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, December 04, 2008

Vermont State Hospital Implicated in CIA Mind Control Experiments

Posted by Valtin at 1:00 AM |

In 1973, when the CIA got wind of the revelations that would expose its decades-long program into mind control experiments, then-CIA Director Richard Helms, and Sidney Gottlieb, head of the Agency's Technical Services Division, got together to destroy all the files they could find on MKULTRA and related programs. These programs consisted of experiments on human subjects on isolation, sensory deprivation, induction of hallucinations and psychosis through drugs, electroshock, hypnosis, physical debility (through hunger, mainly), and other horrifying procedures. Some of you may be familiar with one such sponsored program, if you've read Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine.

Helms, who bragged about his destruction of the evidence to Congress, and Gottlieb were never held accountable for their destruction of evidence. (No surprise to those of us fighting to get the incoming Obama administration to hold Bush Administration officials accountable for their crimes on torture and lying the country into war.) Later, when through the efforts of heroic journalists -- some of them ex-intelligence officers, like John Marks -- some of the programs were exposed, but it was believed much of the CIA's crimes in this instance would never be known.

Yet here we are 35 years later, and some information is still leaking out, in this case in the pages of a small, but noteworthy paper in Rutland, Vermont. The Rutland Herald won a Pulitzer Prize back in 2001. Reporter Louis Porter deserves one for his well-written expose on CIA experiments at Vermont State Hospital, and the purported participation of its head psychiatrist, Dr. Robert W. Hyde.

Throughout his article, Porter is careful not to claim too much. He constructs a circumstantial case for the use of experiments on mental patients, using archival and legal documents. He relies heavily on the testimony of former Hyde patient Karen Wetmore and her legal and medical defenders. No one at Vermont State Hospital today claims any knowledge of any drug or electoshock experimentation, nor has any professional who worked with Dr. Hyde, who died in 1976, come forward to verify Wetmore's claims.

As the article describes it, Karen Wetmore began receiving psychiatric care as a child and adolescent. She was diagnosed in the early 1960s with "hysteria" (a diagnosis no longer in use in the psychiatric field), and then with dissociative identity disorder and schizophrenia. Wetmore denies she has schizophrenia.

In any case, her medical records were reviewed by Dr. Thomas Fox, a Rutland, Vermont doctor who later served as "a top mental health official with the state of New Hampshire." Dr. Fox, who had never offered testimony as an "expert witness" in a civil lawsuit, came forward in Karen's case, horrified by what he saw in her treatment. Even without any CIA involvement, her treatment was scandalous -- involuntary administration of drugs, long periods of isolation. Dr. Fox wrote in her deposition (emphasis added):
“I became convinced, based on the record, that Karen had been mistreated at certain phases of her treatment in (Waterbury), and that, from a professional standpoint, the way in which we police ourselves, the way in which we keep each other ethical and competent, when we identify that, we (members of our profession) should do something about it,” Fox said in a deposition in the lawsuit to Wetmore and the state’s lawyer. “That’s my feeling, you should act on it.”

He wrote in an outline that he prepared for her lawsuit in 2000: “I must conclude, in my opinion, that Karen was involved in drug experimentation without her knowledge or consent.”
As Louis Porter documents, Karen Wetmore's doctor had connections with CIA researchers and psychologists. It only took me a few minutes to double-check with my sources to see that Robert Hyde had helped co-author two studies cited in the CIA-funded 1961 book, The Manipulation of Human Behavior. Along with LSD-experimenter, Army psychiatrist Max Rinkel, Hyde and other researchers wrote articles on "Experimental schizophrenia-like symptoms" and "Clinical and physiochemical psychosis."

