, induce sleep deprivation, signal the start of interrogations, create a “sense of hopelessness”, and drown out screams. White noise was also administered to manifest sensory deprivation and hallucinations.

Although the recent CIA torture report itself never mentions specific songs, Andy Worthington, author of The Guantanamo Files, details some of the most popular songs used against detainees. “Hit Me Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears was one of them.

“You lose the plot and it's very scary to think that you might go crazy because of all the music, because of the loud noise, and because after a while you don't hear the lyrics at all, all you hear is heavy banging," Ruhal Ahmed, a released Guantanamo prisoner, explained to Worthington.

Songs by Metallica, Eminem’s “Slim Shady” album, Nine Inch Nails, and Queen’s “We Will Rock You” were also mentioned in Worthington’s book.

Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails wrote in a blog post condemning the use of his songs as a form of torture:

"It’s difficult for me to imagine anything more profoundly insulting, demeaning and enraging than discovering music you’ve put your heart and soul into creating has been used for purposes of torture.”

For more information on torture techniques, check out this ABC style comic featured on VICE, with text by Oscar Rickett, and illustrations by Krent Able.