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.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Obama's Executive Orders on Guantanamo and the Question of Prosecutions

Posted by Valtin at 12:42 AM |

+++ Update: Here's a link to the draft executive order's text +++

Like attacking a hydra with many heads, the new administration is planning to take its first whacks at the torture regime set up by the Bush Administration. It's most infamous manifestation lies 90 miles off the U.S. coast at Guantanamo Naval Base, Cuba.

Today, the government ordered a 120-day suspension of the military tribunal hearings of the Guantanamo detainees, as well as lesser delays in habeas hearings filed by attorneys on behalf of some of the prisoners.

Now, breaking news reported at ABC News, reports that tomorrow we will see three executive orders issued by President Obama aimed at the closure of Guantanamo "within a year", and promising immediate changes in the procedures and policies surrounding interrogation of detainees, and the conditions of their detention.

The ABC article is vague on whether the CIA will be included as regards changes in interrogation policies.
It is unlikely, but possible, that the new administration would in the first week expressly prohibit some interrogation techniques or refer to new legal parameters for the CIA program.
Of late, legislation has been introduced into Congress that would hold all U.S. interrogations, including those held by the CIA, to guidelines established in the Army Field Manual. The recent version of the manual is, despite assurances by former Bush administration, Pentagon, and some human rights officials, seriously flawed, allowing for solitary confinement/isolation, sleep and sensory deprivation, and manipulation and creation of fears, among other coercive interrogation techniques. Physicians for Human Rights and The Constitution Project have both called for serious revision to the manual.

The Executive Director for Center for Constitutional Rights, Vincent Warren, was quick to respond to news of the proposed executive order to close Guantanamo. (CCR has been the central organization in organizing the defense of the Guantanamo detainees, gathering over 400 pro bono attorneys from all over the U.S. to help represent them.
"It only took days to put these men in Guantanamo, it shouldn't take a year to get them out.

We are proud that President Obama made addressing Guantanamo one of his first acts in office. Yet we are disappointed that he outlined no concrete steps for closing the base and gave his administration an entire year to sort out its plans - meaning that some men could have been detained indefinitely in terrible conditions for eight full years. Surely he could do better.

President Obama should commit to dismantling the military commissions, not just suspending them, and to prosecuting any cases before federal criminal courts - real courts with real laws."
A lot of the discussion about closing Guantanamo has to do with the disposition of its prisoners, how or where they would be tried, where they would go if released, etc. Outside of these important questions, the existence of these men, many or most of them who have been tortured, held without rights, is an embarrassment and an accusation against the system that kidnapped many of them and then held them incommunicado for years, with no right of redress, without charges, without hope. They were held in abusive conditions that amount to psychological torture. Many of them were tortured under interrogation.

Despite some recent releases, there are over 240 prisoners still languishing at Guantanamo, and over 600 at Baghram Air Base in Afghanistan. A true accounting of the number of prisoners held by the military and CIA is not available.

What do the proposed executive orders from Obama portend? Until we see the final drafts, it may be presumptuous to say. But while they mark a real change from the policies of the Bush administration, it is not clear how far they will really go. Will the CIA be forced to give up their "enhanced interrogation techniques", i.e., their right really to do what they damn well please when they interrogate prisoners, up to and including torture (even if they swear they never torture, that waterboarding, for instance, is not torture, etc.)? What procedures are proposed for the closure of Guantanamo? Will habeas be fully restored? Will isolation as a matter of policy, and other abusive procedures at Guantanamo be ended? What will be the standard for interrogation? Will the military commissions be ended?

The Prosecutions Issue

The story of the unraveling of the torture network built by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, the CIA and others, will take place in the light of an ongoing push by many for prosecutions of Bush administration officials for torture. Obama has indicated he is not disposed to pursue such prosecution. It's possible, as the ACLU has proposed, that ongoing investigations left over from the spate of Bush WH scandals will metamorphosize into something bigger, a large scale investigation into wrong-doing by the administration or the Pentagon/CIA.

Hence, according to the New York Times:
Obama is facing even more intense pressure from liberal, human-rights and civil-liberties groups to allow some kind of investigation into the Bush administration's terrorism policies.

Chris Anders, senior legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union, said it would be a simple matter to start such an inquiry because the Justice Department's special prosecutor, John Durham, is already investigating whether the CIA acted illegally when it destroyed videotapes of its harsh interrogations. Anders said Durham's mandate could be expanded to look into whether the interrogations depicted on the tapes were illegal.
Most recently, according to a Reuters report earlier this month, Durham stated in a court filing that his probe of the CIA destruction of videotapes of the "harsh" interrogations of Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri was nearing an end. "A considerable portion" of the work is now done, but some witnesses still need to be interviewed. (Link to Durham's filing)

Durham made the court filing as part of a FOIA lawsuit by the James Madison Project requesting a release of the documents associated with the tapes destruction. The CIA had asked the court for a delay until February 28, the latest date Durham states his investigation will be finished. According to Secrecy News, a section of the website for Federation of American Scientists:
Key details of the pending criminal investigation have been redacted from Mr. Durham’s affidavit, including the number of witnesses interviewed and the volume of documents examined to date....

Mr. Durham noted that “in many instances,” delays have resulted from witness requests for legal representation and the need to get witness attorneys cleared. In some cases, the government officials involved have retired and have been “read out” of the highly compartmented intelligence programs in question, and it has taken additional time to have their credentials reinstated, he said.
Expanding the Durham investigation seems like a long-shot, but who knows what will be in that FOIA release when it finally comes? The bulk of the Democratic leadership is surely afraid of what an investigation might bring, due to reports of the complicity of some of the Democratic leadership, particularly Nancy Pelosi, Jane Harman and Jay Rockerfeller, in the approval of some of the torture program.

The next couple of months -- I never get tired of repeating -- will be key in the struggle to hold the torturers accountable, and to bring real, lasting change to the system that has brought the United States to the status of pariah nation by the use of torture, and by the cover-up of such use.