If anything, the Porter article is a little too circumspect regarding Hyde's CIA ties. John Marks interviewed CIA personnel back in the 1970s, who verified Hyde's CIA credentials. According to Marks's sources, Hyde "advised the CIA on using LSD in covert operations" (p. 65, The Search for the Manchurian Candidate). He had his own special MKULTRA subproject to use as a funding conduit. Thus, while many MKULTRA contract researchers were unwitting recipients of CIA funding over the years, Hyde was not one of those. He was, to quote a certain vice president-elect (out of context, to be sure), "the real deal."

Nor was the use of mental patients for drug experimentation quite the scandal in the 1960s it would be today. In an article by Marvin Zuckerman from the 1960s on "Hallucinations, Reported Sensations, and Images," published in Sensory Deprivation: Fifteen Years of Research (1969, ed. by J.P. Zubek), we find the following (p. 121):
Malitz, Wilkens, and Esecover (1962) have presented data on 100 randomly selected chronic schizophrenic patients, and 57 acute psychiatric patients, and 42 normals administered one of three drugs: d-lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), d-l-methyl lysergic acid diethylamide (MLD), or d-l-acetyl lysergic acid diethylamide (ALD)....

The content of the drug-induced visual hallucinations was similar to the RVS [Reported Visual Stimulation] phenomena of sensory deprivation (e.g., abstract and geometrical forms, lattice work, flashes,and human, animal, and familiar forms).
There's more to the Malitz et al. study, but the point here is that there was mass use of psychiatric patients who were given potent hallucinogens and other drugs to study phenomena of interest to the CIA, for example, sensory deprivation.

In the infamous case of Ewen Cameron at Allen Memorial Hospital at McGill University in Montreal, LSD and other drugs were combined with electroshock, induced sleep or coma, and forced indoctrination in attempts to use patients as involuntary subjects in direct attempts to brainwash patients and induce new personalities or memories.

Porter's article traces the career of Robert Hyde, from the CIA-funded studies at Boston Psychopathic Hospital (now known as Massachusetts Mental Health Center) to Butler Health Center in Providence, R.I., to Vermont State Hospital. While MKULTRA experiments have been documented at both Boston Psychopathic and Butler, to date no one has placed such experimentation at Vermont State Hospital. As for Hyde, he was a highly regarded doctor in his time. Records online show him as a Sponsoring Member of the National Mental Health Committee. The University of Vermont College of Medicine has a "Medical Scholarship Fund" in his name.

Of course, the bulk of MKULTRA records were destroyed, and Porter is left to build a circumstantial case, from documents, and from the nearly destroyed memory of a former mental patient and likely subject of Dr. Hyde's experimentation. Porter's article cites a "1994 Government Accounting Office report on the clandestine research notes that at least 15 of the 80 facilities around North America known to have participated in the research remain unidentified."

Porter concludes:
Wetmore and her advocates could not unequivocally link her case to the CIA’s research activities at other institutions through government documents from the agency, but histories of the CIA’s psychiatric testing, other documents and a preponderance of circumstantial evidence around Wetmore’s treatment based on her medical records suggest the Vermont State Hospital may have been one of the sites for secret experimentation.
It is not my intent to reproduce all of Mr. Porter's excellent article here. The point is to whet your appetite and send you off to the link. But a few conclusions of my own are in order.

First, it should be no news to anyone that the CIA cannot be trusted to produce evidence of their own wrong-doing. If too long is taken to get the investigatory machinery underway, crucial evidence can and will be destroyed. One only has to look at the controversy last Spring over the CIA's destruction of the interrogation videotapes of Abu Zubaydah.

Second, despite the efforts of many, it seems clear that there is much we don't know about our own history. And what sometimes we seem to know is only received knowledge or wisdom, repeated often enough by reputable sources, such that a false history is constructed. My one criticism of the Porter article concerns the way he traces U.S. torture back to Soviet and Chinese prototypes. This myth has been deconstructed by me, and also at length by the noted researcher Darius Rejali in his massive study, Torture and Democracy.

