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The Swedish Journal of Psychology has covered the role of psychologists, and the American Psychological Association  in Bush administration interrogations. It includes an overview article by the Journal's editor, Eva Brita Järnefors and answered to question posed by her to APA and myself. The APA questions were answered by Rhea Farberman. I also answered a set of questions. With permission, I posted all three articles in English here. My original response was too long and was cut by the editor. I thus posted my original response after my published response. The original of all three articles is available as a pdf here.

As Bob pointed out in the comments, I should have three substantive paragraphs. So, following his lead, here are the first three paragraphs:

   U.S. psychologists have developed brutal interrogation methods that have been used at the U.S. military base at Guantánamo, in prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in secret prisons run by the CIA. The fact that psychologists have also taught these techniques and participated in interrogations of detainees has created deep divisions among the members of the American Psychological Association, APA.

   We have all seen the brutal photographs from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, which were widely publicized in April, 2004. Among other things, the pictures showed blindfolded, naked prisoners forced to form human pyramids, while laughing prison guards used dogs to scare them.

   Since then, more information has leaked in the U.S. press concerning abuse and torture in U.S. prisons for suspected terrorists. This information shows that the methods used at Abu Ghraib formed part of a policy that had been sanctioned at the highest political level. U.S. president George W. Bush has declared these prisoners to be "unlawful combatants," as opposed to "lawful combatants," and maintains that they therefore cannot be counted as prisoners of war and thus are not covered by the rules of international law. On December 2, 2002, former U.S. secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld signed a document allowing the use of a number of violent methods in connection with interrogations at the U.S. military base at Guantánamo Bay.

And here is one of questions posed to me and my answer:

How can the psychologists promote ethical interrogations if they do not stay engaged in these activities?

   - Why assume that psychologists have any special role in promoting ethical interrogations?

   -If one truly wants to promote ethical interrogations, transparency is the solution. The Abu Ghraib abuses became public only when photographs appeared. If one truly aimed to reduce abuse, it would only require cameras in every detention center and videotaping of every interrogation, with independent access to the tapes. Instead, the Defense Department reaction after Abu Ghraib was to order all cameras removed from detention centers.

   - Further, we need independent human rights monitors in the detention centers, with full access. The independent monitors need the right to report publicly on abuses they witness. Of course this is "utopian." But this is no more utopian than the fantasy that psychologists have any unique qualities that will lead them, any more than anyone else, to risk their careers and oppose abuse. Psychologists, with all we’ve learned about the powerful effects of settings upon individual behavior, should be the first to recognize this truth.

Originally posted to stephen soldz on Sat Feb 23, 2008 at 03:09 PM PST.

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