Also posted at Invictus

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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

How the U.S. Army's Field Manual Codified Torture -- and Still Does

Posted by Valtin at 5:56 PM |

Originally posted at AlterNet, and reposted here with additional links and some minor format changes

In early September 2006, the U.S. Department of Defense, reeling from at least a dozen investigations into detainee abuse by interrogators, released Directive 2310.01E. This directive was advertised as an overhaul and improvement on earlier detainee operations and included a newly rewritten Army Field Manual for Human Intelligence Collector Operations (FM-2-22-3). This guidebook for interrogators was meant to set a humane standard for U.S. interrogators worldwide, a standard that was respectful of the Geneva Conventions and other U.S. and international laws concerning treatment of prisoners.

While George W. Bush was signing a presidential directive allowing the CIA to conduct other, secret "enhanced interrogation techniques," which may or may not have included waterboarding, the new AFM was sold to the public as a return to civilized norms, in regards to interrogation.

Before long, opponents of U.S. torture policy were championing the new AFM as an appropriate "single-standard" model of detainee treatment. Support for implementing the revised AFM, as a replacement for the hated "enhanced" techniques earlier championed by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the CIA, began to appear in legislation out of Congress, in the literature of human-rights organizations and in newspaper editorials. Some rights groups have felt the new AFM offered some improvements by banning repellent interrogation tactics, such as waterboarding, use of nudity, military dogs and stress positions. It was believed the AFM cemented the concept of command responsibility for infractions of the law.

There was only one problem: the AFM did not eliminate torture. Despite what it said, it did not adhere to the Geneva Conventions. Even worse, it took the standard operating procedure of Camp Delta at Guantanamo Bay and threatened to expand it all over the world.

The President of the National Lawyers Guild Marjorie Cohn has stated that portions of the AFM protocol, especially the use of isolation and prolonged sleep deprivation, constitutes cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and is illegal under the Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, the U.N. Convention Against Torture and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Hina Shamsi, an attorney with the ACLU's National Security Project, has stated that portions of the AFM are "deeply problematic" and "would likely violate the War Crimes Act and Geneva," and at the very least "leave the door open for legal liability." Physicians for Human Rights and the Constitution Project have publicly called for the removal of problematic and abusive techniques from the AFM.

Yet, the interrogation manual is still praised by politicians, including then-presidential candidate Barack Obama, who in December 2007 said he would "have the Army Field Manual govern interrogation techniques for all United States Government personnel and contractors."

Viral Instructions for a Torture Paradigm

I call the covert actualization of torture in current Department of Defense interrogation policy the "viralization" of the Army Field Manual. Just as a computer virus inserts a seemingly harmless set of instructions or code into a computer's operating system, unnamed four-star combatant commanders insisted that a special "interrogation-control technique" be inserted into the new manual. In a computer, viral instructions morph into a destructive set of routines, which replicate and continue to pass the tainted instructions on to uninfected users.

The viral instructions in the AFM transform into an abusive and illegal torture program. Most of these "instructions" can be found hidden in the proverbial fine print of the document, in its very last appendix, labeled with no apparent irony as regards the mythology of James Bond, Appendix M.

Appendix M, titled "Restricted Interrogation Technique -- Separation," misrepresents itself from the very beginning. (One wonders if it was rewritten from an earlier draft, at a time when the Pentagon wanted to keep these procedures classified.) It is not actually a technique (singular), but a set of techniques, though one has to read deeply into its 10 pages of text and be somewhat sophisticated in the history of psychological torture procedures, to assemble a full view of the viral program.

This program is nothing less than the one established in researcher Albert Biderman's Chart of Coercion, which, as revealed by the recent Senate Armed Services Committee investigation into detainee abuse, was the blueprint used by SERE instructors at Guantanamo in late 2002 to teach abusive interrogation techniques. (SERE stands for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape and is the military program to "inoculate" certain military personnel against torture or abusive treatment by an enemy that doesn't recognize Geneva protocol.)

The committee's investigations, along with an DOD Office of Inspector General report released last year, definitively proved that SERE instructors, some of whom were military psychologists who also worked as contract personnel for the CIA, reverse-engineered SERE's didactic and experiential program meant to protect U.S. POWs for use as torture on detainees at Guantanamo, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Army G-2 senior intelligence officer Lt. Gen. Jeff Kimmons described the "technique" of separation at a DOD briefing on Sept. 6, 2006, unveiling the "new" AFM:
... we include one restricted technique called separation, for use on a by-exception basis only with unlawful enemy combatants. That is, it's not authorized for use on prisoners of war and other protected persons.

Separation allows interrogators to keep unlawful enemy combatants apart from each other as a normal part of the interrogation process, so they can't coordinate their stories and so that we can compare answers to questions that interrogators have posed to each other without there having been collusion. It's for the same reason that police keep murder suspects separated while they're questioning them, although this is within an interrogation context.

Separation meets the standard for humane treatment, the single standard that exists across DOD, and it is enshrined in this manual.
This description is inconsistent with the explanation for separation given in the current Army Field Manual. Separation is not about the "normal interrogation process":
The use of separation should not be confused with the detainee-handling techniques approved in Appendix D. Specifically, the use of segregation during prisoner handling (Search, Silence, Segregate, Speed, Safeguard and Tag) should not be confused with the use of separation as a restricted interrogation technique….

Separation should be used as part of a well-orchestrated strategy involving the innovative application of unrestricted approach techniques. Separation requires special approval, judicious execution, special control measures and rigorous oversight.
Analyzing "Separation"

What kind of procedures, which the manual avers cannot be used on regular prisoners of war (who are covered by the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War), make up this special interrogation "technique," separation? In fact, it includes the following: solitary confinement, perceptual or sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation, the induction of fear and hopelessness, and the likely use of sensory overload, temperature or environmental manipulation, and any number of other techniques permitted elsewhere in the AFM, such as "Emotional Pride Down." As at Guantanamo and at prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan, a "multidisciplinary" team implements the program, including a behavioral science consultant (likely a psychologist).