Finally, it is crucial that we understand that the resolution of these issues lies in our hands, not that of politicians, or of Obama in particular. Without an outcry by Americans, their own history, and the punishment of criminals in our midst who misused the public trust to engage in actions outside the pale of normal ethical behavior, who were responsible for serious harm or even death to vulnerable people in their care will go unpunished.

It is a short step, ethically, and perhaps politically, from unethical conduct upon mental patients, to lying about the causes for war, and the deaths of a million innocents, as in Iraq. If we don't do something about it, history will not absolve us.

My thanks to Austin K. for tipping me to Porter's article.

Also posted at Daily Kos
and Invictus

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

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

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Support Call for Investigations on Drugging Detainees

Posted by Valtin at 3:47 PM |

Following a pivotal article by Jeff Stein at Congressional Quarterly a few weeks back, today's Washington Post published an important article today, "Detainees Allege Being Drugged, Questioned." The story, by Post staff writer Joby Warrick, notes U.S. denials in using drug injections for coercive purposes during interrogations.

Adel al-Nusairi, a Saudi national imprisoned for years at Guanatanmo, and now released without charges, has a different memory:
"I'd fall asleep" after the shot, Nusairi, a former Saudi policeman captured by U.S. forces in Afghanistan in 2002, recalled in an interview with his attorney at the military prison in Cuba, according to notes. After being roused, Nusairi eventually did talk, giving U.S. officials what he later described as a made-up confession to buy some peace.

"I was completely gone," he remembered. "I said, 'Let me go. I want to go to sleep. If it takes saying I'm a member of al-Qaeda, I will.'"
U.S. authorities at the Department of Defense and the CIA say the stories of prisoners being forced to take drugs and make confessions are lies, or perhaps mistaken interpretations of various medical procedures. The Post article, which mentions the March 2003 John Yoo memo to the Department of Defense that gave legal cover to abusive interrogation methods, including the use of drugs on detainees, fails to mention that the CIA and military studied the use of drugs in interrogations for decades. Still, the Post article makes clear that drugs have been alleged to have been used on U.S.-held detainees for purposes of forcing confessions, as chemical restraint, and to forcibly psychologically condition detainees for interrogation.
Medical ethicists and experts in international law say such accounts raise serious questions. While the Geneva Conventions do not specifically refer to drugs, they ban any use of force or coercion in interrogating prisoners of war, said Barbara Olshansky, a law professor at Stanford University and the author of a book on military tribunals. "If you're talking about interrogations, you're talking about very specific prohibitions that mean you cannot use any force, at all, to interrogate someone," Olshansky said. "The law is beyond clear."
Physicians for Human Rights has called for both Congressional and Department of Justice investigations on the forcible drugging of detainees. This may be a good time, too, to support the ACLU's call for the release of a Justice Department Office of Inspector General report on a long-running investigation of the FBI's role in the unlawful interrogations of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay. It's believed that "FBI agents stationed at Guantánamo Bay expressed concern after witnessing military interrogators' use of brutal interrogation techniques." Did these techniques include the forcible drugging of detainees?

Investigations Needed, Though Much Information in Public Domain

Investigations are urgently needed to get the full picture of what exactly the government has been up to, as the full extent of the manifold use of torture by the United States government has not been fully documented. Such investigations are also sorely needed to change the political dialogue in this country, and to hold accountable government officials who have broken domestic and international law on torture and the treatment of prisoners.

If the press would do their job and report the known research and give the proper context on this subject, then the work of the investigators would be much easier. (Jeff Klein's work, noted at the beginning of this article, is a notable exception. Other exceptions are Katherine Eban at Vanity Fair, Jane Meyer at The New Yorker, Scott Horton at Harper's, and Mark Benjamin at Salon.com.) The use of drugs in interrogations is not a new subject by any means. The government has researched this, including mixing drugs with other forms of coercive interrogation practice, such as sensory deprivation.

