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A major battle is shaping up in California where a coalition is working to remove health providers from participating in military and CIA interrogations. I have written recently about efforts in the California legislature to get health professionals, psychologists included, out of interrogation of enemy combatants. Senator Ridley-Thomas has introduced a resolution, SJR 19, that would request the military and CIA to remove all California licenses health providers from involvement in interrogations.  [For arguments in favor of the Resolution, see the Physicians for Human Rights letterto the Senate committee.]

There was a hearing on Monday (January 14) at which proponents of the Resolution spoke. At this hearing the California Psychological Association (CPA) and the American Psychological Association (APA) together proposed a revised resolution. While appearing to be a slight modification, the APA-CPA revisions would completely gut the Resolution.

In particular, by inserting three words [bolded below], the APA/CPA entirely change the meaning of the critical Resolved clause. Rather than follow the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association and state that involvement in interrogations is in conflict with the ethics of a health profession, they would turn this into another vacuous statement against torture, as if everyone, even those who order it, doesn't claim to be against torture:

Resolved, That the Legislature hereby requests the United States Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency to remove all California-licensed health professionals, including, but not limited to, physicians and psychologists, from participating in any way in prisoner and detainee interrogations that involve torture, in view of their respective ethical obligations, the record of abusive interrogation practices, and the Legislature’s interest in protecting California health professionals from the risk of criminal liability; and be it further

The APA-CPA revision would make this Resolution even weaker than APA resolutions, which condemn not only torture, but the similar but legally distinct "cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment."

Notice also that, in order to make this change palatable, they totally distort the fundamental guidelines of the World Medical Association, as you can see from the language they want remove, here indicated by strikeout:

WHEREAS, The World Medical Association (WMA) issued guidelines stating that physicians shall not use nor allow to be used their medical knowledge or skills, or health information specific to individuals, to facilitate or otherwise aid any interrogation, legal or illegal; and

WHEREAS, The guidelines issued by the WMA also state that physicians shall not participate in or facilitate torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading procedures of prisoners or detainees in any situations;

In the category of the humorous, if it wasn't an indicator of how closely allied with the military the APA is, is that they remove the word "military" from a phrase pointing to the clear record that psychologists participated in abuse

WHEREAS, Evidence in the public record indicates that certain military psychologists, working on behalf of the United States government, participated in the design and implementation of psychologically abusive interrogation methods used at Guantanamo Bay, in Iraq, and elsewhere, including sleep deprivation, long-term isolation, sexual and cultural humiliation, forced nudity, induced hypothermia and other temperature extremes, stress positions, sensory bombardment, manipulation of phobias, force-feeding hunger strikers, and more.

Also in the category of macabre humor is the APA's wish to revise history and strike "psychologists"  from the list of professionals reported to have participated in abuse:

WHEREAS, in 2002, for the first time in American history, the Bush administration initiated a radical new policy allowing the torture of prisoners of war and other captives with confirmed reports from the International Red Cross, The New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet (British medical journal), military records and first-person accounts stating that California licensed physicians, psychologists, and nurses have participated in torture or its cover up against detainees in U.S. custody

They are correct, of course, that it was not only military psychologists who participated in abuse, as CIA and CIA consultants are also known to have participated in torture and abuse.  Yet they add the word military when they suggest adding a largely false statement [only one psychologist, Michael Gelles, is clearly documented to have objected to abuse, and Gelles was a civilian, not a "military" psychologist at the time] about psychologists objecting to abuse:

while evidence in the public record also indicates that certain military psychologists objected to the use of such methods

Here is the entire revised CPA-APA draft of the Resolution. Language they want  removed is indicated with strikeout, while that they added is bolded:

RESOLUTION:  MILITARY TORTURE AND HEALTH PROFESSIONALS
(Draft:  1-3-08)

WHEREAS, the citizens of the United States of America and the residents of the State of California acknowledge January 15th as the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and mark the third Monday in January as a federal and state holiday to commemorate his life work as a Civil Rights leader, activist and an internationally acclaimed proponent of human rights who warned:  "He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it," and

WHEREAS, in 2002, for the first time in American history, the Bush administration initiated a radical new policy allowing the torture of prisoners of war and other captives with confirmed reports from the International Red Cross, The New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet (British medical journal), military records and first-person accounts stating that California licensed physicians, psychologists, and nurses have participated in torture or its cover up against detainees in U.S. custody; and

WHEREAS, in honor of the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a broad coalition of medical, human rights and legal organizations are petitioning the State of California to warn its medical licensees of the legal prohibitions against torture and the risks of prosecution, and are demanding that the U.S. Government remove California doctors and psychologists from interrogation and torture of detainees; and