The primary technique of the separation procedure is the physical isolation of the prisoner for up to 30 days, with further isolation possible upon approval of higher-ups. According to scientific expert Stuart Grassian, the use of isolation, or solitary confinement, causes "severe psychiatric harm." Some detainees will "suffer permanent harm as a result of such confinement." As long ago as 1961, psychiatrist Lawrence Hinkle Jr. wrote in a textbook on interrogations (emphasis added):
It is well known that prisoners, especially if they have not been isolated before, may develop a syndrome similar in most of its features to the "brain syndrome"... they cease to care about their utterances, dress and cleanliness. They become dulled, apathetic and depressed. In due time they become disoriented and confused; their memories become defective, and they experience hallucinations and delusions....

Classically, isolation has been used as a means of "making a man talk," simply because it is so often associated with a deterioration of thinking and behavior and is accompanied by an intense need for companionship and for talk. From the interrogator's viewpoint it has seemed to be the ideal way of "breaking down" a prisoner, because, to the unsophisticated, it seems to create precisely the state that the interrogator desires … However, the effect of isolation upon the brain function of the prisoner is much like that which occurs if he is beaten, starved or deprived of sleep.
Those prisoners who cannot be secured in sufficient isolation, presumably at a forward interrogation site, will be secured via "Field Expedient Separation," during which a both blindfold and earmuffs are put on a detainee for up to 12 hours. Again this is expandable upon official approval. The AFM warns that care must be taken to protect the blindfolded, earmuffed prisoner from self-injury, and the prisoner must be medically monitored. The AFM doesn't explain why this is necessary, but the reason is that such sensory deprivation is intolerable for some people and can lead to hallucinations and self-injurious behavior. The inclusion of a procedure that so obviously needs medical monitoring should be a red flag that it violates basic humane treatment.

The other main use of torture is Appendix M's provision for prolonged sleep deprivation, holding a prisoner to no more than four hours of sleep per night for 30 days. As with isolation and perceptual deprivation, this procedure can be prolonged with official approval. Sleep deprivation is used to break an individual down both physically and mentally. The literature on the corrosive effects of sleep deprivation is not difficult to find. Four hours of sleep per day for a month will decrease thyrotropin secretion and increase levels of cortisol, causing stress and high blood pressure. It impairs verbal processing and complex problem solving. Chronic sleep deprivation is "associated with irritability, depression and a reduced sense of well-being."

The AFM's Appendix M makes a lot of noise about forbidding sensory deprivation, then provides a definition of same that would describe none but the most extreme examples of sensory deprivation, all the while allowing its practice upon prisoners. Similarly, the document claims it is consistent with the Geneva Conventions and other human rights documents. It denies that prisoners held under separation will be treated to "excessive noise," "excessive dampness" or "excessive or inadequate heat, light or ventilation." But rather than appear convincing, these caveats seem to direct the interrogation team to just those kinds of procedures that should be used, as long as it is not judged "excessive." At the September 2006 briefing, Kimmons assured reporters that Appendix M had been legally vetted by "senior DOD figures at the secretarial level, by the Joint Staff, by each of the combatant commanders and their legal advisers, by each of the service secretaries and service chiefs and their legal advisers, in addition to the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency and the director of National Intelligence, who coordinated laterally with the CIA." It was also "favorably reviewed" by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' Justice Department. This is not a legal vetting that inspires much confidence.

The total effect of combining all the procedures enumerated above, particularly in an atmosphere of fear and futility or hopelessness, is to produce a state not dissimilar to that described by Albert Biderman in his famous Chart of Coercion, as described elsewhere by this author and by Scott Shane of the New York Times. Social psychologist Biderman had studied the techniques of Soviet, Chinese and Korean interrogators and constructed a model of coercive interrogation that was later used by SERE interrogators at Guantanamo (as described above). Biderman's Chart of Coercion enumerates the key abusive techniques as isolation, monopolization of perception, induced debilitation and exhaustion, threats, occasional indulgences, demonstrating "omnipotence" and "omniscience" (i.e., complete control over a prisoner's fate), degradation and enforcement of trivial demands. What we have here, in sum, is what has come to be known in the 21st century as the Guantanamo model.

It is the intent of the Army Field Manual's Appendix M to institute the Guantanamo model across all military sites. The use of separation is supposed to be limited to "unlawful enemy combatants." Hina Shamsi, with the ACLU, notes that the Geneva Conventions allow for no status-based discrimination as the basis of differentiating interrogation techniques. The use of such different techniques "could lead to a conflicting and confusing situation," and the violation of domestic or international laws, according to Shamsi. Beyond that is the distinction of marking certain combatants as "unlawful," which is highly controversial and for which there seems to be no adequate precedent in the law of war.

One last example should suffice to demonstrate the perfidy upon which the Army Field Manual was rewritten. (The revamping of the AFM was supervised by Stephen Cambone, Rumsfeld's undersecretary of defense for intelligence, also notoriously in charge of the Pentagon's secretive sabotage and assassination teams, code-named Grey Fox.) In the last version of the AFM (FM 34-52), published in 1992, the use of fear-based techniques was divided into Fear Up Harsh and Fear Up Mild, with a strong warning issued that the use of Fear Up "has the greatest potential to violate the law of war." In the contemporary version of the AFM, the division of the technique into harsh and mild categories is abandoned, while the cautionary language is weakened. Meanwhile, the definition of Fear Up has changed as well.

From the 1992 manual:
The fear-up approach is the exploitation of a source's pre-existing fear during the period of capture and interrogation. (pp. 3-15)
In the 2006 manual, the definition adds a sinister new twist (emphasis added):
In the fear-up approach, the HUMINT [human intelligence] collector identifies a pre-existing fear or creates a fear within the source. He then links the elimination or reduction of the fear to cooperation on the part of the source. … The HUMINT collector should also be extremely careful that he does not create so much fear that the source becomes unresponsive. (pp. 8-10)
In a manner similar to the introduction of the harmful technique of sleep deprivation, the new policy of creating a new fear within a detainee is introduced with a simple grammatical clause. A few words inserted here and there, and the viral program is complete. (Interestingly, the old 1992 AFM says that "increased fear-up" is a "proven effective" technique, but elsewhere describes fear-up harsh as "usually a dead-end," interrogation-wise.)

The Fight Against the "New" Army Field Manual

With the start of a new administration and the swearing in of a new Congress, changes to President Bush's program of torture and abusive detention and interrogation are in the offing. The controversy over the possible nomination of CIA official John Brennan to the directorship of the Central Intelligence Agency, which led to a wide protest, including a letter critical of the choice addressed to President-elect Barack Obama and signed by 200 psychologists and mental health professionals, led to the withdrawal of Brennan from consideration.

As a new administration and Congress consider how to clean up the mess left them by the Bush administration, when it comes to the torture issue, many liberals in the political class are looking to a global adoption of the Army Field Manual as a kind of anodyne for this problem. An example of how far the virus has spread is the petition by the well-regarded Campaign to Ban Torture, signed by a plethora of "respected leaders," including Obama's nominee for White House National Security Adviser, retired Marine Gen. James L. Jones. Espousing a "golden rule" over interrogation practice, the CBT declaration states:
We will have one national standard for all U.S. personnel and agencies for the interrogation and treatment of prisoners. Currently, the best expression of that standard is the U.S. Army Field Manual, which will be used until any other interrogation technique has been approved based on the Golden Rule principle.
The Guantanamo virus is spreading. Its agent is Appendix M of the Army Field Manual. It will be very difficult to eradicate. It will require the effort of every person who believes in human rights and is opposed to torture to spread the word. A few crucial human rights and legal organizations have already spoken out against Appendix M, but we have yet to hear from groups such as Amnesty International, Human Rights First or the Center for the Victims of Torture. Congressmembers must be called. Letters to the editor must be written. Bloggers must give their unique independent commentary.

The AFM as constituted must not be made the "one national standard" until the virus is eradicated. Appendix M must be rescinded in its totality, and portions of the document, such as the section on Fear Up, rewritten. Otherwise, Bush's and Rumsfeld's attempt to sneak coercive methods of interrogation into the main document of human intelligence gathering used by the military will succeed.

This effort must be combined, as well, with efforts to strip the CIA of its use of "enhanced interrogation methods," which amount to barbaric torture. An independent commission must be established to investigate and publicize the long history of the use of torture and abusive interrogation research and practice by the United States, to ensure that this kind of crime is firmly eradicated and will not happen again. An independent prosecutor should be given full authority to pursue appropriate investigation and indictments.

The time that approaches is one of great opportunity and great danger. Hopefully, U.S. society will rise to the challenges that face it.

[My thanks to Liliana Segura, Marjorie Cohn, and Hina Shamsi for help with this piece. They are not responsible for the opinions or any errors herein, which are entirely my own. -- This story is also posted at Invictus.]

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

"Interrogation Psychologists" and the Allure of "National Security Psychology"

Posted by Valtin at 3:30 PM |

Martha Davis Ph.D., a Clinical Psychologist and a Visiting Scholar at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, has produced an important new documentary, Interrogation Psychologists: The Making of a Professional Crisis”. The film premiered at a conference entitled “The Interrogation and Torture Controversy: Crisis in Psychology,” held at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Center on Terrorism in New York City on September 12, 2008.

Dr. Davis describes the documentary:
"In 2005 the American Psychological Association endorsed the participation of military psychologists in detainee interrogations. This policy incited a firestorm of protest within the profession and around the world, but APA officials held fast, contending that the involvement of psychologists insured that interrogations were safe, ethical and effective. With interviews of experts and documentation of communications between APA and government officials, “Interrogation Psychologists” traces the origins of the policy and why the APA risked massive defections for it. The search leads to the emerging field of national security psychology, which has far-reaching implications for intelligence gathering operations and U.S. treatment of prisoners of war.”
The 46 minute long documentary is a fascinating examination of the issues and history involved in the psychologist-ethics-torture debate. The organizational turn of the APA, as exemplified by its policies around interrogations, towards "national security psychology" is what led me to resign from that organization earlier this year. At that time, I wrote:
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....

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, [a former SERE psychologist, and a member of the controversial APA Psychological Ethics and National Security or] PENS panel [in 2005], wrote elsewhere in the same book about the “bright future” (p. 95) for psychologists working with Special Operations Forces.
"Befehl ist Befehl"

The Davis film takes the viewer through the post 9/11 story of the APA, from the introduction of psychologists to the Behavioral Science Consultation Teams (BSCTs) in Afghanistan and Guantanamo and Iraq, to the changes in the organization's ethical code which made adherence to military orders a valid option for psychologists, even if such orders went against a professional's ethical code or guidelines.

The primary culprit in this last case was the rewriting of APA's Ethics Code 1.02 back in 2002. It now infamously allows psychologists to obey commands and "governing legal authority," even when an action is at variance with professional ethics, remains a virtual get-out-of-jail card for military psychologists engaged in abusive interrogations. The code, rewritten after 9/11, places into APA's ethics code the Nazis' Nuremberg defense: "I was only following orders" ("Befehl ist Befehl"). The APA promised to insert a qualifying phrase about human rights into 1.02 back in 2006. No action has been taken to date.

Interrogation Psychologists takes the viewer on a guided tour of the political manipulations that guided APA's bureaucracy in the post-9/11 era, through the creation of a mysterious National Security Caucus within APA, and the stacking of the PENS panel that would assess ethical questions in this new national security environment with military and intelligence figures involved in the various dubious ethical misdeeds -- such as directing abusive interrogations at Guantanamo -- taking place under U.S. military and CIA command. Also covered by the documentary is the rise of a critical opposition within APA that would bring about numerous fights over anti-torture resolutions, and ultimately, a successful petition campaign to change APA official policy and pull the psychologists out of national security sites that violated international and domestic human rights laws.

