After many years of protest from within the organization, the American Psychological Association says it will review the organization’s role in facilitating “enhanced interrogation” by the CIA and the U.S. military.
Or as the world knows it — torture.
James Risen reported in The New York Times that “The nation’s largest organization of psychologists will conduct an independent review into whether it colluded with or supported the government’s use of torture in the interrogation of prisoners during the Bush administration.” He spoke with Stephen Soldz, one of the leaders of protest from within the APA:
Critics like Mr. Soldz have said that the participation of psychologists allowed the Bush administration to argue that the interrogations did not constitute torture because they and other behavioral scientists were monitoring the interrogations to make sure they remained ‘safe, legal and effective.’ Psychiatrists were not as willing to cooperate with the interrogation programs.
In particular, the critics have cited the association’s 2002 decision to modify its ethics rules that in effect gave greater professional cover to psychologists who had been helping to monitor and oversee interrogations.
The most important change was a new guideline that made it clear that if a psychologist faced a conflict between the A.P.A.’s ethics code and a lawful order, the psychologist could follow the law. Critics say this introduced the Nuremberg defense into American psychology — following orders was an acceptable reason to violate professional ethics.
‘It’s sad that the A.P.A., rather than protecting its members from engaging in interrogation activities, bent its rules to allow their participation in those interrogations,’ Mr. Soldz said.
Risen’s new book, Pay Any Price: Greed, Power & an Endless War, describes revelations by a former CIA contractor, Scott Gerwehr, who was disturbed at the CIA & military’s use of psychologists to provide cover for torturing prisoners, and reveals how the Bush administration and the CIA worked to manage the APA’s public statements and internal policies.
No one involved has ever been held accountable, to date, for the 100 known deaths in U.S. custody, much less for the ongoing force-feeding & indefinite detention in Guantanamo.
Even though some CIA officials are said to be deeply “troubled” over the government’s counting methods for drone strikes (The New York Times quoted one two years ago as saying, “It bothers me when they say there were seven guys, so they must all be militants. They count the corpses and they’re not really sure who they are”), U.S. media is unabashed in calling all victims of the strikes “militants” or “insurgents.” Says Greenwald:
There’s simply no doubt that U.S. media outlets have continuously and repeatedly—and falsely—described innocent civilians killed by U.S. drone attacks as ‘militants.’ Just last month, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism documented that ‘fewer than 4% of the people killed have been identified by available records as named members of al Qaeda,’ directly contrary to ‘John Kerry’s claim last year that only ‘confirmed terrorist targets at the highest level’ were fired at.’
All the more reason that it’s up to us to expose the truth!
Debra Sweet is the director of World Can’t Wait.