There is one thing I should add to my previous post about the American Psychological Association's role in sanctioning, and perhaps even facilitating, US torture of detainees in Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
While the APA under current president Gerald Koocher has been alarmingly complicit in cultivating the role of psychologists as SERE/BSCT* operators in interrogations, members have also protested. Mark Benjamin reports that when the APA came out with its "ethical" guidelines last year,
[s]everal civilians close to the APA task force criticized the final product for failing to make a clear statement about the excesses of the "war on terror" and failing to explicitly say what psychologists can and cannot do. "It is a bunch of platitudes without any situational reality to it," said Jean Maria Arrigo, a civilian psychologist who served on the APA task force and founder of the Intelligence Ethics Collection at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. "This was not a politically adequate document. There are no specifics in it. We needed to at least say that we can't do waterboarding," Arrigo said. . . .
"Koocher was involved in appointing the task force, he strongly guided and monitored it and had taken the position of representing the document," she said. . . .
Task force member Michael Wessells, a psychology professor at Randolph-Macon College, resigned from the task force in protest early this year. According to his resignation letter, which he provided to Salon, "At the highest levels, the APA has not made a strong, concerted, comprehensive, public and internal response of the kind warranted by the severe human rights violations at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay."
Within hours of the publication of Benjamin's article, longtime APA member Greg Korgeski responded:
[W]hen these "consultations" involve advising the military on things such as the best means to make use of a person's fears and vulnerabilities, on the use of methods such as sleep deprivation and the sexual assault of prisoners to break them down, there is no more honest word than "torture" to describe what they are engaged in. Essentially, the APA is endorsing its members committing war crimes. . . .
I will not be able to continue my membership in the APA unless its policy in support of torture is changed immediately. I know that many of my colleagues must feel the same.
This year's APA conference is just a couple of weeks away (in New Orleans, of all places). Physicians for Human Rights (my employer) is calling on the APA to use the event as an opportunity "to explicitly prohibit its members from designing, implementing, or assisting in interrogations."
The American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association have adopted guidelines prohibiting physicians from directly participating in interrogations. Military guidelines for health personnel, recently revised by Assistant Secretary for Health Affairs, William Winkenwerder, Jr., now express a preference for assigning psychologists, rather than physicians, to the Behavioral Science Consultation Teams (BSCT) in use at Guantanamo and other US detention facilities.
“Psychologists working in the national security setting need and deserve the same ethical protection provided to other health professionals,” stated Leonard Rubenstein, Executive Director of PHR. “The leadership of the APA would do them a great service by bringing their ethical policies regarding interrogation in step with the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association, and explicitly prohibit psychologists from participating in interrogations.”
Seems like the APA meeting could get kind of interesting this year. Here's hoping the APA can clean up its act. And yes, I know that could mean some of those SERE/BSCT operators will be out of a job. But, hey, if they all come down to New Orleans, maybe they can get some work at Guantanamo on the Mississippi.
* SERE refers to the Survive, Evade, Resist, and Escape School, where instructors, including psychologists, teach US Special Forces to resist interrogation by subjecting them to torture techniques they might face if captured. For more on SERE, and the inappropriate role of SERE Instructors in US interrogations, see Mark Benjamin's article from last month, Torture Teachers.