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Psychologists for an Ethical APA Protest Torture


The American Psychological Association (APA) holds its annual convention in San Francisco August 17-20, 2007, but a group of psychologists is breaking ranks, claiming use of torture a violation of ethical principles. Psychologists for an Ethical APA protests the APA's condoning its members participation in coercive interrogations in Guatanamo and other detention centers, in clear violation of the Geneva Convention. These psychologists are withholding their dues to protest violations of the APA's own code of ethics.

Katherine Eban, reporting for Vanity Fair, delved into the murky practice of "psychic demolition" in her brilliant July 2007 piece, Rorshach and Awe. Every other organization of health care professionals has come out refusing to participate in torture except the 148,000 member APA. Eban wanted to learn why psychologists were participating in military interrogations. In 2005, an APA Task Force decided, against the objections of some of its members, to adopt the (Donald) Rumsfeld definition of "humane treatment". The US military is one of the largest employers of psychologists, according to Eban's article. She learned that psychologists designed the CIA tactics of interrogation, including waterboarding, forced nudity, extreme temperatures, sexual and religious humiliation, agonizing stress positions and trained interrogators under contract to the CIA. (Bourne Ultimatum redux?)

Two psychologists worked in the Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape (SERE) program: devout Mormons James Elmer Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. An Air Force intelligence expert was "astonished" that clinical psychologists with no intelligence training were turned loose on interrogating suspects in "the real world". SERE trainers then realized they had a marketable commodity - survival training industry - for corporations and government agencies who send employees overseas. Critic John Sifton of Human Rights Watch accuses the pair of psychologists of "offering the CIA and military officials a patina of pseudo-science..." making it appear they could unlock the human mind. Director of Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), Lawrence Rubenstein says it most succinctly, "...ambition to help national security is no excuse for throwing out ethics and science..." PHR has made its position clear - " those who authorize and use CIA enhanced interrogation tactics risk criminal prosecution." CIA memos indicate psychologists are used at interrogations to make violent, dangerous situations "safer".

Dissenting psychologists are demanding a vote on a moratorium against these abysmal practices at the convention. We'll be watching and waiting.

Thank you ManilaRyce for use of photo! DOD photo released 12/02
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