Psychologists Close Loopholes: Leave Ethics Problems in Detainee Interrogations

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Psychologists Close Loopholes: Leave Ethics Problems in Detainee Interrogations

Δημοσίευση από Psychoanalysis Forum Την / Το Τετ Μαρ 12, 2008 2:45 pm

March 1, 2008 at 12:10:14

Psychologists Close Loopholes: Leave Ethics Problems in Detainee Interrogations


by Stephen Soldz & Brad Olson (Posted by Stephen Soldz) Page 1 of 2 page(s)

http://www.opednews.com


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reddit_title='Psychologists Close Loopholes: Leave Ethics Problems in Detainee Interrogations'


digg_url='http://www.opednews.com/articles/opedne_stephen__080301_psychologists_close_.htm';
digg_title='Psychologists Close Loopholes: Leave Ethics Problems in Detainee Interrogations';
digg_bodytext='Recently the American Psychological Association closed loopholes in its 2007 anti-torture resolution. We explain why this action, those laudable, is far from adequate in putting the APA on an ethical path in dealing with psychologists\\' roles in detainee interrogations at Guantanamo, the CIA "black sites" and elsewhere.';
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On Friday, the 22nd of
February, the American Psychological Association (APA) Council voted
unanimously to modify a crucial paragraph in the August 2007 APA
resolution entitled the Reaffirmation
of the American Psychological Association Position Against Torture and
Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and Its
Application to Individuals Defined in the United States Code as "Enemy
Combatants"
. The modified paragraph was indeed an improvement. It
removed significant loopholes in the resolution that had allowed the
psychologists continued use of some of the 19 harmful interrogation
techniques the resolution was ostensibly banning. Despite pushing hard
over the last six months for these loopholes to be closed, we found
ourselves, upon hearing the loopholes were closed, experiencing
decidedly mixed emotions.
In the August resolution these
loopholes had attached curious conditions to the language allegedly
banning the use of these techniques. These conditions eerily echoed the
legal arguments made by Bush administration attorneys who authorized
the CIA's "enhanced Interrogation" (aka, "torture") program. While some
techniques, such as waterboarding, were prohibited outright in the 2007
APA resolution, others were prohibited only when "used for the purposes
of eliciting information in an interrogation process." Thus, if not
technically used in interrogations, psychologists could still
participate in "hooding, forced nakedness, stress positions, the use of
dogs to threaten or intimidate, physical assault including slapping or
shaking, exposure to extreme heat or cold, threats of harm or death."
In order for yet a third category of techniques – namely "isolation,
sensory deprivation and over-stimulation and/or sleep deprivation" – to
be banned by the resolution, they needed to be (a) used "in an
interrogation process," but also (b) "in a manner that represents
significant pain or suffering or in a manner that a reasonable person
would judge to cause lasting harm."
We remember clearly our shock at first observing this careful parsing of allowed degrees of suffering.
We remember such insertions mysteriously occurring overnight before the
Council vote. We recall how upset we were with this new language that
was in such brazen contrast to the APA Ethics Code's injunction to "do
no harm." We also remember our group of APA critics not being able to
keep ourselves from wondering "Who pulled strings to get these phrases
inserted?" Reporter Mark Benjamin of Salon.com, who before the
convention had written an article entitled "Psychologists to CIA: We condemn torture," was led to ask after the mysterious insertions in the resolution: "Will psychologists still abet torture?" Psychologist and New York Times
bestselling author Mary Pipher read the resolution and was moved to
return a Presidential Award she had received from the APA. "You could
drive a Mack truck" through those loopholes, Pipher told one of us.
Our
suspicions last August were not allayed when, after the Council vote,
we asked APA leadership numerous times if the resolution condemned the
CIA's enhanced interrogations program. Each time the question was met
with silence. For several months, all APA statements simply reiterated
statements in the resolution, suggesting that this document was yet
another in a long line of vacuous "anti-torture" resolutions,
resolutions that sounded fine, but that would have no impact on
psychologists' aid to the Bush administration's abusive interrogations
or to that administration's gross violations of human rights at
Guantanamo and elsewhere. After all, that same Council meeting rejected
a simple statement, that the role of psychologists in detention centers
that violated human rights and international law should be restricted
to that of healthcare providers.




