30+ torture memos remain sealed while thousands of torture photos will eventually be released. Be prepared: Learn the deep history of US torture in SERE, Vietnam, Latin America, GMTO, Black Sites and beyond in American Torture.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Why I'm Leaving APA

Posted by Valtin at 12:22 AM |

I’m sending a letter off to the American Psychological Association (APA) explaining my decision to resign membership from that organization. The text of the letter follows below (with hypertext links added here to assist the reader with context).

January 27, 2008

Alan E. Kazdin, Ph.D.
President, American Psychological Association
750 First Street, NE
Washington, DC 20002-4232


Dear Dr. Kazdin,

I hereby resign my membership in the American Psychological Association (APA). I have up until now been working with Psychologists for an Ethical APA for an overturn in APA policy on psychologist involvement in national security interrogations, and I greatly respect those who are fighting via a dues boycott to influence APA policy on this matter. I hope to still work with these principled and dedicated professionals, but I cannot do it anymore from a position within APA.




Unlike some others who have left APA, my resignation is not based solely on the stance APA has taken regarding the participation of psychologists in national security interrogations. Rather, I view APA’s shifting position on interrogations to spring from a decades-long commitment to serve uncritically the national security apparatus of the United States. Recent publications and both public and closed professional events sponsored by APA have made it clear that this organization is dedicated to serving the national security interests of the American government and military, to the extent of ignoring basic human rights practice and law. The influence of the Pentagon and the CIA in APA activities is overt and pervasive, if often hidden. The revelations over the constitution and behavior of the 2005 Psychological Ethics and National Security (PENS) panel are a case in point. While charged with investigating the dilemmas for psychologists involved in military interrogations in the light of the scandals surrounding Guanatamo’s Camp Delta and Abu Ghraib prison, it was stacked with military and governmental personnel, and closely monitored and pressured by APA staff.

I strongly disagree with APA’s current position on interrogations, and am unimpressed with recent clarifications to that position that allows for voluntary non-participation in specifically defined cases where torture and abuse of prisoners is proved to exist. I have discussed my reasoning for this elsewhere, both blogging on the Internet and in public. In 2007, I was a panelist in the “mini-convention,” which examined the dispute over interrogations held at the APA Convention in San Francisco, presenting my findings on secret and non-secret psychologist research into isolation, sensory deprivation and sensory overload.

I will briefly review my objections to APA policy and practices, then place them in the context of current APA institutional objectives and goals. I find the latter to be antithetical to the ideals of an ethical and beneficent organization promoting psychological knowledge and practice.

*** APA’s position on non-involvement in torture allows psychologists to work in settings that do not allow the basic right of habeas corpus, in addition to practices of humane confinement as delineated in the Conventions of the Geneva Protocols and various international documents and treaties.

*** APA maintains in private communications that relegating various modes of psychological torture (sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, isolation) and the use of drugs in interrogations to something less than outright prohibition in recent APA position papers does not mean APA had any intention of providing a “loophole” for interrogators in the practice of coercive interrogations. APA also promises to clarify its position on these matters in an “ethics casebook.” When it has found it exigent, as on the PENS resolution, to step outside normal procedure to clarify its position, it has done so. I find it noteworthy that recent APA clarifications of its position are treated as something requiring less than direct organizational expression.

*** APA continues to propagate a position that it knows is not true, specifically that psychologists operate in interrogation settings to prevent abusive interrogations. While sometimes citing the compelling conclusions about context and behavior outlined by Zimbardo, and stemming from his famous Prisoner Experiment, it twists the representation of this research by making psychologists into a quasi-police force monitoring abusive interrogations. On the contrary, the Zimbardo research leads to a more unsettling conclusion, i.e., that human beings in general are susceptible to participation in abusive behavior based upon contextual factors. In fact, the Zimbardo research argues, as Dr. Zimbardo himself has done, against participation in these kinds of interrogations.

*** APA has shown precious little interest in the many revelations regarding psychologist participation in torture, or in psychologist research into abusive or coercive interrogations. Excepting only a brief period in the late 1970s, when widespread and public exposure of CIA mind control programs raised considerable scandal, APA has shown little inclination to confront the history of psychologist participation in such research, nor of its own institutional role in this research.

