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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 6/18/09

Former American Psychological Association President had long time CIA connection

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Nathaniel Raymond, of Physicians for Human Rights has posted a piece on the PHR blog discussing Jane Mayer's blockbuster revelation last weekend that former American Psychological Association [APA] President Joseph Matarazzo had a long relationship with the CIA, serving on itsprofessional-standards board. This relationship antedated the creation of the agency's "enhanced interrogations" torture program. This new information helps put in perspective the revelation in an NPR interview by Navy psychologist [and former APA ethics policy-maker] Bryce Lefever that Matarazzo had been recruiting SERE psychologists to "do their duty" to protect the country in the summer of 2001, before 911! The nature of the pre-911 activities for which Matarazzo was recruiting assistance are still secret. We also don't know what was involved in serving on the agency's professional-standards board.

Suspicions of Matarazzo's CIA connection are not new. It was reported in 2007 that Matarazzo was on the board of Mitchell Jessen & Associates, the consulting firm owned by  former SERE psychologists that designed and implemented the CIA torture program, for $1,000 a day, plus expenses. As is par for the course, Matarazzo then issued a non-denial denial, in which, as had Mitchell and Jessen previously, he denied he had participated in torture and stated that he abhorred torture. He, of course like Mitchell and Jessen before him, neglected to mention his opinion of the CIA's "enhanced interrogation" program.

In response to the revelations of Matarazzo's involvement, the APA  immediately denied that Matarazzo was presently involved in "APA governance," just as they had previously denied that Mitchell and Jessen were members. But, just as they neglected to mention that they had included Mitchell and Jessen in their invitation-only 2003 CIA-APA-Rand workshop on the Science of Deception at which enhanced interrogation tactics were discussed, so they appeared unfazed that a former APA President was possibly involved in the CIA's torture program. Of course, the fact that this CIA-connected psychologist and former President was still actively involved in the APA's foundation, potentially giving him influence over what projects were funded, was acknowledged but promtly forgotten, never to be mentioned again. The APA never publicly commented again about this former President's possible torture connection. They certainly took no steps to learn more or to determine if others connected to the APA had been involved in the U.S. torture efforts.

One wonders how many other former APA Presidents and other officials will eventually be found to be CIA or other intelligence agency connected. As Raymond emphasizes-- and as  the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology, Psychologists for Social Responsibility, Psychologists for an Ethical APA, and Physicians For Human Rights, have all called for  -- we desperately need a Commission of Inquiry to look into the torture psychologists and the assistance given them by the APA. The organization, and the profession, cannot go on as if nothing but a few misjudgments occurred.

Another implicit revelation in the Mayer article is that, as long suspected, former CIA psychologist Kirk Hubbard was apparently intimately involved with the creation of the torture program. If he was not closely involved, he could not state, true or not, that Dr. Matarazzo was not consulted about the interrogations. Of course, Hubbard's claim that Matarazzo was not involved is almost impossible to believe since he was on the board of the CIA's preferred torture consulting firm until the publicity after the release of the Office of Legal Counsel torture memos apparently caused the CIA to cancel the Mitchell Jessen & Associates contract that the Obama CIA had just renewed in February.

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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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