[size=9]In the months following the convention
the APA took a massive drubbing in the press and the blogosphere to the
point that APA and torture were irrevocably linked in the minds of many
human rights advocates and other informed citizens. Finally, in
November, three months after the convention, APA wrote mildly critical letters to the President, CIA, and the Senate Judiciary Committee. (See Soldz' comments on these letters here.)
These letters, however, neglected to acknowledge the fact that the
President's administration was engaged in a widespread program in
violation of precisely those statements to which the APA referred.
But most disturbingly, the APA in these letters continued its long-standing practice of ignoring the abundant evidence
that psychologists played a central role in designing, conducting,
standardizing, and providing training for the administration's regime
of abuse. Instead, the APA has steadfastly maintained its fiction that
"having psychologists consult with interrogation teams makes an
important contribution toward keeping interrogations safe and ethical,"
as former APA President Sharon Brehm stated in a letter to the Washington Monthly. While government agencies acknowledged
-- and reporters found -- that many "[p]sychologists consulting to the
military and intelligence communities" used their expertise to develop
diabolical ways of making detainees suffer (see here, here, here, here, here, and here,
among many others), the APA claimed, contrary to all evidence, that
these psychologists "use their expertise to promote the use of ethical,
effective, and rapport-building interrogations, while safeguarding the
welfare of interrogators and detainees." Furthermore, the APA has up to
this day pointed to figures like Col. Larry James as evidence that psychologists opposed abuse when as much evidence exists suggesting their role was to cover up or close their eyes to abuse and illegal activities.
So now we are left experiencing a deeply ambivalent reaction to the APA
Council's action, which is a small, but positive step. The loopholes
were closed at last. The APA modified the critical paragraph in their
2007 resolution to one that apparently leaves little wiggle room:
BE IT RESOLVED that this unequivocal condemnation includes
all techniques considered torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading
treatment or punishment under the United Nations Convention Against
Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment;
the Geneva Conventions; the Principles of Medical Ethics Relevant to
the Role of Health Personnel, Particularly Physicians, in the
Protection of Prisoners and Detainees against Torture and Other Cruel,
Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; the Basic Principles for
the Treatment of Prisoners: or the World Medical Association
Declaration of Tokyo. An absolute prohibition against the following
techniques therefore arises from, is understood in the context of, and
is interpreted according to these texts: mock executions;
water-boarding or any other form of simulated drowning or suffocation;
sexual humiliation; rape; cultural or religious humiliation;
exploitation of fears, phobias or psychopathology; induced hypothermia;
the use of psychotropic drugs or mind-altering substances; hooding;
forced nakedness; stress positions; the use of dogs to threaten or
intimidate; physical assault including slapping or shaking; exposure to
extreme heat or cold; threats of harm or death; isolation; sensory
deprivation and over-stimulation; sleep deprivation; or the threatened
use of any of the above techniques to an individual or to members of an
individual's family. Psychologists are absolutely prohibited from
knowingly planning, designing, participating in or assisting in the use
of all condemned techniques at any time and may not enlist others to
employ these techniques in order to circumvent this resolution's
prohibition;
This paragraph is a good, strong
statement that psychologists participating in detainee interrogations
are forbidden from participating in abuse. It clearly puts the APA on
the side of those opposing the Bush administration/CIA enhanced
interrogation programs. Therefore we feel that this revision is a major
victory. We firmly believe it would not have happened without the
amazing movement of hundreds of psychologists: protesting, resigning,
withholding dues, signing letters, passing resolutions, and writing
articles expressing their outrage at the unacceptable APA policies in
this area. It was also a victory for those select APA Council members,
several from the Divisions for Social Justice (DSJ), who worked
tirelessly throughout the winter to get the APA leadership and Council
to act in this way.
If the APA were to publicize their action and this statement, which
they to our knowledge had not done in the week after the vote, it will
aid the attempt to shut down the CIA's enhanced interrogations. The
statement is certainly a forward step for the APA in that it, for the
first time, puts them unequivocally against the basic paradigm of US
abusive interrogations. This paradigm consists of combining extreme isolation with sensory deprivation,
enhanced at times with sleep deprivation, sensory overload (e.g.
prolonged very loud noises), self-inflicted pain via "stress
positions," sexual and cultural humiliation, and use of temperature
extremes. Calling attention to these techniques is critical at a time
when the public discourse is actually discussing (no, dishearteningly
debating) whether waterboarding, the paradigmatic torture technique, is
(or should be considered) illegal. This APA statement does not condone
participation by psychologists in any of these abusive techniques.
Indeed, the revised resolution also bans the use of techniques that
exploit detainee fears, which is especially crucial for a profession
that is supposed to be dedicated to avoiding harm and reducing
suffering and psychological fears, putting the APA in opposition to
sections of the current Army Field Manual
(AFM) guiding military (but not CIA) interrogations. The AFM allows
"fear up harsh" (exploiting a source's real or imagined fears), which
should certainly be off limits for psychologists. We hope this
resolution signals a willingness of the APA to play an active role in
efforts to revise the AFM, which also allows isolation and sensory
deprivation in certain circumstances.
A further positive
aspect of this revision is that it is much clearer than the previous
version, which contained complex clauses that psychologists in the
field were in no position to interpret. With this new version, these
psychologists are no longer required to determine what degree of
sensory isolation is likely to be considered to cause long-lasting
harm. The previous version failed to provide clear, unequivocal
guidance to these psychologists. In this regard, the new version is
dramatically improved.