*** Finally, recent APA activities, such as the joint CIA/Rand Corporation/APA July 2003 workshop in the “Science of Deception,” point to questionable current participation in unethical practices and illegal governmental activities. I queried relevant actors and APA leaders as to what actually occurred at this workshop, which the APA Science Directorate described as discussing how to use “pharmacological agents to affect apparent truth-telling behavior?” Also considered was the study of “sensory overloads on the maintenance of deceptive behaviors,” with workshop participants asked, “How might we overload the system or overwhelm the senses and see how it affects deceptive behaviors?” I never received any answer from relevant APA personnel, including the current director of ethics, about what was going on at this workshop.

The latter episode captures the terrible trap into which APA has fallen. When making agreements with state intelligence and military agencies, it is usual that secrecy agreements are signed. This makes it impossible to reasonably assess and monitor the activities of psychologists in national security settings. Furthermore, the subordination of military psychologists to the chain of command of the armed forces also allows for ineffective if not impossible oversight of psychologist activities. But the problem with secrecy does not end there. Major researchers, including even a former APA president, who contracted with the government, or had their work utilized by the military, as for the latter’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape or SERE program, have told me they are unable to discuss matters beyond a certain point, or tried to restrict discussion of these matters, no doubt due in part to secrecy restrictions. Summing up this point, governmental secrecy and scientific enterprise are in direct opposition to each other, and secrecy negates the promise of effective oversight, not to mention the distortions it renders upon the scientific process itself.

In the recently APA published book, Psychology in the Service of National Security (APA Press, 2006), the book’s editor, A. David Mangelsdorff, wrote, “As the military adjusts to its changing roles in the new national security environment, psychologists have much to offer” (p. 237). He notes the recent forward military deployment of psychologists, their use in so-called anti-terrorism research, and assistance in influencing public opinion about “national security problems facing the nation.” L. Morgan Banks, himself Chief of the Psychological Applications Directorate of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, and a member of the controversial PENS panel, wrote elsewhere in the same book about the “bright future” (p. 95) for psychologists working with Special Operations Forces. Never mind that SOPs have been implicated in torture in Afghanistan, including receiving instructions in such coercive procedures from psychologists from some of the same psychologists, by the way, that attended the APA/CIA workshop noted above.) Nowhere could I find in the entire book a discussion of ethical problems surrounding these issues, nor certainly of political and social questions implicit in such outright support of governmental initiatives and military policy. Additionally, and curiously, there is no discussion of psychologist participation in military interrogations anywhere in the book.

In my opinion, and despite the otherwise notable and positive stances and activities of APA on other aspects of social note, such as work against prejudice against gays and lesbians, or against race prejudice, it is an unfortunate but urgent fact that APA as an institution has become subordinated to the state when it comes to military matters. In other words, when it comes to interrogations and psychologist military activities in general, APA acts as an arm of the Pentagon and a support agency for the CIA. The differences around interrogation policy APA has with the Bush Administration is itself a mirror of differences with the administration itself, and within different governmental departments. In such instances, APA acts as the instrument of one or another faction within government, but not as an independent actor and representative of the profession and its ideals and goals.

I would suggest the following remedies, if any are still possible, in turning around the degeneration of APA into a willing instrument for U.S. military and intelligence interests:

1) A full opening of all APA archives related to research and participation in activities with the military, including its intelligence arms; and a call for the government to declassify all documents related to the same;

2) The disestablishment of Division 19, the Society for Military Psychology, from the APA;

3) The immediate recission of APA’s Ethics Code 1.02, which was changed from earlier formulations in 2002 to permit adherence “to the requirements of the law, regulations, or other governing legal authority” when there is otherwise a conflict between the law and psychologists’ ethical practice. Opponents of 1.02 have rightly compared it to the Nazi defense of “following orders” at Nuremberg;

4) A call for the formation of a civilian, cross-disciplinary investigatory panel to examine the past history and current collaboration of scientific and medical professionals with the government, especially its military and intelligence agencies, to encompass fields as diverse as psychology, anthropology, linguistics, and sociology, with a goal of producing recommendations on interactions between government and the scientific and medical communities;

5) A moratorium on research into interrogations;

6) Sever the link that ties APA’s definition of “cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment” in its various resolutions from the Reagan-era Reservations to the UN Convention Against Torture, which seeks to weaken that definition by relying on suspect interpretations of U.S. law rather than international definitions;

7) The immediate cessation of all support for involvement of psychological personnel in participation in any activity that supports national security interrogations.

