Psychologists colluded with CIA to keep ethics code in line with post 9/11 torture needs – damning report

Reuters/Jim Young

Reuters/Jim Young

The US’s leading professional psychologists’ organization helped justify CIA and Pentagon torture programs, a new 542-page report shows. The psychologists involved later profited from torture-related contracts.

The report, concluded
this month, examined the involvement of the American
Psychological Association (APA) in the validation of the
so-called program of enhanced interrogation, under which terror
suspects were subjected to torture at CIA black cites and at the
Pentagon’s Guantanamo Bay prison facility.

The document prepared by a former assistant US attorney, David
Hoffman, says some of the APA’s senior figures, including its
ethics director, pushed to keep the association’s ethics code in
line with DoD’s interrogation policies. Other prominent external
psychologists took actions that aided CIA’s torture practices,
defending it from growing dissent among its own psychologists.

“The evidence supports the conclusion that APA officials
colluded with DoD officials to, at the least, adopt and maintain
APA ethics policies that were not more restrictive than the
guidelines that key DOD officials wanted,”
the report
published on Friday by the New York Times said. “APA chose
its ethics policy based on its goals of helping DoD, managing its
PR, and maximizing the growth of the profession.”

The Hoffman report focuses on the APA’s close ties with the
Pentagon and can be viewed as complimentary to last December’s
Senate report that exposed the brutality of post 9/11 CIA tactics
towards terror detainees, the NYT said. It also gives additional
details about how the intelligence agency adopted the enhanced
interrogation program and solicited outside advice to stem
concerns among its own medical professionals.

The report also describes several instances in which senior
figures involved in the program moved into the private sector to
get lucrative contracts from the CIA and the Pentagon. For
instance, Joseph Matarazzo, a former president of the
psychological association and a member of the CIA advisory
committee, was asked by Mr Kirk Hubbard (CIA psychologist who was
chairman of the agency advisory committee), to provide an opinion
about whether sleep deprivation constituted torture. The
conclusion was that it did not.

Later, Matarazzo became a partner in Mitchell Jessen and
Associates, a contracting company created by James Mitchel and
Bruce Jessen to consult with the CIA on their interrogation
program. They were instructors for the Air Force’s SERE
(survival, evasion, rescue and escape) program, in which US
troops are subjected to simulated torture to prepare them for
possible capture. They adapted the program’s techniques for use
against terror detainees, the report said.

After the Hoffman report was made public, the American
Psychological Association issued an apology.

“The actions, policies and lack of independence from
government influence described in the Hoffman report represented
a failure to live up to our core values,”
Nadine Kaslow, a
former president of the organization, said in a statement.
“We profoundly regret and apologize for the behavior and the
consequences that ensued.”

READ MORE: Study accuses psychologists group of
complicity in CIA torture program

One of the more immediate consequences of the report was the
resignation of the APA’s ethics chief, Stephen Behnke, according
to the Guardian. The psychologists coordinated the group’s public
policy statements on interrogations with a top military
psychologist, the report said. He later received a Pentagon
contract for training interrogators, without notifying the
American Psychological Association’s board.

Kaslow told the newspaper that Behnke’s last day at the APA was
July 8, after the association received Hoffman’s report, and that
further resignations were likely to follow.

A similarly damning report on the APA’s involvement in US
government torture programs was published in April.

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