A Course in Narcosis, Part I

Online, I suggest the interested reader -- or Congressional or DOJ investigator -- begin with the CIA's own discussion of the matter in the declassified KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation Manual. Here's some relevant quotes from the CIA on "narcosis" (if this website link is having problems, as it did when I went to reference it, use this cached link instead, or this alternate site, or the photocopy online of the manual itself). Bold emphasis in the following is mine. Remember, this "course" in narcosis was researched with U.S. taxpayer dollars. The CIA drew upon the work of the infamous MKULTRA program of the CIA.
Just as the threat of pain may more effectively induce compliance than its infliction, so an interrogatee's mistaken belief that he has been drugged may make him a more useful interrogation subject than he would be under narcosis....

In the interrogation situation, moreover, the effectiveness of a placebo may be enhanced because of its ability to placate the conscience. The subject's primary source of resistance to confession or divulgence may be pride, patriotism, personal loyalty to superiors, or fear of retribution if he is returned to their hands. Under such circumstances his natural desire to escape from stress by complying with the interrogator's wishes may become decisive if he is provided an acceptable rationalization for compliance. "I was drugged" is one of the best excuses.

Drugs are no more the answer to the interrogator's prayer than the polygraph, hypnosis, or other aids. Studies and reports "dealing with the validity of material extracted from reluctant informants... indicate that there is no drug which can force every informant to report all the information he has. Not only may the inveterate criminal psychopath lie under the influence of drugs which have been tested, but the relatively normal and well-adjusted individual may also successfully disguise factual data"....

Nevertheless, drugs can be effective in overcoming resistance not dissolved by other techniques. As has already been noted, the so-called silent drug (a pharmacologically potent substance given to a person unaware of its administration) can make possible the induction of hypnotic trance in a previously unwilling subject....

Particularly important is the reference to matching the drug to the personality of the interrogatee. The effect of most drugs depends more upon the personality of the subject than upon the physical characteristics of the drugs themselves. If the approval of Headquarters has been obtained and if a doctor is at hand for administration, one of the most important of the interrogator's functions is providing the doctor with a full and accurate description of the psychological make-up of the interrogatee, to facilitate the best possible choice of a drug.

Persons burdened with feelings of shame or guilt are likely to unburden themselves when drugged, especially if these feelings have been reinforced by the interrogator. And like the placebo, the drug provides an excellent rationalization of helplessness for the interrogatee who wants to yield but has hitherto been unable to violate his own values or loyalties.

Like other coercive media, drugs may affect the content of what an interrogatee divulges. Gottschalk notes that certain drugs "may give rise to psychotic manifestations such as hallucinations, illusions, delusions, or disorientation", so that "the verbal material obtained cannot always be considered valid." (7) For this reason drugs (and the other aids discussed in this section) should not be used persistently to facilitate the interrogative debriefing that follows capitulation. Their function is to cause capitulation, to aid in the shift from resistance to cooperation. Once this shift has been accomplished, coercive techniques should be abandoned both for moral reasons and because they are unnecessary and even counter-productive.

This discussion does not include a list of drugs that have been employed for interrogation purposes or a discussion of their properties because these are medical considerations within the province of a doctor rather than an interogator [sic].
A Course in Narcosis, Part II

If we go back and look at the Washington Post article printed today, we see that the reaction of the detainees who were (allegedly) drugged is replete with traumatic feelings. One wonders if the giving of injections rather than pills was psychologically designed to create greater fear in the prisoners.

The CIA's reference to Gottschalk is to Louis A. Gottschalk. At the time (early 60s), Gottschalk was Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Research Coordinator in the Department of Psychiatry at Cincinnati General Hospital. His essay, "The Use of Drugs in Interrogation" was published in the 1961 book, The Manipulation of Human Behavior. (Online via Questia, for some time this book could be read for free over the net at 4shared.com, but that link is gone now. The Questia read will cost you about $8.00 -- worth it in my opinion, though enterprising web surfers may find it elsewhere for less or free, for all I know.)

