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American and California Psychological Associations move to gut bill on interrogations

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A major battle is shaping up in California where a coalition is working to remove health providers from participating in military and CIA interrogations. I have written recently about efforts in the California legislature to get health professionals, psychologists included, out of interrogation of enemy combatants. Senator Ridley-Thomas has introduced a resolution that would request the military and CIA to remove all California licenses health providers from involvement in interrogations. [For arguments in favor of the Resolution, see the Physicians for Human Rights letter to the Senate committee.] There was a hearing on Monday (January 14) at which proponents of the Resolution spoke. At this hearing the California Psychological Association (CPA) and the American Psychological Association (APA) together proposed a revised resolution. While appearing to be a slight modification, the APA-CPA revisions would completely gut the Resolution.

In particular, by inserting three words [bolded below], the APA/CPA entirely change the meaning of the critical Resolved clause. Rather than follow the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association and state that involvement in interrogations is in conflict with the ethics of a health profession, they would turn this into another vacuous statement against torture, as if everyone, even those who order it, doesn't claim to be against torture:
Resolved, That the Legislature hereby requests the United States Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency to remove all California-licensed health professionals, including, but not limited to, physicians and psychologists, from participating in any way in prisoner and detainee interrogations that involve torture, in view of their respective ethical obligations, the record of abusive interrogation practices, and the Legislature's interest in protecting California health professionals from the risk of criminal liability; and be it further

The APA-CPA revision would make this Resolution even weaker than APA resolutions, which condemn not only torture, but the similar but legally distinct "cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment."

Notice also that, in order to make this change palatable, they totally distort the fundamental guidelines of the World Medical Association, as you can see from the language they want remove, here indicated by italics:
WHEREAS, The World Medical Association (WMA) issued guidelines stating that physicians shall not use nor allow to be used their medical knowledge or skills, or health information specific to individuals, to facilitate or otherwise aid any interrogation, legal or illegal; and

WHEREAS, The guidelines issued by the WMA also state that physicians shall not participate in or facilitate torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading procedures of prisoners or detainees in any situations;

In the category of the humorous, if it wasn't an indicator of how closely allied with the military the APA is, is that they remove the word "military" from a phrase pointing to the clear record that psychologists participated in abuse
WHEREAS, Evidence in the public record indicates that certain military psychologists, working on behalf of the United States government, participated in the design and implementation of psychologically abusive interrogation methods used at Guantanamo Bay, in Iraq, and elsewhere, including sleep deprivation, long-term isolation, sexual and cultural humiliation, forced nudity, induced hypothermia and other temperature extremes, stress positions, sensory bombardment, manipulation of phobias, force-feeding hunger strikers, and more.

Also in the category of macabre humor is the APA's wish to revise history and strike "psychologists" from the list of professionals reported to have participated in abuse:
WHEREAS, in 2002, for the first time in American history, the Bush administration initiated a radical new policy allowing the torture of prisoners of war and other captives with confirmed reports from the International Red Cross, The New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet (British medical journal), military records and first-person accounts stating that California licensed physicians, psychologists, and nurses have participated in torture or its cover up against detainees in U.S. custody

They are correct, of course, that it was not only military psychologists who participated in abuse, as CIA and CIA consultants are also known to have participated in torture and abuse. Yet they add the word military when they suggest adding a largely false statement [only one psychologist, Michael Gelles, is clearly documented to have objected to abuse, and Gelles was a civilian, not a "military" psychologist at the time] about psychologists objecting to abuse:
while evidence in the public record also indicates that certain military psychologists objected to the use of such methods

Here is the entire revised CPA-APA draft of the Resolution. Language they want removed is indicated with italics, while that they added is bolded:

RESOLUTION: MILITARY TORTURE AND HEALTH PROFESSIONALS
(Draft: 1-3-08)

WHEREAS, the citizens of the United States of America and the residents of the State of California acknowledge January 15th as the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and mark the third Monday in January as a federal and state holiday to commemorate his life work as a Civil Rights leader, activist and an internationally acclaimed proponent of human rights who warned: "He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it," and


WHEREAS, in 2002, for the first time in American history, the Bush administration initiated a radical new policy allowing the torture of prisoners of war and other captives with confirmed reports from the International Red Cross, The New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet (British medical journal), military records and first-person accounts stating that California licensed physicians, psychologists, and nurses have participated in torture or its cover up against detainees in U.S. custody; and

WHEREAS, in honor of the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a broad coalition of medical, human rights and legal organizations are petitioning the State of California to warn its medical licensees of the legal prohibitions against torture and the risks of prosecution, and are demanding that the U.S. Government remove California doctors and psychologists from interrogation and torture of detainees; and

WHEREAS, Dr. King challenged Americans to remain true to their most basic values, stating: "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy," and

WHEREAS, Californians to Stop Medical Torture are carrying petition signatures to the California State Senate, asking that the Senate warn California licensed physicians, psychologists, nurses and other health care workers of possible future prosecution for participation in torture -- cruel and degrading practices that have become a national shame;

WHEREAS, Health professionals licensed in California, including, but not limited to physicians, osteopaths, naturopaths, psychologists, psychiatric workers, and nurses, have and continue serve nobly and honorably in the armed services of the United States; and

WHEREAS, United States Army regulations and the War Crimes Act, relative to the treatment of prisoners of war, state in Common Article III of the Geneva Conventions and in the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) require that all military personnel report and not engage in acts of abuse or torture; and

WHEREAS, the CAT defines the term torture as "any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity"; and

WHEREAS, in 2002, the United States Department of Justice reinterpreted national and international law related to the treatment of prisoners of war in a manner that purported to justify long-prohibited interrogation methods and treatment of detainees; and

WHEREAS, Physicians and other medical personnel and psychologists serving in noncombatant roles are bound by international law and professional ethics to care for enemy prisoners and to report any evidence of coercion, or abuse of detainees; and

WHEREAS, The World Medical Association (WMA) issued guidelines stating that physicians shall not use nor allow to be used their medical knowledge or skills, or health information specific to individuals, to facilitate or otherwise aid any interrogation, legal or illegal; and

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Stephen Soldz is psychoanalyst, psychologist, public health researcher, and faculty member at the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis. He is co-founder of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology (more...)
 
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