False claims, character assassination, and bullying threats. It probably sounds familiar, but I'm not referring to the president's latest tweets. Rather, I'm describing the piece by Sally Harvey--titled "Hoffman Report's flaws should be acknowledged"--in the latest issue of The National Psychologist.
The retired colonel would like readers to believe that military psychologists played no role in the abuse and torture of war-on-terror prisoners. Remarkably, The National Psychologist is now offering continuing education credits to anyone who's willing to play along. But the truth lies elsewhere. And while Humpty Dumpty tried to convince a young Alice that words meant whatever he wanted them to mean, we know better. The evidence that psychologists were involved in the abusive treatment of detainees is now beyond dispute.
When the CIA went looking for practitioners of torture for its black sites, we know they gave multi-million dollar contracts to two psychologists who had retired from the military just months earlier (one was a member of the American Psychological Association at that time). We also know that, for well over a decade post-9/11, some active duty military psychologists at Guantanamo were cogs in a detention and interrogation machine once described by the Red Cross as "tantamount to torture." Indeed, a Bush Administration official refused to refer a Guantanamo detainee for trial because she concluded that his treatment met the legal definition of torture. And the UN special rapporteur on torture has warned that indefinite detention without due process is itself cruel, inhuman, and degrading.
At the same time, Harvey's distortions about the Hoffman Report are reminiscent of an amusement park's hall of mirrors. Consider that the core, documented finding of the independent review is compellingly simple: key leaders of the APA and representatives of the military worked together behind the scenes to ensure that psychologists would be able to continue their involvement in detainee operations at Guantanamo--operations that were repeatedly condemned by international human rights organizations. There's no denying that this often-covert collaboration succeeded for a very long time, despite significant concerns repeatedly raised by many APA members. Only after its full extent was finally revealed by the Hoffman Report in 2015 did APA institute the policy reforms that now prohibit military psychologists' involvement with Guantanamo detainees.
Finally, Harvey's attempts to impeach the integrity of Stephen Soldz and Steven Reisner are outrageous. For years, I've witnessed firsthand their commitment to pursuing the facts, preserving the profession's do-no-harm ethics, and protecting the vulnerable and disadvantaged. I'm familiar with the countless (unpaid) hours they--as well as other like-minded psychologists--have devoted to exposing the realities of APA's tragic missteps on the torture front, all while facing a years-long campaign of denials, stonewalling, and personal attacks from association leaders. These latest efforts to smear their reputations are more of the same, desperation tactics that will ultimately fail as well.
In sum, the stories Sally Harvey tells are an unfortunate--and potentially dangerous--distraction from the hard work ahead. We must resist misguided efforts that attempt to rewrite history by denying past wrongs and calamitous choices. Certainly, we owe this to those who have suffered at psychology's hands; we owe it to the profession; and we owe it to the generation of psychologists that will follow us.