In Gottschalk's piece, he looks at such aspects of drug use in interrogation as the use of placebo administration; the effects of individual differences in personality and cerebral functions on drug reaction; the effects of physiological conditions, secondary to manipulation of biological rhythms, nutritional states, isolation and fatigue; and the efficacy of drugs in "uncovering information." Regarding the latter, Gottschalk wrote:
For certain personality types, some drugs lower conscious ego control, thereby facilitating recall of repressed material and increasing the difficulty of withholding available information....

... clinical experience and experimental studies indicate that, although a person's resistance to communicating consciously withheld information can be broken down with drugs, and particularly sodium amytal, the interrogator can have no easy assurance as to the accuracy and validity of the information he obtains.... An interrogator would have to evaluate many other factors... to decide how to interpret the outcome of an interview with a drugged informant.
Besides sodium amytal, Gottschalk and other government researchers (from the military, CIA, contracted or unwittingly funded) studied numerous pharmacological agents, including barbiturate sedatives and calmatives (amobarbital, secobarbital), non-barbiturate sedatives (Placidyl, Quiactin), stimulants (ritalin, benzadrine, and methamphetamine, the latter said to be "useful in the interrogation of the psychopath"), autonomic reactors and beta blockers, antimalarial drugs, heavy metals, hormones (ACTH, cortisone, thyroid), and classic hallucinogens like mescaline, LSD and PCP. Marijuana was also an early target of drug experiments on truth telling. Psychoactive medications have (or are?) been studied as well (thorazine, compazine, etc.).

Thorazine was also used heavily by Dr. Ewen Cameron, the famous Montreal psychiatrist, whose attempt to totally control the human mind via a technique called "psychic driving" destroyed many people's lives in the 1950s and 1960s. Cameron used drug-induced coma, multiple electroshock, and drugs like thorazine and LSD in an effort to totally control human beings, from their memory (which he sought to wipe out) and their behavior. The research was funded, in part, by the CIA. The story has been told in all its horrendous detail a number of times, most recently by Naomi Klein in her book The Shock Doctrine, and by researcher Gordon Thomas in his new book, Secrets and Lies.

Summary

While the Washington Post article demonstrates some movement among the official elite who run this country to address the latest revelations on torture, perhaps even to promote some kind of reform inside the Pentagon and CIA, it's also possible that official denials are all we are going to hear.

It's important that the calls from organizations like Physicians for Human Rights for hearings and investigations be supported by phone calls, letters, emails, and donations. The Yoo memo and other issues related to torture are supposed to be examined at a meeting of the House Judiciary Committee on May 9. Why not bring up the issue of involuntary drugging as part of that hearing? In any case, a full investigation is needed of U.S. torture. In my opinion, the government cannot be trusted to run this investigation. But, lacking any other authoritative forum, a Congressional investigation may be the best we can hope for at this point.

On this topic, with a special emphasis on the possible role of psychologists and other health professionals in these interrogation abuses, see Stephen Soldz's article, "Involuntary drugging of US detainees, a crisis for the health professions".

Cross-posted at Invictus.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Psychologists and the Realpolitik of Torture

Posted by Valtin at 8:18 PM |

Polonius: What do you read, my lord?
Hamlet: Words, words, words.
Polonius: What is the matter, my lord?
Hamlet: Between who?
Sometimes it seems as if it is raining news and analysis. A number of good articles have appeared lately on the subject of U.S. torture. David Goodman's "The Enablers" over at Mother Jones is one of a number of articles in a special MJ series on torture. Goodman's article focuses on the fight within the American Psychological Association (APA) over psychologist participation in military and CIA interrogations of "enemy combatants." It's very good, fairly up-to-date, and puts the controversy into some historical context.