WHEREAS, Dr. King challenged Americans to remain true to their most basic values, stating: "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy," and

WHEREAS, Californians to Stop Medical Torture are carrying petition signatures to the California State Senate, asking that the Senate warn California licensed physicians, psychologists, nurses and other health care workers of possible future prosecution for participation in torture -- cruel and degrading practices that have become a national shame;

WHEREAS, Health professionals licensed in California, including, but not limited to physicians, osteopaths, naturopaths, psychologists, psychiatric workers, and nurses, have and continue serve nobly and honorably in the armed services of the United States; and

WHEREAS, United States Army regulations and the War Crimes Act, relative to the treatment of prisoners of war, state in Common Article III of the Geneva Conventions and in the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) require that all military personnel report and not engage in acts of abuse or torture; and

WHEREAS, the CAT defines the term torture as "any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity"; and

WHEREAS, in 2002, the United States Department of Justice reinterpreted national and international law related to the treatment of prisoners of war in a manner that purported to justify long-prohibited interrogation methods and treatment of detainees; and

WHEREAS, Physicians and other medical personnel and psychologists serving in noncombatant roles are bound by international law and professional ethics to care for enemy prisoners and to report any evidence of coercion, or abuse of detainees; and

WHEREAS, The World Medical Association (WMA) issued guidelines stating that physicians shall not use nor allow to be used their medical knowledge or skills, or health information specific to individuals, to facilitate or otherwise aid any interrogation, legal or illegal; and

WHEREAS, The guidelines issued by the WMA also state that physicians shall not participate in or facilitate torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading procedures of prisoners or detainees in any situations; and

WHEREAS, The ethical policy of the American Medical Association (AMA) prohibits physicians from conducting or directly participating in an interrogation or monitoring interrogations with the intention of intervening; and

WHEREAS, AMA policy also states that "[t]orture refers to the deliberate, systematic or wanton administration of cruel, inhumane and degrading treatments or punishments during imprisonment or detainment. Physicians must oppose and must not participate in torture for any reason ... Physicians should help provide support for victims of torture and, whenever possible, strive to change the situation in which torture is practiced or the potential for torture is great"; and

WHEREAS, United States Code section 2340 states that (1) "torture" means an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control; (2) "severe mental pain or suffering" means the prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from: (A) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering; (B) the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality; (C) the threat of imminent death; or (D) the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality; and

WHEREAS, In May 2006, the American Psychiatric Association stated that psychiatrists should not "participate directly in the interrogation of persons held in custody by military or civilian investigative or law enforcement authorities, whether in the United States or elsewhere," and that "psychiatrists should not participate in, or otherwise assist or facilitate, the commission of torture of any person. Psychiatrists who become aware that torture has occurred, is occurring, or has been planned must report it promptly to a person or persons in a position to take corrective action"; and

WHEREAS, In August 2006, the American Psychological Association stated  that "psychologists shall not knowingly participate in any procedure in which torture  or other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment is used or threatened" and that "should torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment evolve during a procedure where a psychologist is present, the psychologist shall attempt to intervene to stop such behavior, and failing that exit the procedure"; and

WHEREAS, In June 2005, the House of Delegates of the American Nurses Association issued a resolution stating all of the following: "prisoners and detainees have the right to health care and humane treatment"; "registered nurses shall not voluntarily participate in any deliberate infliction of physical or mental suffering"; "registered nurses who have knowledge of ill-treatment of any individuals including detainees and prisoners must take appropriate action to safeguard the rights of that individual"; "the American Nurses Association shall condemn interrogation procedures that are harmful to mental and physical health"; "the American Nurses Association shall advocate for nondiscriminatory access to health care for wounded military and paramilitary personnel and prisoners of war"; and "the American Nurses Association shall counsel and support nurses who speak out about acts of torture and abuse"; and

WHEREAS, In March 2005, the California Medical Association stated that it "condemns any participation in, cooperation with, or failure to report by physicians and other health professionals the mental or physical abuse, sexual degradation, or

WHEREAS, In November 2004, the American Public Health Association stated that it "condemns any participation in, cooperation with, or failure to report by health professionals the mental or physical abuse, sexual degradation, or torture of prisoners or detainees," that it "urges health professionals to report abuse or torture of prisoners and detainees;’ and that it "supports the rights of health workers to be protected from retribution for refusing to participate or cooperate in abuse or torture in military settings"; and