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Απ: Psychologists Close Loopholes: Leave Ethics Problems in Detainee Interrogations

Δημοσίευση από Psychoanalysis Forum Την / Το Τετ Μαρ 12, 2008 2:45 pm

So why are we not in a completely celebratory mood? Are we just old
curmudgeons who arenever satisfied? Being psychologists, we've pondered
these questions over the last several days.

So why are we not in a completely celebratory mood? Are we just old
curmudgeons who are never satisfied? Being psychologists, we've
pondered these questions over the last several days.
Our
conclusion is that we derive only limited satisfaction from this
victory because we do not believe it signals a genuine change in the
thinking of the APA. Rather, it seems to constitute a concession under
substantial member and public pressure. In many ways we were never
expecting a sudden transformation in the values of the APA leadership.
Policy change often begins as compliance and only after time becomes an
internalized set of beliefs. But we think many other sociocultural
events are also occurring, and we very much welcome the national desire
for change, and are glad to be working with the Zeitgeist rather than
against it.
Nevertheless, on another level the APA action in this context signals
the same disappointment we have felt all along. The revision in this
sense is an acknowledgement by the APA leadership that their job
carrying water for the Bush administration is ending as that
administration winds down. Their task now, we suspect, is to change
their image in order to transition more effectively into the good
graces of a post-Bush, most likely Democratic, administration. An
administration will be here soon that will feel a need to publicly
distance itself from the most overt abuses of its predecessor. Most
particularly, the new administration, and thus the APA, will distance
itself from this administration's overt public support for detainee
abuse. It will reject the "torture we don't define as torture"
paradigm. These changes are already underway as the Defense Department
is currently shedding its connections to overt torture and its
supporters in the administration and falling in line behind the still
troublesome but nonetheless improved Army Field Manual. We can only repeat, we welcome these changes. And yet we also believe a mental health organization can and should do better.
In
another source of ambivalence, we were pleased that the Military
Psychology Division actively negotiated and supported the changes. In
fact, as in all other instances, if this division had not supported the
change, there is little chance that this revision would have come up
for a vote, much less been supported by APA leadership. As has been the
case throughout, the APA leadership gave the 500 odd members (out of
150,000 total, or 1/3rd of one percent) of the Military Psychology
division a major role, and potentially even a veto power, over any
changes. The fact that this division is repeatedly given such power out
of all proportion to its numbers indicates the importance the APA
places upon maintaining good ties to the military and the Defense
Department.
But our mixed reactions also have to do with the limitations of the
amended resolution as a policy for psychologists. Here are our
policy-related concerns:
First
is the absence of an adequate enforcement mechanism for this policy.
The only mechanism that ever exists is for members (or others) to file
ethics complaints against particular psychologists. Such a procedure is
extremely limited in dealing with events that are often undertaken
under orders, or certainly have been at times encouraged by high
officials in the U.S. government, and that are conducted in secrecy.
While reports of abuse, and of psychologists' roles in this
mistreatment have regularly surfaced in the media, only a few
individual names have been identified. Even in these select cases,
meaningful action is difficult. Thus, ethics charges have been filed
against at least two specific psychologists, dating back to August of
2006 at least. And yet, to this point, in February of 2008, no action
has been taken. Due to confidentiality of proceedings, only if these
psychologists are sanctioned will those filing complaints or the public
ever hear anything at all. These policies and procedures, as currently
implemented, are clearly inadequate to deal with systematic abuse.
Critics of APA policy have long advocated a policy prohibiting
psychologists from participating in interrogations in detention
facilities, such as Guantanamo and the CIA "black sites," where
fundamental human rights are being systematically violated. To
participate in any operational, as opposed to health provider, role in
such facilities is to collude in those human rights abuses. Such a
prohibition would also solve the enforcement problem as a ban is far
easier to enforce than are subtle restrictions on particular
activities. We, and many others, strongly support this policy and
believe we must keep struggling until the APA adopts it as its core
policy on these issues.
Many of us would go further, supporting a bright line that psychologists, like the AMA has decided
for medical doctors, should not participate in any way in the
interrogation of individual detainees. This belief is based on the
concept of psychology as a profession similar to medicine, based, as
Principle A of the APA's ethics code states, on obligations to use our knowledge and expertise to promote good and not harm:
"Psychologists strive to benefit those with whom they work
and take care to do no harm. In their professional actions,
psychologists seek to safeguard the welfare and rights of those with
whom they interact professionally and other affected persons."
This
bright line, we admit, is not universally supported even by those
otherwise critical of APA's interrogations policies. Many psychologists
are afraid that it will create a "slippery slope" in which other
activities in which psychologists engaged are also prohibited. While we
believe this fear has been deliberately exploited to undercut support