The documentary appears to be a fusillade of sorts against the project of establishing a National Security Psychology (NSP) within the field of psychology proper. Dr. Davis describes NSP as providing jobs and funding for interrogation psychologists, intelligence research, and security screening and assessment. There are millions of dollars to be doled out in coming years, and already plenty of psychologists and psychology schools have lined up to suck up the funds. The greed has already spread down to the layers of the professional school movement, where schools like Pacific Graduate School in Palo Alto, have pitched in with military and CIA researchers to study the psychology of deception for homeland security purposes.

The Rise and Fall of CIFA

Until recently (and possibly still in some kind of existence), there was the Center for National Security Psychology (CNSP), as part of the Behavioral Sciences Directorate at the Department of Defense's agency for Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA). Established under Rumsfeld's Pentagon in 2002, CIFA was formally shut down last August, after being associated with scandals over infiltration of U.S. domestic peace groups and charges of domestic spying.

CNSP's chief was CIFA psychologist Kirk Kennedy, who, according to Linkedin, now works for the Defense Intelligence Agency. (I guess if you are a "national security psychologist," there's always some agency that will hire you.) The contributions of "national security psychologists" are not always nefarious. Take this snippet from a review of a talk by Dr. Kennedy at a Special Libraries Association meeting in 2006:
But the similarities between a psychopathic murder, or a suicidal person, to a terrorist are few. Kennedy and other terrorism psychologists believe that terrorism is complex, driven from many factors. One of these factors, though, is not abnormal or psychopathological (that is, the terrorists are NOT crazy)....

Kennedy wants us to understand these cultures and religions rather than declaring the perpetrators as criminals. We have to accept the fact that the actions of terrorists may be explainable but not always understandable.
According to Gulf Times:
The Defence Department said it had “disestablished” the Counterintelligence Field Activity office, or CIFA, created in February 2002 by former defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld to manage defence and armed service efforts against intelligence threats from foreign powers and groups such as Al Qaeda.

Those responsibilities will now be carried out by a new organisation called the Defence Counterintelligence and Human Intelligence Center, overseen by the Pentagon’s Defence Intelligence Agency.

CIFA’s operations stirred concern among members of Congress and civil liberties advocates. A CIFA database known as Talon, set up to monitor threats against US military installations, was found to have retained information on US antiwar protesters including Quakers after they had been found to pose no security danger, officials said.
As Interrogation Psychologists points out, one of the main members of the initial APA policy units looking at national security and interrogations (PENS) was R. Scott Shumate, then director of the psychology unit for CIFA. I don't know if the CNSP still exists, or has migrated over to the new Defense Counterintelligence and Human Intelligence Center of the Pentagon (DCHIC).

Will Psychologists Really Stop Assisting National Security Interrogations?

The world of national security intelligence is a shadowy one. The spooks who run it never give up, and it is unlikely that the new policy of APA which aims at pulling psychologists from national security interrogation centers in places like Guantanamo will quietly be implemented. What's more likely is that we will see obfuscation, lying, more cover-up, and covert, classified actions that are aimed at keeping counterinsurgency-based torture policies active. Already there are plenty of reports that doctors and psychiatrists have not absented themselves from DoD interrogations, despite the official policies of the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association against just such activity.

This is what Jonathan Marks and M. Gregg Bloche had to say in a recent issue of The New England Journal of Medicine:
... documents recently provided to us by the U.S. Army in response to requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) make clear that the Department of Defense still wants doctors to be involved and continues to resist the positions taken by medicine's professional associations. An October 2006 memo entitled "Behavioral Science Consultation Policy" ... fails to mention the APA statement and provides a permissive gloss on the AMA's policy, at some points contradicting it outright. The memo appears to claim that psychiatrists should be able to provide advice regarding the interrogation of individual detainees if they are not providing medical care to detainees, their advice is not based on medical information they originally obtained for medical purposes, and their input is "warranted by compelling national security interests." The advice envisaged by the memo includes "evaluat[ing] the psychological strengths and vulnerabilities of detainees" and "assist[ing] in integrating these factors into a successful interrogation"....

The policy memo also states that a "behavioral science consultant" may not be a "medical monitor during interrogation" and suggests that this is a "healthcare function." However, it appears to authorize monitoring as part of consultants' intelligence functions, since "physicians may protect interrogatees if, by monitoring, they prevent coercive interrogations." It asserts, more specifically, that "the presence of a physician at an interrogation, particularly an appropriately trained psychiatrist, may benefit the interrogatees because of the belief held by many psychiatrists that kind and compassionate treatment of detainees can establish rapport that may result in eliciting more useful information."
The government's position that physicians or psychiatrists can "protect interrogatees" is, of course, the same position taken by the American Psychological Association regarding the use of psychologists in interrogations. Or it was the position until a referendum by APA membership tossed out the old policy and instituted a new policy denying use of psychologists at governmental sites that deny basic human rights and engage in torture or other abusive treatment. How enforceable this policy will be, in the light of government inaction or obstruction, remains an open question. It is particularly unclear what goes on when psychologists work for the CIA, whose very prisons and even prisoners are mostly unknown and secret.

The Case of MKULTRA

It's important to remember, too, that this is not the first spate of scandals regarding the nefarious use of psychological knowledge. In the 1970s and 1980s, there were numerous revelations about CIA's recruitment of psychologists and other human behavior and medical specialists in government mind control programs, e.g. MKULTRA, and research into sensory deprivation and the "breaking" of prisoners. If I had any criticism of Davis's documentary, it was the failure to place the current controversy in the context of the decades-long history of the problem. One place the reader can start is with Patricia Greenfield's article in the APA Monitor (of all places) back in December 1977, CIA's Behavior Caper.
One major component of the CIA's program, dubbed ARTICHOKE, was described in a CIA memo of January 25, 1952, as "the evaluation and development of any method by which we can get information from a person against his will and without his knowledge." An internal review of the terminated ARTICHOKE program, dated January 31, 1975, lists ARTICHOKE methods has having included "the use of drugs and chemicals, hypnosis, and 'total isolation,' a form of psychological harassment." Another major component of the CIA's program, called MKULTRA, explored, according to a memo of August 14, 1963, "avenues to the control of human behavior," including "chemical and biological materials capable of producing human behavioral and physiological changes," "radiology, electro-shock, various fields of psychology, psychiatry, sociology and anthropology, graphology, harassment substances, and paramilitary devices and materials"....