WHEREAS, The United States military medical system in Guantanamo Bay,
Afghanistan, Iraq, and other United States operated foreign military prisons failed to protect detainees’ rights to medical treatment, failed to prevent disclosure of confidential medical information to interrogators and others, failed to promptly report injuries or deaths caused by beatings, failed to report acts of psychological and sexual degradation, and sometimes collaborated with abusive interrogators and guards; and

WHEREAS, Current United States Department of Defense guidelines authorize the participation of certain military health personnel, especially psychologists, in the interrogation of detainees as members of "Behavioral Science Consulting Teams" in violation of professional ethics. These guidelines also permit the use of confidential clinical information from medical records to aid in interrogations; and

WHEREAS, Evidence in the public record indicates that certain military psychologists, working on behalf of the United States government, participated in the design and implementation of psychologically abusive interrogation methods used at Guantanamo Bay, in Iraq, and elsewhere, including sleep deprivation, long-term isolation, sexual and cultural humiliation, forced nudity, induced hypothermia and other temperature extremes, stress positions, sensory bombardment, manipulation of phobias, force-feeding hunger strikers, and more, while evidence in the public record also indicates that certain military psychologists objected to the use of such methods; and

WHEREAS, Published reports indicate that the so-called "enhanced interrogation methods" of the Central Intelligence Agency reportedly include similar abusive methods and that agency psychologists may have assisted in their development; and

WHEREAS, in August 2007 the American Psychological Association prohibited psychologist participation in nineteen techniques associated with "enhanced" interrogation methods, also referred to as "no-touch torture" and "torture light"; and

WHEREAS, Medical and psychological studies and clinical experience show that these abuses can cause severe or serious mental pain and suffering in their victims, and therefore may violate the "torture" and "cruel and inhuman treatment" provisions of CAT and the United States War Crimes Act, as amended by the Military Commissions Act of 2006; and

WHEREAS, The United States Department of Defense has failed to oversee the ethical conduct of California-licensed health professionals related to torture;

WHEREAS, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "Commit yourself to the noble struggle for human rights.  You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country and a finer world to live in."  Therefore, be it

Resolved by the Senate and the Assembly of the State of California jointly that the Legislature hereby requests all relevant California agencies, including, but not limited to, the Board of Behavioral Sciences, the Dental Board of California, the Medical Board of California, the Osteopathic Medical Board of California, the Bureau of Naturopathic Medicine, the California State Board of Pharmacy, the Physician Assistant Committee of the Medical Board of California, the California Board of Podiatric Medicine, the Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians, the Board of Psychology, and the Board of Registered Nursing, to notify California-licensed health professionals via newsletter, email, and Web site about their professional obligations under international law, specifically Common Article III of the Geneva Conventions, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and the amended War Crimes Act, which prohibit the torture of and the cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment of detainees in United States custody; and be it further

Resolved, That the Legislature hereby requests all relevant California agencies to notify health professionals licensed in California that those who participate in torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment may one day be subject to prosecution; and be it further

Resolved, That the Legislature hereby requests the United States Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency to remove all California-licensed health professionals, including, but not limited to, physicians and psychologists, from participating in any way in prisoner and detainee interrogations that involve torture, in view of their respective ethical obligations, the record of abusive interrogation practices, and the Legislature’s interest in protecting California health professionals from the risk of criminal liability; and be it further

Resolved, That the Secretary of the Senate transmit copies of this resolution to the United States Department of Defense, the Central Intelligence Agency, and all relevant California agencies, including, but not limited to, the Board of Behavioral Sciences, the Dental Board of California, the Medical Board of California the Osteopathic Medical Board of California, the Bureau of Naturopathic Medicine, the California State Board of Pharmacy, the Physician Assistant Committee of the Medical Board of California, the California Board of Podiatric Medicine, the Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians, the Board of Psychology, and the Board of Registered Nursing.

If this attempt to gut this important legislative initiative is to be stopped, California psychologists, other health providers, and all citizens concerned about human rights will have to organize a massive lobbying campaign. Letters, phone calls, and personal meetings with State Senators and Assembly members are critical. Tell them you support SJR19 as reported out of committee. Remember to be polite and to focus upon why this matters to the citizens and  government of California. The legislature is not interested in  internal conflicts within the health professions. Many are not concerned about foreign affairs. But they are very interested in kinds of activities the health providers licensed by the state are engaged in.Remember also that they may know little or nothing about these issues. Explain succinctly and to the point.

Originally posted to stephen soldz on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 07:00 AM PST.

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