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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 10/14/14

New Evidence Links CIA to APA's "War on Terror" Ethics

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But it is unclear how or why these particular invitees would be considered well suited to provide instruction to the APA on psychological ethics. Indeed Risen suggests a different motivation:

The invitation to the lunch meeting showed that the APA was opening the door to psychologists and other behavioral science experts inside the government's national security apparatus to provide advice and guidance about how to address the furor over the role of psychologists in torture before the APA went to its own membership. The insiders were being given a chance to influence the APA's stance before anyone else. (p. 199)

According to Gerwehr's emails, APA's Behnke also highlighted the following in his invitation:

I would like to emphasize that we will not advertise the meeting other than this letter to the individual invitees, that we will not publish or otherwise make public the names of attendees or the substance of our discussions, and that in the meeting we will neither assess nor investigate the behavior of any specific individual or group. (p. 198)

It is difficult to discern how such constraints and reassurances could have served the interests of the public or the profession, or how they could have helped "sort out appropriate from inappropriate uses of psychology" as Behnke stated in his invitation. Rather, these pre-conditions ensured that the actions of the psychologists in question would be protected from scrutiny rather than questioned -- and that the CIA and DOD would take the lead role in establishing the ethics for psychologists in U.S. counter-terrorism and counter-intelligence activities. The national security psychologists would also guide the APA's response to resistance or uproar from the public or its own members.

From this private meeting of undisclosed participants emerged a proposal for the creation of the APA's Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security (PENS). This task force met in June of 2005 at APA headquarters in Washington, DC. The small group quickly decided that it was ethical for psychologists to serve in various national security-related roles, including as consultants to detainee interrogations. Risen describes the events leading up to the weekend meeting this way:

Gerwehr's e-mails show for the first time the degree to which behavioral science experts from within the government's national security apparatus played roles in shaping the PENS task force. They show that APA officials were secretly working behind the scenes with CIA and Pentagon officials to discuss how to shape the organization's position to be supportive of psychologists involved in interrogations -- long before the task force was even formed. (p. 197)

In this regard, critics have long noted irregularities and possible collusion in the PENS process and the report itself. For example, most members selected for the task force worked for the military or intelligence agencies, and several had served in chains of command where detainee abuses reportedly took place. There were several participant-observers whose identities were never officially disclosed; among them were Susan Brandon, who had just recently left a position at the White House, and Russ Newman, a senior APA official whose spouse was a BSCT psychologist at Guantanamo. APA staff withheld the names of the task force members in response to press inquiries, and these names never appeared on the published report. The APA Board quickly adopted the PENS report in an inexplicable "emergency" session, without bringing it to the Association's full governing body for review. The report included language nearly identical to the DOD language provided to the task force before the meeting had even started -- namely, that psychologists serve to keep detention and interrogation operations safe, legal, ethical, and effective. And the task force and report prioritized the Bush Administration's contorted interpretations of U.S. law over longstanding and broadly respected principles of international human rights law and health profession ethics.

Another email in Gerwehr's archive reinforces these significant concerns. As Risen writes:

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Roy Eidelson is a psychologist who studies, writes about, and consults on the role of psychological issues in political, organizational, and group conflict settings. He is a past president of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, a member of (more...)
 

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