The restorative powers of music are being increasingly documented—as, for instance, in the Louis Armstrong Music Therapy program at New York’s Beth Israel Medical Center. But music can be used to torture, as I’ve discovered in my day job, reporting on the CIA’s “enhanced interrogations” in its allegedly closed secret prisons and during its “renditions.” The latter violations of international laws and our own involve kidnapping terrorism suspects and storing them in foreign prisons specializing in torture. There, music played incessantly at unremittingly high volume can “break” any prisoner.
I’ve written a number of syndicated columns about British citizen Binyam Mohamed who, finally released after years without charges, recalls his CIA experiences in our own overseas prison in Kabul, Afghanistan, and during “renditions”: “It was pitch black. … They hung me up for two days. My legs had swollen. My wrists and hands had gone numb. … There was loud music [by] Slim Shady and Dr. Dre for 29 days. … It got really spooky in this black hole.”