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All the President’s Psychologists: APA’s Secret Complicity with Gov’t in Support of CIA Torture Program

In APA, Archive, CIA, Politics, Terrorism, Torture, USA on May 8, 2015 at 9:27 PM

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04/30/2015

James Risen/NYTimes:

The American Psychological Association secretly collaborated with the administration of President George W. Bush to bolster a legal and ethical justification for the torture of prisoners swept up in the post-Sept. 11 war on terror, according to a new report by a group of dissident health professionals and human rights activists.

The report is the first to examine the association’s role in the interrogation program. It contends, using newly disclosed emails, that the group’s actions to keep psychologists involved in the interrogation program coincided closely with efforts by senior Bush administration officials to salvage the program after the public disclosure in 2004 of graphic photos of prisoner abuse by American military personnel at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

“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 which comported with then-classified legal guidance authorizing the CIA torture program,” the report’s authors conclude.

The three lead authors of the report are longtime and outspoken critics of the association: Stephen Soldz, a clinical psychologist and professor at the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis; Steven Reisner, a clinical psychologist and founding member of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology; and Nathaniel Raymond, the director of the Signal Program on Human Security and Technology at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, and the former director of the campaign against torture at Physicians for Human Rights.

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 interrogation program has since been shut down, and last year the Senate Intelligence Committee issued a detailed report that described the program as both ineffective and abusive.

Rhea Farberman, a spokeswoman for the American Psychological Association, denied that the group had coordinated its actions with the government. There “has never been any coordination between APA and the Bush administration on how APA responded to the controversies about the role of psychologists in the interrogations program,” she said.

Last November, the association’s board ordered an independent review of the organization’s role in the interrogation program. That review, led by David Hoffman, a Chicago lawyer, is now underway.

“We have been given a mandate by the APA to be completely independent in our investigation, and that is how we have been conducting our inquiry,” Mr. Hoffman said. “We continue to gather evidence and talk with witnesses and expect to complete the investigation later this spring.”

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Related Link: Psychologist Not Named In Torture Report Confirms His Role in CIA Interrogation Program

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