While news of blatant attempts at behavioral control have had immediate shock value, the CIA's support of basic research has had the more lingering effect of posing many difficult and complex questions and issues for psychologists. How were psychologists and other social scientists enlisted by the CIA? What did they do? What, if any, is the scientist's responsibility for the applications of research? How are social scientists affected by social and political forces? What are the implications of covert funding?
Greenfield's questions are still pertinent today. We can add to them now the query as to how long psychologists will play operational roles in abusive interrogations and torture.

Documentaries like Martha Davis's Interrogation Psychologists help to bring the truth about how this process takes place out of the shadows of academia and government agencies into the full light of public exposure. Now it's up to us, the people, to demand an end to this barbarity.

Also posted at Invictus

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

APA Bureaucrats Try to Torpedo Anti-Torture Resolution

Posted by Valtin at 10:58 PM |

As Stephen Soldz, one of the supporters of an anti-torture referendum resolution now being mailed out to members of the American Psychological Association, reports:
The APA has launched a strong effort at spin and disinformation regarding the referendum. Unfortunately, some of our colleagues who should support this efforts have also parsed the text in such a way as to perceive a potential threat.
The referendum seems tame enough, stating:
Be it resolved that psychologists may not work in settings where persons are held outside of, or in violation of, either International Law (e.g., the UN Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions) or the US Constitution (where appropriate), unless they are working directly for the persons being detained or for an independent third party working to protect human rights.
The Incredible Lightness of Div. 48

A blow to the proponents of the referendum came from Executive Committee of APA's Division 48, the (ironically-named) Society for the Study of Peace, Conflict, and Violence. The statement by Division 48 is being passed around on the various APA listservs, as this is a battle largely being fought via e-mail, out of sight of the general public, and even much of APA membership, who may not pay attention to or even be members of the various listservs (which are generally populated by APA bureaucrats, bureaucrat wanna-bes, and members of the politicized opposition).

The EC at Division 48 states the referendum, whose "spirit" it "very much supports", "lacks clarity," is "unrealistic", and "more aspirational than practical." The meat of their opposition is expressed in a very particular fear:
As written, the petition/referendum also extends beyond psychologists involvement at detention sites for individuals held as "enemy combatants" to all contexts and could result in a prohibition against psychologists work in other environments within the United States (e.g., prisons, hospitals). Could psychologists work at supermax prisons, for example?....

... perhaps more importantly, we have concerns about the treatment of prisoners in U.S. correctional facilities and thus, do not want to take U.S. sites off the table for discussion related to human rights.
The opponents of the referendum have seized upon the apostasy of the Peace division, with APA President-elect James Bray circulating copies of the Division 48 Executive Committee position to other APA divisional listservs. The President of Division 48 has publicly stated that "the referendum in its current form would undermine the vital humanitarian work of many psychologists."

But the defense of supermax prison jobs, and the concern about U.S. prison conditions rings hollow, being a disingenuous attempt to back institutional concerns in alliance with the Department of Defense and the CIA. In political terms, the coalition between so-called peace psychologists and pro-military types within APA represents a classic rotten bloc.

In one example of the right-wing acrimony whipped up by the threats against psychologist jobs -- even jobs attending prisoners held in inhumane long-term isolation and/or indefinite detention -- I came across this case of preposterous mock-heroic posturing, posted to a listserv from the division for media and psychology:
The referenced sponsoring coalition would have us turn the USA into a toothless lion in our defense against the deranged terrorists, which have set a fatwa limit of 10-Million innocent casualties per incident.
Defending the Resolution

Meanwhile, the backers of the referendum have released a statement clarifying the intent of the resolution:
Dear APA members:

As sponsors and supporters of the referendum, we are aware that this is a period given to commentary from those who have introduced the referendum, and that–consistent with APA policy–such commentary will be considered in future policy decisions as valid interpretation of the resolution’s intent. We are also aware that there has been some concern voiced on several listservs that the resolution may have ‘unintended consequences’; namely that it may impact the work of psychologists working in existing U.S. jails, prisons, psychiatric facilities, and hospitals.

While we believe a reading of the full referendum in its context resolves these concerns, we would like to be sure that there are no misunderstandings on this point. We are therefore using this commentary period to reiterate the application of the petition, its meaning, and intent:

This referendum is focused on settings such as Guantánamo Bay and the CIA ‘black sites’ set up by the U.S. as part of its ‘global war on terror’; settings where the persons being detained are denied the protections of either constitutional or international law, settings which have been denounced by the United Nations, the Council of Europe, and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

We are well aware of the harms and legal struggles facing certain prisons and jails inside the domestic U.S. criminal justice system. However, the referendum takes no position on such settings where prisoners have full access to independent counsel and constitutional protections; nor does the referendum take a position on settings that now exist within the domestic mental health system where clients and patients also possess these basic rights.

For Psychologists for an Ethical APA
Dan Aalbers
dan.aalbers@gmail.com

Ruth Fallenbaum
ruthfallenbaum@comcast.net

Brad Olson
b-olson@northwestern.edu
As Soldz's piece points out, The Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International has issued a statement in support of the referendum, as has former APA-PENS member Jean Marie Arrigo. Former head of APA's Practice Directorate, Bryant Welch, has released a statement in support, as well:
This is the third consecutive annual convention in which APA has presented new reasons for refusing to explicitly state that psychologists are not to participate in detention centers where torture is being used. In 2006 we were told, among many things, that torture was not occurring, and that it was sufficient for APA to reiterate its 1986 resolution “opposing torture.” Last year we were told that psychologists’ presence at the detention centers was actually necessary to prevent the torture whose very existence these same APA officials denied the previous year. Bizarrely, APA outlawed nineteen specific forms of torture, as if in some way the large number of proscribed techniques would cripple torture efforts.