The sordid history of American psychology when it comes to collaboration with governmental agencies in the research and implementation of techniques of psychological torture is one that our field will have to confront sooner or later. In a larger sense, the problems I have presented here are inherent in a larger societal dilemma regarding the uses of knowledge. This problem was recognized by the first critics of untrammeled scientific advance, and represented powerfully by Goethe’s Faust, and Mary Shelley’s Doctor Frankenstein. Human knowledge is capable of producing both good and evil. The scientist, the scholar, and the doctor hold tremendous responsibility in their hands. That they have not shown themselves, in a tragic number of instances, to ethically wield or control this responsibility has meant that the 21st century opens under the awful prospect of worldwide nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare, while a sinister, behaviorally-designed torture apparatus operates as the servant of nation-states wielding these awful weapons of mass destruction.

It’s appropriate that I close with a statement about the problem of serving powerful national interests from a former president of the APA, a leading and important pioneer in our field, and also, for awhile, a member with top secret clearance in the CIA’s MKULTRA mind control program, Carl Rogers. One wonders, along with the authors of a recent study on Dr. Rogers’ CIA collaboration (see Demanchick & Kirschenbaum (2008), Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 48, pp. 6-30), if Rogers’ exposure to the world of secret government military projects didn’t inform his feelings about psychologists and government, as expressed in his famous debate with another seminal psychologist, B. F. Skinner:

To hope that the power which is being made available by the behavioral sciences will be exercised by the scientists, or by a benevolent group, seems to me a hope little supported by either recent or distant history. It seems far more likely that behavioral scientists, holding their present attitudes, will be in the position of the German rocket scientists specializing in guided missiles. First they worked devotedly for Hitler to destroy the U.S.S.R. and the United States. Now, depending on who captured them, they work devotedly for the U.S.S.R. in the interest of destroying the United States, or devotedly for the United States in the interest of destroying the U.S.S.R. If behavioral scientists are concerned solely with advancing their science, it seems most probably that they will serve the purposes of whatever individual or group has the power. (Rogers & Skinner (1956), “Some issues concerning the control of human behavior. A symposium.” Science, 124, p. 1061.)

Sincerely yours,

J------ K------, Ph.D.
San Francisco, CA


(Also posted at Invictus)

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Why Jose Padilla’s 17-year prison sentence should shock and disgust all Americans

Posted by Andy Worthington at 7:31 AM |

As published on the website of Andy Worthington, author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison.

The news that US citizen Jose Padilla has received a prison sentence of 17 years and four months should provoke outrage in the United States, although it is unlikely that there will be much more than a whimper of dissent.

The former gang member and convert to Islam – whose arrest in May 2002 was trumpeted by then-Attorney General John Ashcroft as that of a “known terrorist,” who was “exploring a plan” to detonate a radioactive “dirty bomb” in a US city – was once regarded as one of the most dangerous terrorists ever apprehended on American soil. Almost six years later, as he received his sentence, he was not actually accused of lifting a finger to harm even a single US citizen.

While this is shocking enough in and of itself, Padilla’s sentence – in what at least one perceptive commentator called “the most important case of our lifetimes” – is particularly disturbing because it sends a clear message to the President of the United States that he can, if he wishes (and as he did with Padilla), designate a US citizen as an “enemy combatant,” hold him without charge or trial in a naval brig for 43 months, and torture him – through the use of prolonged sensory deprivation and solitary confinement – to such an extent that, as the psychiatrist Dr. Angela Hegarty explained after spending 22 hours with Padilla, “What happened at the brig was essentially the destruction of a human being’s mind.”