for such a policy regarding interrogations, we understand that our
profession faces difficult questions regarding how psychological
knowledge and expertise can and should be utilized. These particular
interrogations, we believe, are likely contrary to the interests of
those being interrogated and in no sense are aimed at benefiting those
individuals. There are many other areas where similar concerns arise.
As psychological knowledge increases, we will increasingly be faced
with complex dilemmas as to when and to what degree it is ethical or
acceptable to use that knowledge to manipulate human beings to further
institutional aims over the best interests of certain disenfranchised
individuals. We certainly don't presume to have answers to all these
questions. But we do know that the profession will not be able to avoid
facing them, full square. These dilemmas are not going to go away, and
they will remain at the moral heart of psychology.
Organizationally, APA ethics policy has a weak and ambiguous attitude toward human rights. In the 2002 revision
of the ethics code, the APA inserted the infamous clause in standard
1.02 regulating "Conflicts Between Ethics and Law, Regulations, or
Other Governing Legal Authority":
"If
psychologists' ethical responsibilities conflict with law, regulations,
or other governing legal authority, psychologists make known their
commitment to the Ethics Code and take steps to resolve the conflict.
If the conflict is unresolvable via such means, psychologists may
adhere to the requirements of the law, regulations, or other governing
legal authority."
Previously the ethics code required adherence to the code
or, if ethics and law conflicted, adherence to the code accompanied by
an attempt to resolve the conflict. Thus, at the beginning of the 21st
century, the APA wrote the Nuremberg defense – "I was just following
orders" – into the ethics code. The origins of this change remain
murky. Yet, indisputably, when psychologists started participating in
these interrogations, this clause was interpreted to mean that these
psychologists could follow any orders, no matter what the content. In
2005, the APA Council commanded the Ethics Committee to investigate
adding the phrase "in keeping with basic principles of human rights"
into standard 1.02. Whereas the Ethics Committee and APA Board managed
to approve a task force report supporting detainee interrogations in
less than a week, the Ethics Committee has taken no action on this
human rights injunction for over two years.
There is one
source of possible optimism in the 1.02 saga. The 2007 Resolution
stated that no laws or orders can override the ban on participating in
torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. We felt that the
addition of this language was decided progress. But some experts in APA
ethics argue that a resolution statement, unlike the ethics code, is
not enforceable. In any case, this change only applies to torture and
other detainee abuse, and not to the broad spectrum of potential human
rights violations that may occur in the military, intelligence
agencies, or elsewhere. Nor does this seemingly counter language to
1.02 deal with disturbing parallel changes in the latest ethics code
relating to psychologists in forensic roles or to informed consent in
research. Research on vulnerable populations such as foreign prisoners
of war is a topic that has received too little attention. The 2002 code
states:
"Psychologists may dispense with informed consent… where otherwise permitted by law or federal or institutional regulations."
Thus,
the ethics code would allow involuntary research on detainees, for
example, if authorized by the military or CIA. These clauses need a
complete overhaul. Sixty years after Nuremberg, the Nuremberg defense
does not belong in psychological ethics. Further, decades of
revelations of official abuses in the name of scientific research
require vigilance on the part of our professional organization toward
any loopholes condoning participation in abuses.
Finally, missing in all of APA's actions is a coming to terms with the
central role of psychologists in designing, conducting, and
standardizing the present U.S. regime of abusive interrogations.
Instead, the APA continues to maintain the fiction that psychologists
make "an important contribution toward keeping interrogations safe and
ethical." Any real change will require the APA to abandon this
factually inaccurate fable. Just as our society must come to terms with
our role as a torturing nation, so must our profession come to terms
with our role in torture and abuse. We must, together with other health
professions, come together as part of a truth and reconciliation
process to publicly clarify the roles of psychologists and other health
and mental health professionals in the production of harm. We must
publicly admit and apologize for the use of psychological knowledge and
expertise in detention and interrogation abuses. Until we clarify and
personally accept the extent to which our profession and our
professional association has condoned or abetted these and other abuses
committed during this so-called "war on terrorism," we will have done
little to learn what went wrong, and we will have done nothing to make
the moral and institutional changes necessary to prevent their
recurrence.

Stephen Soldz is a psychoanalyst, psychologist, public health researcher, and faculty member at the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis. He is one of the founders of the Coalition for an Ethical APA. He maintains the Psyche, Science, and Society blog, providing extensive coverage of the issue ofpsychologist involvement in interrogations.Brad Olson is a research and consulting
psychologist at Northwestern University. He is on the steering
committees for the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology and
Psychologists for an Ethical APA, as well as past chair of Divisions
for Social Justice (DSJ), a collaboration of 13 divisions of the
American Psychological Association. He can be reached at b-olson@northwestern.edu.
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