Another article, by Stephen Soldz and Brad Olson -- both psychologists and both active in the APA opposition organization, Psychologists for an Ethical APA -- has been published online over at ZNet. Its long title, "A Reaction to the APA Vote on Sealing Up Key Loopholes in the 2007 Resolution on Interrogations," tips you off that there has been some recent activity in the struggle to change APA policy on psychologists and interrogation. Indeed there has been, as last week APA Council voted to approve a substantial change in their previous language on prohibited interrogation techniques. But will it make a difference in the long run?

Soldz and Olson do a good job explaining what the loopholes were in the earlier APA position. The latter is a subject I've covered earlier myself:
The APA is touting how the new 2007 resolution prohibits "specific techniques sometimes used in interrogations and calling on the U.S. government to ban their use"....

Looking back at APA's long list of prohibited techniques we see something strange in the wording. The first part of the list are odious forms of obvious torture. "Techniques" that are "unequivocally condemned" include rape, mock executions, waterboarding, etc. Note, however, that use of "psychotropic drugs or mind-altering substances" are prohibited in instances where they are "used for the purpose of eliciting information". If they are used to sedate or "soften up" a detainee prior to the questioning, drugs are apparently not prohibited.

Even worse is what comes next: a subset of other techniques are also singled out as prohibited when they are "used for the purposes of eliciting information in an interrogation process". These are "hooding, forced nakedness, stress positions, the use of dogs to threaten or intimidate, physical assault including slapping or shaking, exposure to extreme heat or cold, threats of harm or death".

A third subset of "prohibited" techniques concerns sensory deprivation and overstimulation, and sleep deprivation. Here, the APA goes completely off the rails. They define these techniques to be prohibited only if "used in a manner that represents significant pain or suffering or in a manner that a reasonable person would judge to cause lasting harm". (Emphasis mine)
Soldz and Olson described their reaction at the 2007 convention when APA Council brought forth their "substitute" resolution, written precisely to replace a bureaucratically-blocked resolution proposed months earlier calling for a moratorium against any psychologist participation at interrogation sites. They read the language around "definitions" of torture and cruel, abusive and inhuman behavior:
We remember clearly our shock at first observing this careful parsing of allowed degrees of suffering. We remember such insertions mysteriously occurring overnight before the Council vote. We recall how upset we were with this new language that was in such brazen contrast to the APA Ethics Code's injunction to "do no harm." We also remember our group of APA critics not being able to keep ourselves from wondering "Who pulled strings to get these phrases inserted?"
Opponents of APA collaboration with U.S. torture jumped on the wording of the disputed paragraph. Yet, introduced by representatives of APA's military psychology division, the Council resolution, with its weak and misleading language, passed easily. And that's where things sat for a number of months, as revelations mounted in the press about abusive conditions of confinement at Guantanamo's Camp Delta, about CIA use of waterboarding, and the participation of foreign countries in the U.S. "extraordinary rendition" program. Capping it all off, there was the circus of Attorney General Mukasey's testimony before Congress, with Bush's number one legal officer unable to make up his mind about whether waterboarding represented torture or not.

Meanwhile, the backlash grew against APA's sneaky maneuvers and parsing of language, allowing for the continuation of psychological forms of torture and abusive treatment. Goodman's article nicely summarizes what happened next:
In the wake of these revelations, a growing number of APA members have protested by withholding dues. In August [2007], Mary Pipher, author of the best-selling Reviving Ophelia, returned her APA Presidential Citation. And a stream of prominent APA members are resigning, including Kenneth Pope, the former chair of the organization's ethics committee, who quit in February. In addition, at least six college psychology departments -- Earlham, Guilford, Smith, University of Rhode Island, California State University at Long Beach, and York College of the City University of New York -- have gone on record saying it was a violation of professional ethics for psychologists to participate in interrogations in any prison outside the U.S. where prisoners are not afforded due process. And in January, the California State Senate Committee on Business, Professions, and Economic Development passed a resolution discouraging California licensed health professionals from participating in detainee interrogations.
(As a gesture demonstrating my wish to be open about any bias I may have, I should add that I resigned from the APA myself earlier this year.)

