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Report Exposes American Psychological Association Complicity in US Torture Program

APA 'secretly coordinated' with CIA, White House, and Department of Defense to legally and ethically justify post-9/11 atrocities

"There is no evidence that any APA official expressed concern over mounting reports of psychological involvement in detainee abuse," states report. (Photo: casmaron/flickr/cc)

A new report from human rights investigators and medical professionals reveals that the prestigious American Psychological Association secretly helped the administration of former President George W. Bush legally and medically justify its post-9/11 torture program.

The findings are based on emails obtained by James Risen, the New York Times reporter and author who has found himself at the center of a nation-wide debate about free press for refusing to reveal his sources.

The report concludes that the APA "secretly coordinated with officials from the CIA, White House, and the Department of Defense to create an APA ethics policy on national security interrogations that comported with then­-classified legal guidance authorizing the CIA torture program."

Critical legal and ethical cover was provided by the APA in 2004 and 2005 when "the interrogation program faced increasing political, legal, and operational threats," in part due to public revelations of torture at the Abu Ghraib U.S. military prison in Iraq, the report authors note.

For example, the report states:


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A U.S. government research scientist, who had recently served as President Bush’s behavioral science advisor, is reported to have secretly drafted 'language related to research' inserted by APA officials into the 2005 APA ethics policy on interrogations. While the exact language of the alleged contribution is not known, the section on research aligned that policy with the then-­classified Bradbury 'torture memos.' The Bradbury memos directed health professionals to research and assess the supposed safety, efficacy, and health impacts of the 'enhanced' interrogation techniques. The memos were introduced at a time when CIA Office of Medical Services (OMS) personnel were protesting the expanded involvement of health professionals in helping determine the legality of the techniques.

"Despite substantial contact between the APA, the White House and CIA officials, including the over 600 emails noted in this report, there is no evidence that any APA official expressed concern over mounting reports of psychological involvement in detainee abuse during four years of direct email communications with senior members of the U.S. intelligence community," states the report.

Risen wrote in a New York Times article published Thursday about the report, "The involvement of health professionals in the Bush-era interrogation program was significant because it enabled the Justice Department to argue in secret opinions that the program was legal and did not constitute torture, since the interrogations were being monitored by health professionals to make sure they were safe."

The three lead authors of the report are described by Risen as "longtime and outspoken critics of the association."

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