Following Damning Report, American Psychological Association May Prohibit Interrogation Involvement

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Following Damning Report, American Psychological Association May Prohibit Interrogation Involvement

'The legal facade behind which these heinous acts were conducted relied heavily on the cooperation of professional psychologists'—Amy Goodman

The APA may be about to ban participation in terror-related interrogations.(Photo: Justin Norman/flickr/cc)

In the wake of an independent investigation confirming collusion between psychologists and U.S. government officials that aided the CIA and Pentagon's torture program, the American Psychological Association may be on the cusp on banning participation in terror-related interrogations.

James Risen reported Thursday at the New York Times:

The board of the APA, the nation’s largest professional organization for psychologists, is expected to recommend that members approve the ban at its annual meeting in Toronto next week, according to two members of the board, including Susan H. McDaniel, the group’s president-elect. The board’s proposal would make it a violation of the APA’s ethical policies for psychologists to play a role in national security interrogations involving any military or intelligence personnel, even the noncoercive interrogations now conducted by the Obama administration.

An APA press statement dated July 29 also states that its board recommended

that [its] Council adopts the following as APA policy: APA prohibits psychologist participation in interrogation of persons held in custody by military/intelligence authorities. Recommend that Council requests that the 2013 Policy Related to Psychologists' Work in National Security Settings and Reaffirmation of the APA Position Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment be fully implemented

As Amy Goodman wrote this month:

The legal facade behind which these heinous acts [of torturous interrogations 'from the U.S. prison camp in Guantanamo Bay to the dungeons of Abu Ghraib in Iraq and Bagram air base in Afghanistan'] were conducted relied heavily on the cooperation of professional psychologists, who trained and advised the interrogators and supervised the progress of the “breaking” of prisoners. This cooperation, in turn, was dependent on an official seal of approval from the American Psychological Association, the largest professional organization of psychologists in the world. In 2006, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Medical Association both barred their members from taking part in military interrogations.

This month, the APA released a stunning independent report that confirms what whistleblowers and dissident psychologists have maintained for close to a decade, that the APA actively colluded with the U.S. Department of Defense and the CIA, manipulating the APA’s policies, meetings and members in order to get the APA’s endorsement of the Pentagon’s torture program. The association’s board of directors last year commissioned an independent review by former Assistant U.S. Attorney David Hoffman. The 542-page report, dubbed “The Hoffman Report,” undermines the APA’s repeated denials that some of its 130,000 members were complicit in torture.

Several APA officials stepped down following the release of the report.

But psychologists Roy Eidelson and Jean Maria Arrigo wrote at the Los Angeles Times this week that the APA needs to make far-reaching changes, as

it will not be as simple as just cutting ties with the Pentagon, not least because dedicated psychologists provide personnel and training services to the Department of Defense and critical care to our country's soldiers, veterans and their families.

But substantial areas of military and intelligence work are at odds with psychologists' commitment to do no harm. Our profession has yet to address profound ethical challenges posed by national security operations and research in which the intent is to cause injury, or where the targets of intervention have not consented, or where actions are beyond the reach of oversight by outside ethics panels. Without imposing ethical constraints in these contexts, psychologists risk further loss of public trust and the erosion of psychological science.

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