The APA brass certainly noticed something was happening. Ethics Director Stephen Behnke began sending out emails, trying to smooth the waters with critics. He assured the doubting Thomases that there was no attempt to create any loopholes, and that the confusion would all be cleared up by the long-promised casebook on ethics and interrogation due out in about a year. Of course, not a word was said about the now-forgotten moratorium proposal. It was dead in the water, relegated to the maximum program of radicals and little-read bloggers (ahem).

New APA Ban on Torture Techniques: Victory or Clever Cover-up?

According to Goodman's article, the Senate Armed Services Committee is still investigating the role of psychologists in the reverse-engineering of Pentagon anti-torture training for the interrogators of Bush's "war on terror." I had given up on any real hearings ever happening, but perhaps APA headquarters knows more than me. Or perhaps, as Soldz and Olson suggest, and I've made explicit in the past, the dawning realization that a Democratic administration is probably going to take over Washington, D.C. next January has signaled to APA that a change in approach is necessary. The Democrats have offered a reform of interrogation policy that includes a similar ban on abusive techniques, and offers the current Army Field Manual as an authority of allowable interrogation techniques.

Then again, maybe the resignations of prominent and non-prominent members, the dues boycott, and the muffled drumbeat in the press on the subject has played a role in APA's turnabout on torture definitions. In any case, all of a sudden, APA Council moved with due speed to make some purportedly dramatic changes in their previous position.

More than one critic of APA's past policy has noted the participation of Bill Strickland from APA's Division 19, Society for Military Psychology, on the small group redrafting the controversial paragraph. Not only has Strickland been a major opponent of a psychologist moratorium, wherein psychologists would follow the policies of the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatrist Association forbidding their membership from participation in the interrogation of detainees, he is also Vice President of Human Research Resources Organization, or HumRRO.

Goodman notes in his article that HumRRO is a major recipient of defense funding, and staffed at high levels by APA honchos past and present. But HumRRO was a major research center in the 1950s-1960s on sensory deprivation, using U.S. soldiers as guinea pigs, and thus a center of MKULTRA research. As reported in J.P. Zubek's 1969 compendium, Sensory Deprivation: Fifteen Years of Research (Appleton-Century-Crofts, publishers), HumRRO, located in Monterey, California, reportedly had the best laboratory of all the sensory research centers:
...they made significant contributions to the study of the effects of sensory deprivation on hallucinations, attitude change, emotions, motor behavior, and cognition. Perhaps their most important work has been in the area of the measurement of affect and subjective stress... (p. 10)
I presume Strickland and his military/CIA partners are counting on the fact that sensory deprivation can be banned in name only, but still be practiced in the field. How do they do this? By simply claiming, as is done in the new Army Field Manual, that what they are doing is not sensory deprivation, even when they are applying special goggles and mittens to detainees, taking a page right out of the Donald Hebb SD playbook. The famous picture of then-defendant Jose Padilla being taken from his cell in goggles illustrates the technique quite well.

As we shall see, the supposed closing of the loopholes (and they likely aren't all completely closed) belies the fact that the military and APA leadership have shifted the terms of the debate away from psychologist participation in unethical and likely illegal governmental detention of prisoners, and away from other, more arcane loopholes that promise no major change in U.S. torture practice. For brevity's sake, the reedited 2007 paragraph defining proscribed interrogation techniques is not reproduced here, but can be accessed at this link. Let me allow that it is quite encyclopedic in proscribing most torture techniques known or that can be imagined. It's reliance on the UN Convention Against Torture, which was ratified in the U.S. with a number of "reservations" that weakened its definitional structure, remains a possible difficulty in implementation. (See discussion on this point here.)

