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Musicians Campaign Against Use Of Music By U.S. Jailers

A cell block in Camp Delta 5 at Guantanamo Bay

A cell block in Camp Delta 5 at Guantanamo Bay

Musicians are campaigning against the use of their songs by U.S. interrogators at detention centers including the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The U.S. military says it has used music as a nonviolent way to disorient and create fear in detainees, but musicians want the practice stopped.

The music used on detainees includes themes from popular U.S. children's television series like "Barney" and "Sesame Street," according to campaign organizer Reprieve, the British prisoners' rights group that represents dozens of detainees at Guantanamo.

The campaign is called zero dB, or zero decibels -- in other words, silence. And it says it wants to dispel the perception that "music torture," as it calls it, is a "light" practice.

"That involved people being held in stress positions, often with their hands chained to the floor, often in pitch-black but with strobe lights, and in extreme temperatures, left for hours, days, with music on a massive speaker pumping out at them," Reprieve's Chloe Davies says. "Basically the prisoners we've spoken to say that after a time they felt they were losing their minds."

Reprieve notes that the technique is not new.

Britain in the 1970s subjected some Irish detainees to loud continuous noise. The European Court of Human Rights ruled this -- along with other techniques such as sleep deprivation -- inhumane and degrading treatment, though it said the practice did not amount to torture.

The U.S. military in Iraq authorized the use of music in late 2003, the commander at the time, Ricardo Sanchez, saying it was a way to "create fear" and disorient detainees.

The FBI documented what it said were several instances where loud music was blasted at Guantanamo detainees.

Rear Admiral David Thomas, the commander of Guantanamo's detention center, told AP that music treatment is not currently used there, though he could not rule out its use in the future.

Thomas was among senior camp officials who spoke to journalists given a rare tour of parts of the camp on December 10. In comments to Reuters, he did not address the issue of music treatment, but said detainees were dealt with humanely.

"Some people have the wrong perception of Guantanamo. That's a fact. But I think anyone who comes here and looks at the facilities and really understands what goes on here can dispute the policy that brought [detainees] here or the legal basis for detention," Thomas said.

"And those are important discussions to have, important policy discussions to have, but undisputable are the conditions of detention here. They are world-class, they're safe and humane."

Not all musicians are unhappy their music might have been used in interrogations.

Drummer Stevie Benton, whose group Drowning Pool has been supportive of U.S. troops in Iraq, said two years ago he took it "as an honor to think that perhaps our song could be used to quell another 9/11 attack or something like that."

Five men accused of orchestrating the September 11, 2001, attacks, are being held at Guantanamo and appeared this week in a pretrial hearing.

compiled from agency reports