No Comment — November 22, 2007, 10:20 am

The APA Responds

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 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

Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Context, No Comment August 28, 2015, 12:16 pm

Beltway Secrecy

In five easy lessons

From the April 2015 issue

Company Men

Torture, treachery, and the CIA

Six Questions October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm

The APA Grapples with Its Torture Demons: Six Questions for Nathaniel Raymond

Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada



December 2015

Power in Paris

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Bed-Rest Hoax

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Blast from the Past

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Counterparty

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Free but not Redeemed

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content


Getting to the End·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“That casino resorts offer a kind of virtual travel is an obvious facet of this theory, but all the glitzy bullshit — the gross architectural citation of other, actual places — is really just a lure for the virtual narrative of the gambling experience.”
Photograph by Robert Gumpert
Slender Mercies·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“A weight-loss show about abuse and incest and a young football coach who once attempted to hang himself? If this combination strikes you as surprising, you haven’t been watching Extreme Weight Loss.”
Illustration by Barry Falls
The Counterparty·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The Dayton Accords stopped the Bosnian War, but because the deal was hammered out before there was a clear military victor, it relied on a complicated patchwork of ethnically organized governments that satisfied everyone and no one.”
Photograph © Christopher Anderson/Magnum Photos
The Bed-Rest Hoax·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Within five days of immobilization, the arteries narrow and stiffen, and the interior lining of the blood vessels becomes less able to flex and tighten.”
Painting by Evan Wilson.
New Movies·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“It’s debatable, of course, whether the restless momentum of film demands the strict causative logic of A-leads-to-B, or whether this is merely an orthodoxy that has hardened into a rule, but in Beasts of No Nation the adherence to the creed of character motivation has damaging consequences for the film’s persuasive power.”
Photograph courtesy of Netflix

Percentage of Americans who say they have “a great deal of confidence” in the executive branch of government:


Dolphins use names.

A poet in Saudi Arabia was sentenced to death for apostasy.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!


Subways Are for Sleeping


“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”

Subscribe Today