American Psychological Association Accused Of Helping Bush Admin On Torture

| by Michael Allen

The American Psychological Association (APA), the largest and most respected organization of psychologists, allegedly helped the Bush administration justify its widely-reported notorious torture program, claims a new report.

The report, "All The President's Psychologists," was written by Steven Reisner, a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst, Nathaniel Raymond, of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative and Stephen Soldz (lead authors). There were also three co-authors and a reviewer.

The report draws its conclusions from emails allegedly sent by the APA to the CIA from 2003 to 2006.

The report stated, "The APA secretly coordinated with officials from the CIA, White House and the Department of Defense to create an APA ethics policy on national security interrogations which comported with then-classified legal guidance authorizing the CIA torture program,” notes The New York Times.

If true, this would mean the Bush administration's Justice Department used the APA's support to claim that secret torture programs were not actually torture, but were legal and overseen by health professionals.

The report claims that Susan Brandon, a behavioral science researcher employed by the Bush administration, actually wrote changes that later appeared in the APA's changes to its ethics policy.

One APA email described the purpose of a 2004 APA meeting with the CIA and other Bush administration intelligence agencies was "to take a forward looking, positive approach, in which we convey a sensitivity to and appreciation of the important work mental health professionals are doing in the national security arena, and in a supportive way offer our assistance in helping them navigate through thorny ethical dilemmas," noted Democracy Now.

One of the people who attended that 2004 meeting was Kirk Hubbard, who worked in the CIA's Operational Assessment Division.

Hubbard left the CIA to work for psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, who reportedly created the CIA's interrogation program. Mitchell told Vice.com in 2014 that he was part of a large team that waterboarded detainees.

Waterboarding was recognized as torture by U.S. as far back as World War II, noted Mother Jones in 2014.

The APA emails also show that Mitchell and Jessen attended an invitation-only 2003 meeting about enhanced interrogations that was put on by the APA, CIA and the RAND Corporation.

The APA condemned the enhanced interrogations, Mitchell and Jessen, and the secrecy of the Bush administration when the Senate Intelligence Committee released its 2014 torture report.

The APA stated in a December 2014 press release:

The document’s release recognizes American citizens’ right to know about the prior action of their government and is the best way to ensure that, going forward, the United States engages in national security programs that safeguard human rights and comply with international law.
The new details provided by the report regarding the extent and barbarity of torture techniques used by the CIA are sickening and morally reprehensible.
Two psychologists mentioned prominently in the report under pseudonyms, but identified in media reports as James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, are not members of the American Psychological Association. Jessen was never a member; Mitchell resigned in 2006. Therefore, they are outside the reach of the association’s ethics adjudication process. Regardless of their membership status with APA, if the descriptions of their actions are accurate, they should be held fully accountable for violations of human rights and U.S. and international law.

Last month, the APA announced an independent review of the allegation by New York Times reporter and author James Risen that the association colluded with the Bush administration to support enhanced interrogation techniques that constituted torture.

That independent review, by outside attorney named David Hoffman, is still not complete, noted Democracy Now.

The APA declined an interview with Democracy Now, but Rhea Farberman, a APA spokeswoman, told The New York Times that there “has never been any coordination between APA and the Bush administration on how APA responded to the controversies about the role of psychologists in the interrogations program."

Sources: Mother Jones, Vice.com, Democracy Now, APA, All The President's Psychologists, The New York Times
Image Credit: American Psychological Association Logo