Was it Flea’s enthralling bass line in “Higher Ground”? Or the octave-shifting sounds of Anthony Kiedis’ yells in “Sir Psycho Sexy”? Or how about the masterful drumming by Chad Smith in “Can’t Stop”? Maybe John Frusciante’s screeching guitar chords in “Around the World”? We might never know which exact songs the agency used, but we do know this: The CIA used songs by the Red Hot Chili Peppers to torture an imprisoned enemy combatant during George W. Bush’s presidency.
Last week, the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee voted 11 to 3 to start the declassification process for the CIA’s 6,600-page report on its own “enhanced interrogation” procedures used post-9/11. And, according to one interrogator who spoke to Al Jazeera on the condition of anonymity, one detainee in particular — an individual known as Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn Abu Zubaydah — was given the shock treatment of listening to RHCP on loop.
The report allegedly states that Abu Zubaydah was wringed to the ceiling with handcuffs, and “the music used to batter the detainee’s senses” was the Chili Peppers’, but it’s not clear exactly which songs were used. Abu Zubaydah’s capture was one of the most publicized by the Bush administration, as the man was believed to be a major player in Al Qaeda’s ongoings. Since his imprisonment, he has become the only known prisoner subjected to all 10 interrogation techniques legalized by the Justice Department in the early days of the “War on Terror” — that includes being waterboarded 83 times and subjected to sleep deprivation.
Of course, RHCP isn’t the first band to inadvertently torture listeners. As SPIN previously reported, the military used Metallica to punish prisoners, which the band didn’t really have a problem with.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers have been reached for comment on this issue. We’ll update when we hear back.