As a result, for the first time in APA history, APA rank and file members have secured the necessary signatures to petition the APA and force APA to submit the torture issue to a referendum by the membership.

Persisting in its support for psychologists’ participation in Bush detention centers and appearing insensitive to the moral concerns of its members, APA leaders are now advising APA members to oppose the referendum because the language of the referendum might be interpreted to preclude psychologists working in certain institutional settings. This argument is based on scenarios that are extremely far fetched and could readily be addressed even were they to occur. To the public, of course, the message would be that psychologists are not willing to stop torture now if there is even a remote risk of losing jobs in the future.

Since the Bush Administration will be out of office by the next time APA meets, this will be the last opportunity psychologists will have to remove this terrible stain from our reputation and our history.

Torture is not a nuanced issue. Vote No to torture. Vote YES on the referendum.
The voting will continue for the next month or so. If you know a psychologist, forward this story to them. Have them visit ethicalapa.com. Tell them about the presidential campaign of Steven Reisner, who aims to implement the policies the referendum represents.

APA and the National Security State

I, of course, am under no illusions that the APA will be reformed any time soon. It will be an immense victory to pass the resolution or elect Dr. Reisner. But the APA policy and organizational apparatus is fully intertwined in the governmental spiderweb of military, intelligence, and private consultation and "scientific" organizations, and academia, under the umbrella of serving the national security state. This wide-ranging set of special interests forms an extremely formidable opposition to those who would fundamentally change the policies and personnel responsible for the institution of a world-wide network of secret prisons and institutionalized torture.

But, as the cliche states, every journey must begin with the first steps. And a necessary first step is supporting the referendum being voted on this month at APA, and helping circulate the defense of that referendum as far and widely as you can.

Also posted at Invictus and Daily Kos

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Saturday, May 10, 2008

Guantánamo: Torture victim Binyam Mohamed sues British government for evidence

Posted by Andy Worthington at 5:06 PM |

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

On Tuesday, Binyam Mohamed, a 29-year old British resident in Guantánamo, sued the British government for refusing to produce evidence which, his lawyers contend, would demonstrate that he was tortured for 27 months by or on behalf of US forces in Morocco and Afghanistan, that any “evidence” against him was only obtained through torture, and that the British government and intelligence services knew about his torture and provided personal information about him -- unrelated to terrorism -- that was used by the Americans’ proxy torturers in Morocco.

They insist, moreover, that his case is an urgent priority, because he is about to be charged before a Military Commission in Guantánamo -- the much-criticized system of trials for “terror suspects” that was conceived by the US administration in November 2001 -- and they desperately need the exculpatory evidence in the possession of the British government to assist in his defence, and to prove his innocence.

Binyam’s torture

A refugee from Ethiopia, who arrived in the UK in 1994 and was later granted indefinite leave to remain, Binyam Mohamed was working as a cleaner in an Islamic Centre in west London in 2001, and attempting to recover from a drug problem, when he decided to travel to Afghanistan to see what the Taliban regime was like, and, he hoped, to steer clear of drugs because of the Taliban’s reputation as fierce opponents of drug use.

He came to the attention of both the American and British intelligence services in April 2002, when he was seized by the Pakistani authorities as he tried to board a flight to London. Although he had a valid airline ticket, his passport had been stolen, and, rather foolishly, he had borrowed a British friend’s passport instead.

In the heightened tension in Pakistan at the time -- just days after Abu Zubaydah, an alleged senior al-Qaeda operative, was captured in Faisalabad -- Binyam was immediately regarded with enormous suspicion by the American agents who visited him in the Pakistan prison in which he was held.

Although he later reported to his lawyer -- Clive Stafford Smith of the legal action charity Reprieve, which represents 35 prisoners in Guantánamo -- that the British checked out his story, and confirmed that he was a “nobody,” the Americans were not convinced, and decided to send him to Morocco, where he could be interrogated by professional torturers who were not bothered about international treaties preventing the use of torture, and who were equally unconcerned about whether evidence of their activities would ever surface.

Speaking of his time in Morocco, where he was held for 18 months, Binyam told Stafford Smith that he was subjected to horrendous torture, which, included, but was not limited to having his penis cut with a razor on a regular basis. In spite of this, the regular beatings and other torture that he did not even want to talk about, Binyam said that his lowest moment of all came when his torturers produced evidence of his life in London, which could only have come from the British intelligence services, and he realized that he had been abandoned and betrayed by his adopted homeland.

After Morocco, Binyam was transferred to Afghanistan, where he endured further torture in the “Dark Prison,” a secret “black site” near Kabul, run by the CIA, which was a grim recreation of a medieval dungeon, but with the addition of non-stop music and noise, blasted into the pitch-dark cells at an ear-piercing volume.

Moved from here to the main US prison at Bagram airbase, where at least two prisoners were murdered by US forces, Binyam was finally put on a plane to Guantánamo in September 2004, two and a half years after his ordeal began.

In Guantánamo, he was put forward for a Military Commission in November 2005, and made one memorable appearance before the military court, when he held up a hand-written placard declaring that the Commissions were in fact “Con-Missions,” but in June 2006 the judge in his case was spared further embarrassment when the entire system was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

Revived later that year by a barely sentient Congress, the trials have since struggled to establish their legitimacy, and have yet to proceed beyond arraignment and pre-trial proceedings, with the exception of the case of the Australian David Hicks, who accepted a plea bargain last March in order to return home to serve a desultory nine-month sentence.

In recent months, however, the administration, which boldly states that it intends to try between 60 and 80 of the remaining 273 prisoners, has stepped up the rate at which new prisoners are being charged. In an attempt to save Binyam from a second dose of the Commissions, his lawyers at Reprieve, together with solicitors from Leigh Day & Co., decided that the most constructive and innovative way to secure Binyam’s release was to put pressure on the British government.

