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The Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Show Podcast

Stephen Soldz, On The Successful Campaign To Stop Psychologists From Enabling Torture

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Permalink Headlined to H4 8/13/15

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(image by Dr. Stephen Soldz)   DMCA

Stephen Soldz is a professor at the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis

Cofounder of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychogy

When I met him he was president of Psychologists for Social Responsibility.

Anti-torture consultant for Physicians for Human Rights and consultant on several guantanamo trials.

He's also written over 140 articles published at

Rough Interview Notes (mostly my questions, and quotes by my guest are often incomplete)

Rob: When we met, about five years ago, you were working on getting the APA-- the American Psychological Association-- to change their policy on torture and psychologists.

At CIA James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen-- two psychologists designing and doing water boarding.

At defense department psychologists were advising on how to break prisoners down.

APA said psychologists don't torture but it's okay to be present.

Rob: I remember that at the conference I attended of Psychologists for SOcial Responsibility, there was a rule that psychologist's presence was required.

In order for something to be torture it has to cause severe, long lasting harm, especially in the psychological realm. If a psychologist said a person was strong, and it wouldn't cause longterm harm, then they were covered.

Psychiatrists had opted out because it was unethical. So psychologists were basically a get out of jail card for the govt.

We were arguing this for many years but it's only gotten major traction in the past few years.

Rob: Why

Last year James Risen" published a new book, Pay Any Price" at the end there was a new section on the role of the American Psychological Association. Risen had obtained emails from a deceased CIA contractor name-- over 600 emails between APA, CIA, DOD and White House CCed.

They showed that when the APA created it they wrote to the CIA...

Kirk Hubbard had just resigned from the CIA (top behavioral scientist at CIA when he retired)and worked for Mitchell and Jessen

This demonstrated that the CIA had relationship with Mitchell and Jessen and they were thanking" for initiating the ethics process.

The APA issued a statement from the board attacking Risen as a lousy reporter. It didn't fly too well with Risen, of the NY Times.

The APA appointed an independent investigator name". David Hoffman

There was a small group of the APA actively doing this. Others were complicit and believed the lies that APA's policies were designed to prevent torture and psychologists were present to prevent abuse-- the cover story the APA had. I alone wrote over 100 articles demolishing it.

Hoffman's investigation showed the opposite that the APA had directly colluded with the defense department to create ethic policies that would not constrain any activities that psychologists engaged in. Hoffman concluded that the APA engaged in a false and deceptive campaign"

This caused major problems. To the credit of the board, when they were about to get the report, at the end of june, they must have been briefed

they asked my colleague Steven Reisner and myself advice

We met with them on July 2nd a

We told them that their response should be based on five principles.

contrition, accountability, transparency, inclusiveness and commitment to genuine change

We advocated major reforms within the APA so the organization would not go through th is again, to become more transparent and not the secret organization it had become.

10 July the report was released by the NY Times

At the APA convention last week, ". approved a resolution NBI 23B-- what this was did was to say that it was not ethical for psychologists to participate in national security interrogations in any way directly" to get them out of the interrogation business, except for broad policy issues, but

The resolution finally puts teeth to a referendum that was adopted by the membership in 2008.

It passed overwhelmingly but the management undermined it.

APA is not going to put the government on notice that psychologists at Guantanamo will be gone.

APA explicitly said that any site that uses Appendix N is in violation of APA policy and violation of international law.

Now the APA has the firmest policy regarding"

Several members were forced to resign or take early retirement=- so the APA is now providing a model.

Rob: So who were the bad guys-- the ones who made the deal with the CIA and DOD--

it was APA policy to keep the DOD happy.

The entire staff and board have been involved to one extent or another.

That said many at the

The central person was Stephen Behnkey, the ethics person at the APA. He was always at the forefront of pushing APA policies. The Hoffman report showed that every word of policy had loopholes. They would accuse of being paranoid. Hoffman found that the policies were sent to the defense department to get wording changes.

The Board removed four individuals and fired Behnkey, and their PR director has resigned.

