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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 5/5/09

Coalition for an Ethical Psychology Calls for Investigation of American Psychological Association Torture Collusion

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“The Nuremberg defense, and related research ethics problems must be removed from the ethics code if psychology as a profession is to stand on a clear moral foundation. Otherwise ethics will just remain a cover for abuse” stated Dr. Stephen Soldz, of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology.

The listerve further shows that soon after the task force report was finalized, two military members of the task force  [Morgan Banks and Larry James] along with JPRA/SERE psychologist Debra Dunivin brought the PENS report to the Surgeon General of the Army, Lt. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley. Kiley attached the PENS report to BSCT standard operating procedures he issued in 2006.

From the intelligence side, in 2003 the APA collaborated with CIA officials from the Counter Terrorism Center, responsible for the SERE-based enhanced interrogation (torture) program, in organizing a 2003 workshop on the Science of Deception. James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, the chief former SERE psychologists who reportedly designed and implemented the CIA’s interrogation program were present at this invitation-only workshop. The workshop discussed such topics as the use of drugs and sensory overload in overcoming deception.

The close collaboration between APA Defense Department and CIA officials raises serious concerns about possible direct collusion with APA leaders to provide the ethical cover required to keep psychologists involved in this process - of certifying that interrogations were “safe, legal, and ethical” (as required by the OLC memos). Every effort was made during the PENS process to keep the final report consistent with military and administration policy. Thus, when the three non-military members of the Task force raised issues of human rights for detainees, the Chair of the Task force (who was Vice-chair of the APA ethics committee) made clear that the Task force was not to contradict military policy: “[W]e discussed the role of human rights standards for the document, and it seems that our colleagues from the military were clear that including such standards in the document would likely (perhaps definitely) put the document at odds with United States law and military regulations.”

The Coalition for an Ethical Psychology is joining the call of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, Physicians for Human Rights, and others for an independent, unbiased investigation to examine the nature of any collaboration and coordination between the top APA leadership and Bush administration Defense Department and CIA officials. The Coalition also supports calls for a non-partisan commission to examine detainee abuse, including the central roles of psychologists and other health providers in designing, implementing, and legitimizing recent detainee abuse. We further call for ethics sanctions, including loss of professional licenses, and possible criminal prosecution for all health providers found to have participated in torture or abuse.

“The future of psychology as a profession dedicated to helping people depends on investigating and seeking accountability for the assistance provided by some of our colleagues to the horrific abuses committed by our country” said Coalition co-founder Stephen Soldz. “We cannot ignore that the leadership of our professional association may have aided those abuses. In order to build a more humane future, we must look back and see where and how some members of our profession went so terribly wrong.”

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The Coalition for an Ethical Psychology is dedicated to putting psychology on a firm ethical foundation in support of social justice and human rights. The Coalition has been in the lead of efforts to remove psychologists from torture and abusive interrogations.

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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 and is President of Psychologists for Social Responsibility. He was a psychological consultant on two of (more...)
 
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