The American Psychological Association’s board Friday urged a ban on psychologists participating in prisoner interrogations in the wake of a scathing report that some of its members persuaded the Defense Department to engage in harsh techniques during the Bush administration’s war on terror. The report said he did not tell the group’s board about his involvement in training Pentagon staff. The guidelines were adopted as part of the APA ethics policy in an APA emergency board meeting a week later. The book documented secret coordination between APA and USA officials to support the spurious legal and ethical justification for the Bush administration’s torture program, which relied on health professional monitoring of abusive interrogations to claim that they were “safe, effective, and legal”.
A subsequent report from the task force found there were no ethical violations of psychologists’ participation in the government’s “enhanced interrogation” program – which included techniques such as waterboarding, forced “stress positions” and sleep deprivation.
“For the APA officials who played the lead role in these actions, their principal motive was to curry favor with the Defense Department for two main reasons: because of the very substantial benefits that DoD had conferred and continued to confer on psychology as a profession, and because APA wanted a favorable result from the critical policy DoD was in the midst of developing that would determine whether and how deeply psychologists could remain involved in intelligence activities”, the report states.
The investigation took eight months to complete and concluded that the APA’s primary motivation was to align itself with the Pentagon.
Also, the Guardian reports that the evidence could merit an FBI investigation into criminal wrongdoing by the APA.
It found that APA officials “had strong reasons to suspect that abusive interrogations had occurred” and “intentionally and strategically avoided taking steps to learn information to confirm those suspicions”. He talked to a few psychologists and came back with an assessment that it was not torture.
The review confirms that the Ethics Office of APA had been uninterested and not willing to investigate complaints against psychologists.
Not only did Behnke actively resist disciplining psychologists involved in torture, but Behnke manipulated resolutions in the APA’s legislative body, the Council of Representatives, in order to protect national security psychologists.
Dr Nadine Kaslow, chair of the Independent Review’s Special Committe, said: “Our internal checks and balances failed to detect the collusion, or properly acknowledge a significant conflict of interest, nor did they provide meaningful field guidance for psychologists”. We profoundly regret, and apologize for, the behavior and the consequences that ensued.
Critics cited in the report said the APA chose “to help the government commit torture”.
“The corruption of a health professional organization at this level is an extraordinary betrayal of both ethics and the law, and demands an investigation and appropriate prosecutions”, said Donna McKay, PHR’s executive director.