As a retired professor of psychology and psychiatry, one of the most disturbing revelations in the Senate report on the CIA's interrogation program was the outsourcing of illegal torture to the deep complicity of psychologists, psychiatrists and other types of medical doctors in torturing suspected terrorists. Of course, we already knew that health professionals were involved by advising the interrogators when their brutal tactics might inadvertently kill a prisoner. We just assumed they were advisers, not the actual interrogators.
Now we have learned that the two psychologists earned tens of millions of dollars under contract to the CIA for devising a list of torture techniques to be used in questioning prisoners and also personally conducted sessions in which they tortured prisoners. We also learned that CIA medical doctors cleared prisoners for torture and played a role in deciding whether to continue or adjust procedures when a prisoner developed severe medical problems.
These interrogators, aka torturers, relied on a ludicrous theory for its scientific underpinning known as "learned helplessness," which they thought would cause prisoners to be passive and depressed and make them cooperate in being fountains of information. The "enhanced interrogation techniques" provided no evidence that they produced useful intelligence, except for the self-serving claims by former Vice President Dick Cheney and others.
This Senate report makes it clear that the active participation of health professionals in torture is a scandal within a scandal and that it, too, should be investigated. Both torture and coercive interrogation have to be violations of the American Medical Association's core of ethical values, and the application of learned helplessness on detainees is a perversion of psychological science.
If Republicans are upset by this Senate report and feel it is biased, they should create a commission to investigate the role health professionals played in torture.
B.J. Paschal, Pigeon Forge