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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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After succeeding in getting the PENS task force to endorse the continued involvement of psychologists in the interrogation program, congratulations were in order among the small number of behavioral scientists with connections to the national security community who had been part of the effort. In a July 2005 e-mail to Hubbard from Geoffrey Mumford (on which Gerwehr was copied), Mumford thanked Hubbard for helping to influence the outcome of the task force. "I also wanted to semi-publicly acknowledge your personal contribution... in getting this effort off the ground," Mumford wrote. "Your views were well represented by very carefully selected task force members." Mumford also noted that Susan Brandon had served as an "observer" at the PENS task force meetings and "helped craft some language related to research" for the task force report. (p. 200).

In unmistakable terms, the APA's Science Policy Director Mumford first thanked Hubbard -- a top CIA official with close professional ties to Mitchell and Jessen -- for initiating the collaboration that led to the PENS report and then assured him that the task force members were carefully chosen with Hubbard's own expressed objectives in mind. As well, the same email reveals that part of the responsibility for drafting the PENS report -- a report that was supposed to reflect a full and careful consideration of the APA's ethics code -- was given to Susan Brandon, who only weeks earlier was working for the Bush White House.

Beyond the evidence highlighted here, Risen also offers a broader description of psychologists' and the APA's involvement with and acquiescence to U.S. government torture and abuse. Based on his research, he reports that those psychologists who supported the White House and CIA agenda "were showered with government money and benefits," and that the APA "worked assiduously to protect the psychologists who did get involved in the torture program." Risen also notes that changes to the APA's ethics code in 2002 "gave greater professional cover for psychologists who had been helping to monitor and oversee harsh interrogations." Indeed, he suggests that the entire "enhanced interrogation" program may have depended upon the willingness of the APA to go along with it. Finally, he refers to the desperate "spin control" that absorbed senior APA staff once journalists began to uncover the extent to which psychologists played essential roles in the torture program.

It is reasonable to wonder whether Risen's investigative work will matter. For the past decade the APA's leadership has repeatedly denied any collaboration with the military or intelligence agencies that engaged in torture and abuse. Such APA statements have consistently been coupled with a professed resolute commitment to defend the profession's do-no-harm ethics. Even when these pronouncements have strained credulity, the APA's rank-and-file members -- eager to believe that critics' assertions could not possibly be true -- have accepted the claims of innocence and independence. This insistent benefit of the doubt, along with unwarranted deference to APA's leaders, continues to insulate the Association from calls for investigations, accountability, and reform. To date, no psychologist has been held accountable for involvement in the abuse and torture of detainees, and no APA official has been held accountable for facilitating or protecting government programs that violated core professional ethics.

Several questions will be answered in the days immediately ahead, as the world's largest organization of psychologists grapples with the damning revelations in Pay Any Price. Will APA members once again dutifully follow the Association's leaders and drink from a polluted well of tired cliches and obfuscating language? Will they still find feeble justifications and implausible denials palatable? Or will the membership and the governing Council of Representatives finally demand the substantive independent investigation that is so long overdue? With the profession's ethics and credibility hanging in the balance, we believe it is certainly time to hold the APA accountable for the choices it has made.

Note: This essay first appeared in Counterpunch.

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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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