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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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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (11+ / 0-)

    This paper is not really "academic" but an attempt to deal with vital ethical issues that are currently convulsing the psychology profession and the American Psychological Association.

    •  As An Amerian Citizen I Want to express (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Jesterfox

      my gratitude for this diary.  There are so many of us that are truly outraged and who feel helpless to know what action to take to stop these WAR CRIMES from continuing.

      It is a horrible day when Americans must hide their faces in shame.  Who among us can go to any event including the Olympic Games and shout USA, USA, USA
      when we know and the World knows we are torturers.

      The Senators and Representatives in Congress who have allowed this Administration to continue to use torture will go down in history as the enablers they are.
      Their families will suffer by association and their children, grandchildren and future generations will be tainted throughout their lives.

      I find it interesting that there is a group in Spokane, Washington that is active in this outrage.  

      Two psychologists, James Elmer Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, have been identified by the U.S. press as the primary authors behind the reverse SERE program of brutal interrogation methods. They were originally involved in work with SERE at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where U.S. Special Forces are trained. Following September 11, 2001, they also did contract work for the CIA and in due course set up their own consulting firm, Mitchell, Jessen, and Associates, in Spokane, Washington, employing some 120 personnel. Together they developed the interrogation techniques, trained military personnel in SERE courses, and took part in interrogations at various prison sites under the supervision of the CIA.


      Since I live in Washington, I would be happy to join with any of those who would be interested in protesting at the offices or homes of these people.
      Americans have the right to know who these people are.  This is where our tax dollars are going and I, for one, am red with rage that one penny of my tax dollars goes to War Criminals to use torture in my name as an American Citizen.

      •  Yes, Mitchell & Jessen are key. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Jesterfox, Naniboujou

        They not only took participated in interrogations, they designed and trained many of the CIA torturers. There is a good chance that is was Mitchell and Jessen on those destroyed CIA tapes.

        A former American Psychological Association President has a voting stake in Mitchell, Jessen & Associatesvoting stake. The APA leadership expressed no concern about this, other than to state that he hadn't been involved in APA governance for a couple of years. No interest in finding out if he was involved in their abuses.

  •  The FAQ asks for diaries with a minimum (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Caneel, Naniboujou

    of 3 substantive paragraphs, so here's 3 from the first article:

    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.

    "Force shites upon Reason's back." - Benjamin Franklin

    by Bob Love on Sat Feb 23, 2008 at 03:20:31 PM PST

  •  So Sad. On so many levels. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Naniboujou

    That it happened.  That APA is not unilaterally condemning this.  That the American media doesn't cover this.

    On and on.  What a perversion of the Hippocratic Oath, which, if those in the psychological profession, don't actually take, are certainly expected to keep in its spirit.

    How did we get here?

    Thank you so, so much for this article.

    Demand a "voter verified paper trail" in every election, in every state. Sign Rush Holt's Petition for HR. 811.

    by SeaTurtle on Sat Feb 23, 2008 at 04:27:19 PM PST

  •  APA and ethics complaints (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Jesterfox, Naniboujou

    How can the APA justify its ethics complaints process against psychologists in everyday practice if they cannot understand the most basic level of ethics involved in treatment of prisoners.

    It's as if APA officials have forgotten the lessons of the Stanford experiment, the excesses of Soviet psychiatrists against political prisoners confined to "psychiatric hospitals," the Nuremburg trials against those who participated in Nazi experiments on humans etc.

    What will these psychologists say? I was just following orders?

    •  these psychiatrists/psychologists are giving (0+ / 0-)

      the orders not taking them.  They are War Criminals.

      •  Yes. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        twinpeaks

        And APA leadership, at least, are not "ignoring" anything. They are (or rather were) actively abetting abuse in order to curry favor with the administration. They saw this as an opportunity to get an advantage over their real enemies, the psychiatrists.

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