On the screen, we see a grainy video of a man strapped to a gurney. His eyes roll around as he arches his neck, trying to see what his captor is doing behind him. We, the viewers, watch what he cannot as a black gloved hand inserts a cassette tape into a rectangular box, snapping it shut.
Suddenly, a wall of distorted sound. I look away from the screen, flinching from what must be a look of terror on the man’s face. But, as I turn back I see that the man’s posture has relaxed. Leaning in, I am able to observe that his fingers are tapping the gurney in time to the furious pummelling and shouting.
“What you’re seeing is an enhanced interrogation technique used by the CIA between 2006 and 2008.”
I am in the company of an intelligence consultant whose character it will not be necessary to flesh out. Just imagine a sort of stereotypical deep-throat from “The X Files” or “24” and you’ll have invested enough imagination to serve our purpose.
“They’re trying to extract information by blasting Metallica’s “Kill ‘Em All” at maximum volume in an enclosed space. In typical CIA style, however, they haven’t done their research. The man strapped to the table in Mohammad Bin Hilal Al Rashid, bass player of Desecrated Sarcophagus, a blackened death metal band who had just begun to make a name for themselves on Cairo’s extreme music circuit when Al Rashid was picked up by the CIA for, “having a beard,” and, “looking swarthy.
“Most captives subjected to this technique cracked during the first song. The interrogator played half of the album to Al Rashid before deciding he wasn’t going to break. After the guard stops the tape and takes off his protective ear muffs, Al Rashid comments on Dave Mustaine’s guitar work and asks if the guard has any Anthrax.”
Generic Deep-Throat guy shakes his head at the CIA’s incompetence, closing the video file and opening another. “So they changed tack.”
Same man, same gurney. Same grainy video showing a top-down view of the interrogation room.
Al Rashid is twitching and fidgeting again. He doesn’t know what’s in store but he seems to sense it isn’t thrash metal.
A guard brings forward an easel and sets it down next to the gurney, a black sheet draped over it.
“We want names. Who was visiting the warehouse where we found the fuses?”
“I… don’t know,” Rashid says, panicked. “I was in the wrong place. I’d heard that Unholy Pyramid were doing a secret show but I couldn’t find it.”
The guard grasps the black sheet.
After a threatening pause, the sheet is yanked away to reveal a board with a single word.
The blood seems to drain from Al Rashid’s face.
“Why?” he asks, his breathy voice barely audible. “Why doesn’t the S come before the C?”
The guard takes away the board and a moment later returns, the black sheet once again covering the easel.
“Now, let’s try that again. Who had been visiting the warehouse?”
“I don’t know,” Al Rashid repeats, flustered now. “I hadn’t even-“
Suddenly, the guard seizes the sheet again.
“No…” Al Rashid whispers before the sheet is pulled away again.
Al Rashid’s mouth hangs open, aghast.
“That’s… That’s not how you say it…”
Before he can collect his thoughts, the guard is back again with the easel.
“Tell us about the warehouse, Mohammad! We know you met with Ahmad Rasmallah there! You did meet him, didn’t you?”
But Al Rashid isn’t listening. His eyes are fixed on the sheet now, wondering what horror it obscures.
“No!” he whispers.
“Yes!” he shouts. “I met him! I met them all!”
“Names!” shouts the interrogator.
“I don’t know! I don’t-“
A scream and suddenly, the screen is blank.
Deep-Throat Guy removes his artlessly imagined grimy spectacles and starts wiping them on his shirt.
“The tape ends here, but according to the report the CIA man wrote, they continued for more than an hour. Ameoba. Diarrhoa. Aficionado. The list goes on. Apparently, after February, he sang like a canary and named half the population of Egypt.
Before I leave, Deep-Throat Guy shares one last chilling thought.
“And this was just one metalhead. We might never know the scale of this.”
At the time of going to press, lawyers working for Amnesty International were putting together a case on behalf of Mr Al Rashid, arguing that the silent Gs in Phlegm and Impugn violated his right not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment.