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Psychologists Who Concealed U.S. Torture Program May Face Charges

Detainees upon arrival at Camp X-Ray in January 2002. (Shane T. McCoy, U.S. Navy / CC BY-SA 3.0)


The country’s largest professional organization of psychologists faces a crisis after a damning independent review alleging post-9/11 “collusion.”

The 542-page report examines the involvement of the American Psychological Association with the harsh interrogation programs under the George W. Bush presidency, raising questions about the collaboration between psychologists and officials at the CIA and the Pentagon.

According to The Guardian, “the revelation, puncturing years of denials, creates the potential for leadership firings, loss of licenses and even prosecutions.”

Spencer Ackerman explains:

For more than a decade, the American Psychological Association (APA) has maintained that a strict code of ethics prohibits its more than 130,000 members to aid in the torture of detainees while simultaneously permitting involvement in military and intelligence interrogations. The group has rejected media reporting on psychologists’ complicity in torture; suppressed internal dissent from anti-torture doctors; cleared members of wrongdoing; and portrayed itself as a consistent ally against abuse.

Now, a voluminous independent review conducted by a former assistant US attorney, David Hoffman, undermines the APA’s denials in full – and vindicates the dissenters.

Sources with knowledge of the report and its consequences, who requested anonymity to discuss the findings before public release, expected a wave of firings and resignations across the leadership of an organization that Hoffman finds used its extensive institutional links to the CIA and US military to facilitate abusive interrogations.

Several officials are likely to be sacked, including Stephen Behnke, the APA’s ethics chief and a leading figure in recasting its ethics guidelines in a manner conducive to interrogations that, from the start, relied heavily on psychologists to design and implement techniques like waterboarding.

But the reckoning with psychologists’ institutional complicity in torture may not stop there.

Evidence in the Hoffman report, sources believe, may merit referral to the FBI over potential criminal wrongdoing by the APA involvement in torture. The findings could reopen something human rights groups have urged for years: the potential for prosecutions of people involved in torture. The definition of “collusion” adopted by Hoffman is said to be similar to language used in the federal racketeering statute known as Rico.If so, however, it would not be American military or intelligence interrogators themselves under investigation, nor the senior officials who devised torture policy in the Bush administration, but the psychologists who enabled them.

Additionally, sources believe there will be grounds to initiate ethics charges against responsible individuals both within the APA and in the states in which they operate, which would be the first step toward the loss of a professional license.

Sources familiar with Hoffman’s report said the APA, knowing that the findings will undermine years of its public positions, is negotiating with its dissenters and critics to deliver a public apology. Recommendations for structural reform are said to be likely ahead of the organization’s 123rd annual convention, scheduled to begin on 6 August in Toronto.

Read the article in full here.

–Posted by Roisin Davis

Roisin Davis
Róisín Davis is a literary agent, writer, and editor based in New…
Roisin Davis

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