Yale University has come under fire this week for a proposed research center that will train U.S. Special Operations forces on "interview techniques"—using immigrants from the local community to practice their interrogation skills.
The center, which has been proposed by psychiatry professor Charles Morgan, would be funded by a $1.8 million grant from the Department of Defense and may be in operation as early as April.
The story gained attention after Yale students Nathalie Batraville and Alex Lew published an op-ed in their school newspaper that outlines concerns about the center—including how it will impact New Haven's immigrant community as well as implications of the university aligning itself with the goals of the U.S. military.
Military intelligence "does not exist in a vacuum," the students write. "It is gathered to support a particular foreign policy agenda, the morality of which is not beyond question."
"The techniques soldiers learn at Yale might be used, for example, to identify candidates for President Obama’s 'kill list,' which is itself unethical and likely illegal," they continue. "By training soldiers to perform these interrogations, Yale would be complicit in achieving these goals."
The U.S. military "has objectives and we have to question what those objectives are," Batraville said in an interview with Democracy Now! on Thursday.
Under the auspices of "medical research," Morgan has previously conducted controversial research on interrogation techniques, Democracy Now! reports. The tests monitored the heartbeat of research subjects—all from non-American, Arabic speaking cultures—while they underwent simulated interrogation techniques used by the U.S. military.
In contrast, the newly proposed Yale research center would study the use of 'deception' to draw information out of subjects.
The new facility, U.S. SOCOM Center of Excellence for Operational Neuroscience, would be part of the Yale School of Medicine.
Speaking to Democracy Now!, Michael Siegel, Yale alumnus and professor of community health sciences at Boston University School of Public Health, stated:
Yale has now crossed a line. Using the practice of medicine and medical research to help design advanced interrogation techniques, or even just regular civilian intelligence gathering and interviewing techniques, is not an appropriate use of medicine. The practice of medicine was designed to improve people’s health. And the school of medicine should not be taken part in either training or research that is primarily designed to enhance military objectives.
Highlighting concerns over the proposal for hiring immigrants from the New Haven community as subjects of the research, Ecuadorian immigrant rights leader Dixon Jimenez told ABC News:
It seems quite obvious to me that Yale University, with principles like liberty, equality and justice, shouldn't open a center that uses the immigrant community as test subjects and guinea pigs. Especially if the project has such racially charged undertones.
Likewise, as Batraville and Lew add in their op-ed:
Morgan’s research and, by extension, this proposed center target people of color — brown people exclusively. According to a Yale Herald article, Morgan listed 'Moroccans, Columbians, Nepalese, Ecuadorians and others.' Is there an assumption in Morgan’s desire to use more ‘authentic,’ brown interviewees as test subjects, that brown people lie differently from whites — and even more insidiously, that all brown people must belong to the same 'category' of liar?
In a statement released by Yale University Tuesday in response to the growing concern over the center, the administration confirmed that the center is a possibility and "would initially be funded by the Department of Defense," but added that a formal proposal had not yet been received and the center's methods would be "protected by oversight from Yale's Human Research Protection Program."
An online petition in protest of the center has gathered half of its required signatures.
Democracy Now! has more: