Westlife songs 'used by CIA for torture'

Human rights group the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has claimed that Westlife "song" My Love was used to torture captives in Afghanistan. The group claimed that the Westlife "hit" was played on repeat at high volume as psychological torture, a tactic which has been employed by student unions for 10-15 years.

Try listening it to more than three times without spilling any state secrets, we dare you.

The song was played for long bouts at three victims - Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud, Suleiman Abdullah Salim, and Gul Rahman - as well as heavy metal songs. The ACLU are now looking to sue the two psychologists responsible for using these techniques on behalf of the victims - one of whom (Gul Rahman) died in custody.

The psychologists oversaw the CIA program that took place in prisons and interrogation centres in the Afghanistan according to the ACLU.

The CIA used the music of an Irish boyband called Westlife to torture Suleiman Abdullah in Afghanistan. His interrogators would intersperse a syrupy song called 'My Love' with heavy metal, played on repeat at ear-splitting volume. They told Suleiman, a newly wed fisherman from Tanzania, that they were playing the love song especially for him.
Suleiman had married his wife Magida only two weeks before the CIA and Kenyan agents abducted him in Somalia, where he had settled while fishing and trading around the Swahili Coast. He would never see Magida again. The music pounded constantly as part of a scheme to assault prisoners’ senses. It stopped only when a CD skipped or needed changing. When that happened, prisoners would call to one another in a desperate attempt to find out who was being held alongside them.

Westlife's reaction

Speaking to Kien Egan of Westlife told RTE 2fm, “If we’re talking about [playing My Love] repeatedly, it probably only took about two hours to actually crack the poor guy with that one.”

After a listener criticised him for saying his own song is an effective torture technique, the 35-year-old added: “I am only trying to shed a bit of light on the subject and have a bit of fun about it all.

“Well look I’m a heavy metal fan as well, I listen to Metallica on repeat.Heavy metal and boybands are two extremes of music, you can understand why they were used. I mean, it is what it is.”

Other songs used

This isn't the first song to be used to torture captives. It isn't even the first student union classic to be used in this way. Famously Eminem's The Real Slim Shady was used on a prisoner in Kabul and Barney the dinosaur's I Love You (another union anthem) has been a staple of American psychological torture techniques for years, as well as Copacabana by Barry Manilow and Born in the USA by Bruce Springsteen.

How effective is it?

Whilst torture hasn't been shown to be an effective method of gaining information (victims will say anything they can - making up information they think the interrogator wants to hear), playing songs repeatedly at loud volume at victims has a profound effect on their state of mind and could have long term effects on their mental health.

The psychological effects of being a long-term Westlife fan are unknown.