The letter to the UK government

Armed with evidence from flight logs, which confirmed that CIA planes had flown from Pakistan to Morocco in July 2002, and from Morocco to Afghanistan in January 2004, as Binyam said they had, and with numerous accounts of British complicity in his interrogations, and knowledge of his rendition to torture, the lawyers submitted a list of requests to David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, at the end of March.

The extensive list of items requested included any evidence relating to UK knowledge of Binyam’s forthcoming rendition while he was held in Pakistan from April to July 2002, including “the identity of the US agents involved, so that they can be traced and interviewed or subpoenaed,” and any evidence relating to Binyam’s claim that representatives of the British intelligence services told him in Pakistan that they knew that he was a “nobody,” which, the lawyers stated, led them to “assume that the UK intelligence services and police have carried out investigations in to Mr. Mohamed’s activities whilst in the UK.” “We believe,” they added, “that such evidence will show that he does not represent a terrorist threat,” and that as such “it forms a necessary part of his defence.”

The lawyers also asked “to interview and take statements from the UK agents who (it is conceded) spoke to Mr. Mohamed whilst he was detained in Pakistan,” and who, Binyam stated, “informed him that he was going to be rendered to an Arab country for torture.” In December 2005, Jack Straw, who was the Foreign Secretary at the time, did indeed admit, in testimony to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, that UK Security Service officers visited Binyam while he was in Pakistani custody, and Binyam’s recollections of that encounter were noted by Clive Stafford Smith during a meeting at Guantánamo:
“They gave me a cup of tea with a lot of sugar in it. I initially only took one. ‘No, you need a lot more. Where you’re going, you need a lot of sugar.’ I didn’t know exactly what he meant by this, but I figured he meant some poor country in Arabia. One of them did tell me I was going to get tortured by the Arabs.”
As Binyam’s lawyers pointed out, “Such evidence will be central to the defence of Mr. Mohamed because any evidence obtained as a result of torture is inadmissible.”

The lawyers also requested “information about Mr. Mohamed’s life in the United Kingdom that could only have come from UK intelligence agencies or other government sources,” which, as Binyam pointed out, caused him particular distress in Morocco, when it was used by his torturers. According to Stafford Smith, this information included “personal details about his life in the UK, such as details of his education, the name of his kick-boxing trainer and his friendships in London, which he had never mentioned during interrogations, and that could only have originated from collusion in the process by the UK security or secret intelligence services.”

In addition, the lawyers requested any evidence about rendition flights that stopped on the British territory of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean (which is leased to the United States). After five years of denials, the British government finally admitted in February that two flights had indeed stopped at Diego Garcia, and Binyam’s lawyers requested information about these flights, pointing out that one of the flights had “subsequently stopped in Morocco at the time that Mr. Mohamed was there,” and that it was, therefore, “almost certainly (a) taking another prisoner to Morocco for torture; or (b) taking US personnel there who were involved in Mr. Mohamed’s interrogation process.”

The lawyers also requested any evidence relating to Binyam’s time in the “Dark Prison” in Kabul, where, they noted, “it seems highly probable that the UK government has details of the conditions that prevailed there,” because various British residents -- including Bisher al-Rawi and Jamil El-Banna, who returned to the UK from Guantánamo last year -- were also held there, and any evidence relating to Binyam’s time in Bagram, where other British prisoners were also held.

The lawyers’ final request was for access to Binyam’s medical records from Guantánamo. They noted that these were “relevant to the question of torture, and Mr. Mohamed’s current physical and mental condition,” and added that, although the Guantánamo authorities have given the UK government access to Binyam’s records, they have refused to provide them to Stafford Smith. “The UK should provide a copy now,” they wrote, “or provide whatever information or documents they have recording the contents of the medical records.”

The lawsuit

The lawsuit filed on Tuesday by Reprieve and Leigh Day & Co. was triggered when lawyers for the government responded to the letter described above by refusing to hand over any of the evidence requested by Binyam’s lawyers, claiming that “the UK is under no obligation under international law to assist foreign courts and tribunals in assuring that torture evidence is not admitted,” and adding, “it is HM Government’s position that … evidence held by the UK government that US and Moroccan authorities engaged in torture or rendition cannot be obtained” by Binyam’s lawyers.

The government lawyers proceeded to claim that Binyam’s lawyers did not “provide any evidence” to support their assertion that “such alleged information or assistance ‘was subsequently used in the torture of [Mr. Mohamed],’” to which Reprieve and Leigh Day responded by pointing out that Binyam’s allegation that UK sources provided information to his torturers in Morocco was “found credible” by the Intelligence and Security Committee (IRC), a committee established in the UK Intelligence Services Act 1994, and empowered to examine the expenditure, administration and policies of MI5, MI6 and GCHQ. Binyam’s lawyers pointed out that the government had ignored the conclusion of the IRC’s Rendition Report in 2007, when the committee had explicitly stated, “There is a reasonable probability that intelligence passed to the Americans was used in [Binyam Mohamed]’s subsequent [Moroccan] interrogation.”

They also cited the particular passage from Binyam’s statement to Clive Stafford Smith, in which he spoke about the interrogation in Morocco that contained information that could only have come from the British intelligence services:
“Today I was questioned about my links with Britain. The interrogator told me, ‘We have been working with the British, and we have photos of people given to us by MI5. Do you know these?’ I realized that the British were sending questions to the Moroccans. I was at first surprised that the Brits were siding with the Americans. I sought asylum in Britain rather than America because it’s known as the one country that has laws that it follows. To say that I was disappointed at this moment would be an understatement.”
It remains to be seen, of course, if this novel approach taken by Binyam’s lawyers will bear fruit, but it seems plausible, as it is hardly in the interests of the British government to run the risk of further embarrassing disclosures. The lawsuit may, therefore, put pressure on the politicians to step up their efforts to secure Binyam’s return to Britain -- to face charges in the UK, if any can be found that will stick to the “nobody” from west London -- rather than to allow him to be tried in a much-criticized system in Guantánamo that threatens to embarrass both the British and the American governments.

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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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