Padilla’s warders had another take on his condition, describing him as “so docile and inactive that he could be mistaken for ‘a piece of furniture,’” but the most detailed analysis of the effects of his torture was, again, provided by Angela Hegarty in an interview last August with Democracy Now:
Juan Gonzalez: And have you dealt with someone who had been in isolation for such a long period of time before?
Dr. Angela Hegarty: No. This was the first time I ever met anybody who had been isolated for such an extraordinarily long period of time. I mean, the sensory deprivation studies, for example, tell us that without sleep, especially, people will develop psychotic symptoms, hallucinations, panic attacks, depression, suicidality within days. And here we had a man who had been in this situation, utterly dependent on his interrogators, who didn’t treat him all that nicely, for years. And apart from – the only people I ever met who had such a protracted experience were people who were in detention camps overseas, that would come close, but even then they weren’t subjected to the sensory deprivation. So, yes, he was somewhat of a unique case in that regard.
As if this were not worrying enough, it was what happened after Padilla’s 43-month ordeal that sealed the President’s impunity to torture US citizens at will. When it seemed that his case was within reach of the US Supreme Court, the government transferred him into the US legal system, deposited him in a normal prison environment, dropped all mention of the “dirty bomb” plot, and charged him, based on his association with two alleged terrorist facilitators, Adham Amin Hassoun and Kifah Wael Jayyousi, with participating in a Florida-based plot to aid Islamic extremists in holy wars abroad. When the case came to court last summer, the judge, Marcia Cooke, airbrushed Padilla’s torture from history, insisting that it could not be discussed at all, and, after a trial regarded as farcical by many observers, Padilla and his co-defendants were duly found guilty.

Today’s sentencing, after an unusually protracted two-week debate, has apparently brought the whole sordid saga to an end, with Padilla’s torture only mentioned briefly in passing by Judge Cooke, who noted, “I do find that the conditions [for Padilla as an enemy combatant] were so harsh that they warrant consideration.” Nevertheless, he received a longer sentence than either of his co-defendants (who were sentenced to 15 years and eight months, and 12 years and eight months, respectively), even though two jurors admitted to the Miami Herald that the jury as a whole “struggled to convict Padilla because the panel initially viewed him as a bit player in the scheme to aid Islamic extremists, unlike his co-defendants.”

They certainly had a point. While the conviction of Hassoun and Jayyousi was based on coded conversations in 126 phone calls intercepted by the FBI over a number of years, Padilla was included in only seven of those phone calls. Groomed by his mentor, Hassoun, he had traveled to the Middle East and, in 2000, had applied to attend a military training camp in Afghanistan, using the name Abu Abdallah al-Muhajir. His application form, which, according to a government expert, bore his fingerprints, was apparently discovered during a CIA raid on an alleged al-Qaeda safe house in Afghanistan, but although the prosecution presented an alleged al-Qaeda graduation list with his Muslim name on it during the sentencing, they had been unable to provide any evidence during the trial that he had actually attended the training camp in Afghanistan.

In the end, Padilla’s conviction hinged on the jury’s determination that he had “joined the terrorism conspiracy in the United States before leaving the country.” This was based on a single recorded conversation, in July 1997, in which he stated that he was ready to join a jihad overseas.

17 years and four months seems to me to be an extraordinarily long sentence for little more than a thought crime, but when the issue of Padilla’s three and half years of suppressed torture is raised, it’s difficult not to conclude that justice has just been horribly twisted, that the President and his advisors have just got away with torturing an American citizen with impunity, and that no American citizen can be sure that what happened to Padilla will not happen to him or her. Today, it was a Muslim; tomorrow, unless the government’s powers are taken away from them, it could be any number of categories of “enemy combatants” who have not yet been identified.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Outrageous

Posted by Michael Otterman at 11:23 AM |

An outrageous federal appeals ruling coinciding with the sixth anniversary of Guantanamo:
In what appears to be the first federal appeals court ruling on the legality of harsh interrogation techniques used by U.S. agents on terrorism suspects, the Circuit Court ruled that torture and abuse that was used while individuals were in detention in a military prison as part of interrogations to gather intelligence or information were “the type of conduct the defendants were employed to engage in….The alleged tortious conduct was incidental to the defendants’ legitimate employment duties” — that is, running a military prison and conducting interrogations there. “It was foreseeable that conduct that would ordinarily be indisputably ’seriously criminal’ would be implemented by military officials responsible for detaining and interrogating suspected enemy combatants,” Circuit Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson wrote in the Court’s main opinion, joined in by Circuit Judge A. Raymond Randolph and in most parts by Circuit Judge Janice Rodgers Brown.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Torture Omnibus

Posted by Michael Otterman at 7:02 PM |

Note from Mike: Yes, I know-- blogging has been lighter than ever in recent weeks. Holidays, travel, and new exciting projects have sapped my time on all sides. I'm currently in NY, though I soon will be passing through Syria, Jordan, Dubai and Oman on my way back to Sydney. The torture debate has only heated up since early December when the CIA tape destruction story first tore its way across blogs, newspapers and televisions across the globe. How to keep up? Well for now-- and for the foreseeable future-- I'll simply be linking to breaking news and commentary on issues related to American torture, plus commenting myself when possible. Consider the below the first chronological American torture omnibus, more to follow:

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Torture In American History

A Nation That Tortures

Jordan's Spy Agency: Holding Cell for the CIA

Jordanian-U.S. Citizen Missing After Covert CIA Transport

US says it has right to kidnap British citizens

Changes in Guantanamo Bay SOP manual (2003-2004)

Detainee Operations in a Joint Environment

A word from Benamar

How to Keep an Ex-Terrorist Talking

Hill Briefed on Waterboarding in 2002

Lawyers Charge the CIA Tortured Their Client in Secret Prisons

Man Held by C.I.A. Says He Was Tortured

CIA photos 'show UK Guantanamo detainee was tortured'

Canadian Judge Finds U.S. Lacking as a Haven for Refugees

Feingold Wants Legal Determination of CIA Interrogation Program from Mukasey

Former CIA Interrogator: We Carried Out Torture Because The White House Told Us To

Destruction of C.I.A. Tapes Cleared by Lawyers

Abolish the CIA

IF THE CIA HADN'T DESTROYED THOSE TAPES, WHAT WOULD BE DIFFERENT?

Bush May Pardon America's Spies

Terror detentions 'like apartheid-era'

Lawmakers Back Limits on Interrogation Tactics

C.I.A. Chief Admits Failure to Inform Congress

The Witnessing Of American Torture

Sen. Kit Bond: Waterboarding Is Like ‘Swimming’

How An ACLU Lawsuit Might Force the Bush Administration To Reveal What Actually Happened

Destruction of CIA Tapes Defended

Bush Demands Freedom to Torture

House takes generals’ advice, outlaws detainee torture

Who authorized the CIA to destroy interrogation videos?

Was Pelosi aware of CIA's tactics?

C.I.A. Agents Sense Shifting Support for Method

Greg Grandin, On the Torturable and the Untorturable

Inside the CIA's notorious "black sites"

Yemeni Man Imprisoned at CIA “Black Sites” Tells His Story of Kidnapping and Torture

Architecture of detention

The President’s Coming-Out Party

250 former Iraq detainees claim torture in new US lawsuit

Control sought on military lawyers

Military lawyers stay unbridled

Torture Tapes are the Watergate of Our Times

Commentary: The CIA's Gift to Conspiracy Theorists

Bush Lawyers Discussed Fate of C.I.A.Tapes

As Torture Debate Heats Up, Jewish Groups Stay Mum

Huckabee: ‘If Anything,’ We Treat Inmates At Guantanamo Bay ‘Too Nice’

Fragile Hicks faces torture of freedom

In just 10 steps, Hicks becomes a free man

Al Jazeera and Abu Ghraib scuttled US war in Fallujah

CIA Chief to Drag White House Into Torture Cover-Up Storm

Operation Stop Talking

Navy JAG Andrew Williams Resigns Over Torture

Tortured Logic

Tapes by C.I.A. Lived and Died to Save Image

Judgment and Torture

"Battlefield of the Mind": U.S. Behavioral Specialists to "Deprogram" Iraqi Prisoners

The Power of Authority: A Dark Tale

9/11 Commission: Our investigation was "obstructed"

Stonewalled by the C.I.A.

Criminal Probe on CIA Tapes Opened

The CIA Tapes Prosecutor is Neither "Outside" Nor "Special," Nor "Independent"

Conyers "Disappointed" Mukasey Didn't Appoint Special Counsel for Tapes Probe

Harman Warned against Destroying Tapes in 2003

Proof Positive that the Intelligence Oversight System is Hopelessly Compromised

Show Us Your Faces

Botero's Abu Ghraib

Padilla Sues Former U.S. Lawyer Over Detention

The Presidential Candidates and Torture

Foiling U.S. Plan, Prison Expands in Afghanistan

The Torture President Wields His Veto

And those are only some of the big stories from the past month! Looking forward, we should expect the CIA tape destruction inquiry-- despite its limited mandate-- to yield some top White House victims. In the end, all roads lead to Cheney and Addington-- lets just hope John Durham can take it that deep into the heart of darkness.