It was a pervasive process. Every board for the past ten years, every elected president has made false statements, denouncing us and saying that APA was defending human rights.

The APA over the last decade, lacked curiosity"

We knew in 2006-- the conflicts of interest, the way the ethics policy group had a lot of people on the payroll of the military-- it was a setup and the people who chose not to realize there was a problem" they failed in their duty.

Rob: Have they cleaned house? have the done an adequate job

They've started on the path. There's at least one person we believe doesn't belong there. "

The current present and former presidents have written mea culpas saying how could they have guessed that there were abuses join on at Guantanamo. It's hard to believe that they didn't have a clue. I'm cautiously optimistic on the current leadership" trust but verify.

Rob Kall: Who's the person still remaining

Natalie Gilfoyle-- their chief lawyer. There was a classic conflict of interest-- Hoffman describes this as a classic conflict of interest and Natalie Gilfoyle was aware of it and didn't point it out" we're quite concerned as long as she's there she can continue making legal decisions that will undermine future reforms.

Rob: Like what?

APA has been ruled by lawyers to a great degree and this has been a real problem. I think Gilfoyle has created a culture where the lawyers were used to make things stay the same rather than change things.

Rob: Last words

I'm optimistic. We're still working on reforming the organization, but we're going to trust but verify. I hope that a climate of bullying that silenced dissidents is over" Bullying succeeds when people are bystanders and people have to say no the bullies.

Rob: Has anything been changed to cause that?

Rob: You've worked on this as an activist for 9 years What did you learn

It was possible for a very small group to have a huge effect because we had a focal point -- that the psychologists were essential to the torture program" we realized that by affecting the APA we didn't have to go directly after the Bush admin.

1- we realized we had this struggles often don't have.

2- we realized that this was a matter of collusion and not just bad policy, we had to go out side the APA-- writing 100 articles on this issue it was essential to put outside p reassure on the APA. We made alliances with human rights groups, groups in other countries and how to work with the press. Meanwhile we were also fighting on the inside of the APA, so it was an inside outside struggle, always designed to exert pressure. Since we knew how they had manipulated wording, we were not going to allow them to weasel.

It was a mass, decentralized movement. We always had a lot of allies.

One thing we learned

Rob: What was your experience with OpEdNews. There weren't that many alternative.

Rob: You have new projects

The interrogation controversy ". operational psychology-- what is and isn't ethical in military. What kinds of uses are and are not ethical.

Rob: Operational psychologists are military psychologists aiding the military, not ones treating troops" hostage negotiations, interrogations,

Psychology has an ethics code but it it's more about risk management, how not to get in trouble, not what's the right thing to do.

Rob: That's not something taught?

It's a scandal that the main person behind the torture conclusion was the ethic person at APA

Rob: What about the application of positive psychology.

that would be an example where the wasn't a grappling of the ethics. We critiqued them in a piece on OpEdNews--- and possibly causing harm to troops by ignoring moral injury.

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Rob Kall has spent his adult life as an awakener and empowerer-- first in the field of biofeedback, inventing products, developing software and a music recording label, MuPsych, within the company he founded in 1978-- Futurehealth, and founding, organizing and running 3 conferences: Winter Brain, on Neurofeedback and consciousness, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology (a pioneer in the field of Positive Psychology, first presenting workshops on it in 1985) and Storycon Summit Meeting on the Art Science and Application of Story-- each the first of their kind. Then, when he found the process of raising people's consciousness and empowering them to take more control of their lives one person at a time was too slow, he founded which has been the top search result on Google for the terms liberal news and progressive opinion for several years. Rob began his Bottom-up Radio show, broadcast on WNJC 1360 AM to Metro Philly, also available on iTunes, covering the transition of our culture, business and world from predominantly Top-down (hierarchical, centralized, authoritarian, patriarchal, big) to bottom-up (egalitarian, local, interdependent, grassroots, archetypal feminine and small.) Recent long-term projects include a book, Bottom-up-- The Connection Revolution, debillionairizing the planet and the Psychopathy Defense and Optimization Project.

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