But the other difficulties are more obvious. Hence it is not in the resolution's language that we find the problems (at present), but in the politics that got us to where we now are. These are enumerated below:

1) Despite all protestations of good faith by APA, psychologists still staff the Behavioral Science Consultation Teams at Guantanamo, and other interrogation sites, including, presumably, secret "black site" prisons run by the CIA. Psychologists at these sites are under the military chain of command, not APA ethics codes and committees. These sites are known to be in violation of Geneva Conventions and other national and international laws and agreements concerning prisoners, including the holding of detainees in indefinite detention, hiding detainees from the Red Cross, subjecting detainees to abusive conditions of detention, transferring via secret rendition some detainees to foreign prisons to be tortured, and subjecting prisoners to secret courts where hearsay evidence and evidence supplied via tortured confession is allowed.

Scandalously, a promised resolution to be brought before APA Council calling for the closure of Guantanamo's prison facility failed to make an appearance yet again at February's meeting, putting off any action for some months. The Council member who promised to do this explained to an inquiring member that the Gitmo closure resolution wasn't presented at the Council meeting for the following reasons: it was being vetted by APA's Board for the Advancement of Psychology in the Public Interest (BAPPI), emails got lost, a busy work schedule intervened, and various other dog-ate-my-homework excuses. When APA wants to bureaucratically bury something, they don't fool around.

2) APA's Ethics Code 1.02, which 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. Contrast this with the six month time frame that brought about the recent word change in last summer's resolution.

3) For months, APA activists have been concentrating their fire on the previously weak language of the 2007 resolution and its loopholes regarding certain kinds of torture. With the "victory" of recent days over this disputed language, some activists aren't wondering if it isn't time to end the dues boycott, implemented last year as a protest against APA's torture policy. Others are seeing the language change as a sign of good faith by APA leadership. The days of a strong fight over a moratorium of psychologist participation at Guantanamo and CIA "black site" prisons seems a thing of the past, indicating the success of APA in changing the terms of the torture debate.

Calling the Question

The issue boils down to this: Are psychologists involved in interrogations of detainees at Guantanamo, CIA prisons, and other theater of war prison sites? Yes. Are these sites in violation of basic human rights laws and treaties? Yes. Have psychologists been implicated in torture of prisoners, and training other personnel in such torture? Yes. Does APA have an ethics policy in place that allows military psychologists to follow orders, regardless of ethical demands? Yes. Has anyone in the 50 plus year history of psychologist participation in mind control and interrogation research ever been held responsible for unethical practices? No. Has any military psychologist, or for that matter any health professional, been held responsible for torture-related activities since 9/11? No.

The overwhelming conclusion is that the language change in APA's 2007 resolution regarding interrogations, while welcome, is a small victory at best, part of a larger campaign where the government and their institutional handmaidens, like APA, have by far the lion's share of victories. This is the time when all opponents of APA participation in U.S. abusive interrogation must redouble their efforts to push for a moratorium on psychologist involvement in national security interrogations of so-called "enemy combatants." They must come out strongly against the use of psychological torture techniques in the Army Field Manual. They must call for accountability from those who have promoted torture and other abuse, up to and including criminal prosecutions. They must call for an end to the nation's policy of "extraordinary rendition." They must call for the rescission of APA Ethics Code 1.02. And, finally, they should take up Drs. Soldz and Olson's call for a reckoning with the sordid aspects of the history of the behavioral sciences:
We must, together with other health professions, come together as part of a truth and reconciliation process to publicly clarify the roles of psychologists and other health and mental health professionals in the production of harm. We must publicly admit and apologize for the use of psychological knowledge and expertise in detention and interrogation abuses. Until we clarify and personally accept the extent to which our profession and our professional association has condoned or abetted these and other abuses committed during this so-called "war on terrorism," we will have done little to learn what went wrong, and little to make the moral and institutional changes necessary to prevent their recurrence.

For further reading, please see this recent article, "The ethics of interrogation and the American Psychological Association: A critique of policy and process", by Brad Olson, Stephen Soldz, and Martha Davis.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

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)

Labels: , , , , , ,