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I read with dismay “The Psychologists and Gitmo,” in the current
online edition of Harper’s, which woefully mischaracterizes the
longstanding position of the American Psychological Association
condemning the use of torture and other cruel, inhuman, and
degrading interrogation procedures. I find it most disconcerting
that the author did not contact APA so that we could provide
accurate information for the article.
The position of the American Psychological Association is
unequivocal: For more than 20 years, the association has
absolutely condemned any psychologist participation in torture. At
its annual convention this past August, APA’s governing Council of
Representatives (the association’s 168 member policy-making body)
adopted a resolution that expands upon earlier policy statements to
specify that interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding, which
are associated with “enhanced” interrogations, are unethical and
Immediately following that action, The Washington Post called APA’s
2007 resolution “a rebuke of the Bush administration’s anti-
terrorism policies.” Furthermore, in his Sept. 25, 2007, statement
to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Dr. Allen Keller,
Director of the Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture and a
member of the Physicians for Human Rights’ Advisory Council, wrote,
“The American Psychological Association has specifically banned its
members from participation in the tactics that allegedly make up
the CIA’s ‘enhanced’ interrogation program.” The Washington Post
and Dr. Keller are exactly correct regarding APA’s position.
With the recent posting on the Internet of what has been
identified as the U.S. military’s 2003 operating manual for the
Guantanamo detention center, attention has been directed to the use
of isolation and sensory deprivation as interrogation procedures.
APA policy specifically prohibits using any such technique, alone
or in combination with other techniques for the purpose of breaking
down a detainee. In a recent, public exchange (found at
www.apa.org) with an author of APA’s 2007 resolution, I directly
addressed this issue: “Given the concerns that have been expressed
let me state clearly and unequivocally the 2007 Resolution should
never be interpreted as allowing isolation, sensory deprivation and
over-stimulation, or sleep deprivation either alone or in
combination to be used as interrogation techniques to break down a
detainee in order to elicit information.” This position builds upon
a 2006 APA resolution, which stated that psychologists must act in
accordance with human rights instruments relevant to their roles.
APA’s Ethics Committee, with input from our members, is working on
a casebook and commentary that will use a vignette-based approach
to clarify any perceived ambiguities in APA’s position, and that
will reiterate and reaffirm that “enhanced” interrogation
techniques (also known as “no-touch torture” and “torture light”)
are unethical and prohibited.
Stephen Behnke, J.D., Ph.D.
Director of Ethics
American Psychological Association
More from Scott Horton:
No Comment — November 4, 2013, 5:17 pm
An expert panel concludes that the Pentagon and the CIA ordered physicians to violate the Hippocratic Oath
No Comment — August 12, 2013, 7:55 am
How will the Obama Administration handle Edward Snowden’s case in the long term?
No Comment — July 29, 2013, 11:36 am
Is it possible to simply disband the partisan FISA court?
Fleming awoke in the dark and his room felt loose, sloshing so badly he gripped the bed. From his window there was nothing but a hallway, and if he craned his neck, a blown lightbulb swung into view. The room pitched up and down and for a moment he thought he might be sick. The word “hallway” must have a nautical name. Why didn’t they supply a glossary for this cruise? Probably they had, in the welcome packet he’d failed to read. A glossary. A history of the boat, which would be referred to as a ship. Sunny biographies of the captain and crew, who had always dreamed of this life. Lobotomized histories of the islands they’d visit. Who else had sailed this way. Famous suckwads from the past, slicing through this very water on wooden longships.
A welcome packet, the literary genre most likely to succeed in the new millennium. Why not read about a community you don’t belong to, that doesn’t actually exist, a captain and crew who are, in reality, if that isn’t too much of a downer on your vacation, as indifferent to one another as any set of co-employees at an office or bank? Read doctored personal statements from underpaid crew members — because ocean life pays better than money! — who hate their lives but have been forced to buy into the mythology of working on a boat, separated now from loved ones and friends, growing lonelier by the second, even while they wait on you and follow your every order.
Rank of Detroit among major U.S. cities whose residents give the largest portion of their income to charity:
A South Dakota researcher concluded that only scant blood spatter results when chain saws are used to dismember pigs.
Four people were arrested for using a remote-controlled hexacopter to fly two pounds of tobacco to prisoners inside the yard at Calhoun State Prison in Georgia.
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Our congratulations to Alice Munro, winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature