[News] Torture, Psychology, and Daniel Inouye

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Jun 17 11:03:24 EDT 2009

Torture, Psychology, and Daniel Inouye

The True Story Behind Psychology's Role in Torture?

June 17, 2009 By Bryant L. Welch

A seventeen-year-old boy is locked in an interrogation cell in 
Guantanamo. He breaks down crying and says he wants his family. The 
interrogator senses the boy is psychologically vulnerable and 
consults with a psychologist. The psychologist has evaluated the boy 
prior to the questioning and says, "Tell him his family has forgotten 
him." The psychologist also prescribes "linguistic isolation" (not 
letting him have contact with anyone who speaks his language.) The 
boy attempts suicide a few weeks later. On the eve of the boy's 
trial, the psychologist apparently fearing her testimony will only 
further implicate her, indicates she will plead the Fifth Amendment 
if she is called to the stand. The trial is postponed, leaving the 
boy in further limbo.

The military psychologist is merely a foot soldier in psychology's 
participation in torture. It goes much deeper. We now know that 
psychologists helped design and implement significant segments of 
George Bush's torture program.  Despite their credo, "Above all, do 
no harm," two psychologists developed instruments of psychological 
torture. They "reversed engineered" psychological principles. They 
used the very therapeutic interventions psychologists use to 
ameliorate psychological suffering, but "reversed" their direction to 
create psychological distress and instability.  If one's reality 
sense is threatened, a good therapist validates and supports it as 
appropriate. In reverse engineering, the environment is deliberately 
made more confusing and the victim's trust in his own perceptions is 
intentionally undermined.  In extreme form, this can ultimately drive 
a person to insanity from which some never come back. These were the 
types of techniques that were used on the seventeen-year-old detainee 
and others.

Military psychologists also colluded with the Justice Department to 
help CIA operatives circumvent the legal prohibitions against 
torture. Under the Justice Department definition of torture, if a 
detainee was sent to a psychologist for a mental health evaluation 
prior to interrogation it was per se evidence that the interrogator 
had no legal intent to torture the detainee because the referral 
"demonstrated concern" for the welfare of the detainee.

Most remarkably of all, this whole process occurred under a 
protective "ethical" seal from the American Psychological Association 
(APA), psychologists' largest national organization. The APA 
governance repeatedly rejected calls from its membership for APA to 
join other health organizations in declaring participation in Bush 
detention center interrogations unethical.

Most psychologists are appalled at what the APA has done, and many, 
like me, have resigned from the APA. But the true story behind APA's 
involvement with torture has not been fully told.

I have had ample opportunity to observe both the inner workings of 
the APA and the personalities and organizational vicissitudes that 
have affected it over the last two decades. For most of the 
twenty-year period from 1983 to 2003, I either worked inside the APA 
central office as the first Executive Director of the APA Practice 
Directorate, or I served in various governance positions, including 
Chair of the APA Board of Professional Affairs and member of the APA 
Council of Representatives. Since leaving APA I have maintained a 
keen interest in the organization.

The transformation of APA, in the past decade, from a historically 
liberal organization to an authoritarian one that actively assists in 
torture has been an astonishing process.  As with many usurpations of 
democratic liberal values, the transformation was accomplished by a 
surprisingly small number of people. APA is an invaluable case study 
in the psychological manipulations that influence our governmental 
and non-governmental institutions.

To explain APA's behavior two questions have to be answered. First, 
how did the APA develop the connections with the military that 
fostered the shameful role it has played in torture? Second, why did 
the APA governance not join other health professions in prohibiting 
participation in the Bush Administration's "enhanced interrogations," 
as APA's rank and file members were demanding?

The APA-military connection

One source of APA's military connections is obvious to anyone who has 
worked at APA over the last twenty-five years.  Strangely, it has 
been overlooked by the media. Since the early 1980's, APA has had a 
unique relationship with Hawaii Senator Daniel Inouye's office. 
Inouye was an honored WWII veteran, a Japanese American who himself 
was a medical volunteer in the midst of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. 
He entered office in 1962. For much of the '70s, he was Chair of the 
Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Later he became, and is 
currently, the chair of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee 
on Defense, which, of course, makes up the largest chunk of federal 
discretionary spending and is why economists often split 
discretionary government funding into defense spending versus 
"everything else." This appropriations committee covers not only all 
of the armed forces but the CIA as well. Put succinctly, Inouye 
controls the military purse strings, and is very influential with 
military brass.

One of Inouye's administrative assistants, psychologist Patrick 
Deleon, has long been active in the APA and served a term in 2000 as 
APA president. For significant periods of time DeLeon has literally 
directed APA staff on federal policy matters and has dominated the 
APA governance on political matters. For over twenty-five years, 
relationships between the APA and the Department of Defense (DOD) 
have been strongly encouraged and closely coordinated by DeLeon.

Inouye himself has served as an apologist for the Guantanamo Bay 
Detention Camp ("Gitmo") since the inception of the War on Terror. In 
a press briefing at the U.S. State Department, held shortly after his 
trip to Gitmo in February of 2002, Inouye affirmed Rumsfeld's 
propagandist vision of the site, and then remarked:  "Watching our 
men and women treat these detainees was rather impressive. They would 
go out of their way to be considerate. ..."

 From what we know now, that is true, but not in the benevolent way 
Inouye implied. Inouye's comments bore a chilling similarity to 
Barbara Bush's famous comments about the alleged good fortune of 
Katrina victims, in the Houston Astrodome. The detainees, he said, 
are being treated "in some ways better than we treat our people." (R. 
Burns, Associated Press, 2002). And he compared the Guantanamo 
climate to Hawaii's. (It is "somewhat warmer.")

More significantly, it was Inouye who recently stripped the funding 
needed for closing Gitmo from a supplemental appropriations bill. 
This "Inouye Amendment," threw a stick in the spokes of any U.S. 
movement away from the worst of global war on terror policies. In 
announcing the funding cut, Inouye's press release was a remarkable 
illustration of Orwellian "newspeak," ostensibly supporting the very 
opposite of what he was doing

"But let me be clear. We need to close the Guantanamo prison. Yes, it 
is a fine facility. I, too, have visited the site. Yes, the detainees 
are being well cared for. Our servicemen and servicewomen are doing 
great work. But the fact of the matter is Guantanamo is a symbol of 
the wrongdoings which have occurred, and we must eliminate that 
connection." (Inouye, Press Release May 20, 2009).

DeLeon's connection with Inouye is not by any means the only APA 
connection with defense interests. In 1951 the military established 
The Human Resource Research Organization (HumRRO) to develop 
techniques for "psychological warfare." HumRRO was run by 
psychologist Dr. Meredith Crawford who spent ten years as APA 
treasurer and was deeply involved in APA activities for three 
decades. Crawford's former student, Raymond Fowler, became Chief 
Executive Officer of APA in 1989 and stayed in that position until 
2003. Today, fifty-five percent of HumRRO's budget comes from the military.

As CEO, Fowler hired his two most important lieutenants from HumRRO, 
Chief Financial Officer, Charles "Jack" McKay, and in-house attorney, 
James McHugh. Both men have now, after lengthy APA tenures, left the 
APA and returned to HumRRO in  very senior roles. McHugh is Chairman 
of the HumRRO Board of Trustees and McKay is Vice-Chairman and 
Treasurer. The current President of HumRRO, psychologist William 
Strickland, has been an outspoken supporter of APA's policies on the 
torture issue. He served on the APA Council of Representatives 
throughout the APA deliberations on torture.

Whether and how the longstanding relationships and frequent 
circulation of key personnel between APA and HumRRO positions have 
shaped APA's involvement with the military is unclear, but given 
recent events, it certainly warrants more careful scrutiny than it 
has received from psychologists. In fact, I do not believe many 
psychologists are even aware of these relationships.

Regardless of HumRRO's role, however, as psychologists, most APA 
governance members have little Washington political experience. For 
them, Patrick DeLeon, because of his connection with Inouye, is 
perceived as a canny psychology politician and political force on 
Capitol Hill. Regardless of the accuracy of that perception, I have 
no reason to think DeLeon is a corrupt or evil person. Instead, from 
my perspective, the most interesting aspect of DeLeon has always been 
his apparent preoccupation with issues of status for psychologists, 
irrespective of the issues' actual significance either for 
psychologists or the public.

DeLeon wanted to make sure a psychologist, not just physicians, for 
example, would be eligible to fill this or that position in the 
Veteran's Administration, and he campaigned for years for VA 
psychologists to receive a minuscule pay increase when they became 
board certified. On the whole, I found these matters harmless and of 
at least some marginal benefit to people. Using funding from the 
Department of Defense he has also launched a campaign for 
psychologists to be given legal rights to prescribe psychiatric medications.

The torture issue is, of course, quite different. Viewed through the 
eyes of DeLeon's adherents, psychology's new found role as architects 
of a central component of the war on terror was a tremendous 
"victory" for the field of psychology. That it involved torture was 
peripheral, obscured by the headiness of being involved in 
high-level, important, clandestine government affairs. In discussions 
about APA's role in the interrogations, a senior member of the APA 
governance described himself as "addicted" to the television show 24. 
Now he had his own reality TV show.

DeLeon's influence in the APA and with many individual psychologists, 
especially those from Hawaii, came in very handy for Inouye in his 
efforts to support the Department of Defense.  When the military 
needed a mental health professional to help implement its 
interrogation procedures, and the other professions subsequently 
refused to comply, the military had a friend in Senator Inouye's 
office, one that could reap the political dividends of seeds sown by 
DeLeon over many years.

While we are only now uncovering the names of the individuals who 
participated most directly in the interrogations, I think a 
surprising number of them will turn out to be people brought into the 
military through Inouye's office, many by DeLeon himself.

APA's Organizational Decline

But this leads to the second and more complex question. Why did the 
governance of the APA let this happen under the apparent imprimatur 
of the world's largest organization of psychologists? Some people 
assume APA's horrifying recent behavior involved large sums of money 
changing hands. I could certainly be wrong, but I think the more 
likely (and more remarkable and pressing) mechanism has little to do 
with money.  For reasons described below, the APA leaders who were 
making these decisions simply exercised judgment that was both bad 
and insensitive to the realities of human suffering. In my opinion, 
schooled by 25 years of experience with the APA, it was neither greed 
nor financial corruption that brought the APA governance into 
alliance with the Bush Administration. Instead, it was a malignant 
organizational grandiosity that first weakened the APA and then, 
ultimately, allowed military and intelligence agencies to have their 
way with the APA throughout the Bush Administration.

But how did the APA, of all organizations, get this way? What led to 
this grandiose culture? An organization does not rise or fall with a 
single event any more than the fall of Rome truly occurred in 476 
AD.  The culture of grandiosity was carefully cultivated for more 
than a decade by a few self-interested individuals.

What has been observable and unarguable about the APA of recent years 
is that the pluralistic and multi-faceted governance process I 
witnessed when first entering the APA in the early 1980's was sharply 
curtailed during the 1990's. Differences of opinion disappeared, and 
the APA suffered a terrible organizational decline. Increasingly 
inbred and infantilized under the tightly controlled administration 
of Raymond Fowler, the association agenda was primarily and at times 
exclusively financial, focused on making money either through real 
estate ventures or through what I and others felt was the 
unnecessarily harsh financial treatment of lower level APA employees.

Whatever one's view of APA, few can dispute that Fowler, more than 
any other individual, made APA what it is today. The CEO of APA for 
almost fifteen years, Fowler served in one capacity or another on the 
APA Board of Directors for twenty-five consecutive years. While his 
supporters would characterize him as "astute" and his critics as 
"devious," few could reasonably disagree that Fowler was the main 
mover in the APA for the fifteen years leading up to the torture debacle.

Most peculiarly, Fowler's "agenda" for APA was encapsulated in the 
phrase "Working Together," a noble idea that to the best of my 
knowledge was never attached to any actual substantive agenda. 
Instead, it served as a means of social control, a subtle injunction 
against raising any of the conflict-laden issues, challenges, or 
ideas that need to be addressed in any vital and accountable 
organization. The governance of the APA became either conformist or 
placid and increasingly detached from the real world.

The result was that much of the activity of the APA Council of 
Representatives, the legislative group with ultimate authority in the 
APA governance, turned away from substantive matters into an odd 
system of fawning over one another. Many members appeared to simply 
bathe in the good feeling that came from "working together." The bath 
was characterized by grandiose self-referents and shared lofty 
opinions of one another. As it became more and more detached from 
reality, the organizational dysfunction became more pronounced, but 
this was ignored and obscured by the self-congratulatory 
organizational style. During this period, isolated dissent from 
rank-and-file members was stifled with a heavy-handed letter from the 
APA attorney threatening legal action or by communications from 
prominent members of the APA governance threatening "ethics" charges 
if policy protests were not discontinued. (It is unethical for 
psychologists to lie, and I can attest that one former APA president 
concluded that disagreeing with him was per se "lying.")

Deliberations on Torture

This same grandiosity was ubiquitous in the governance's rhetoric at 
the heart of the Association's discussions on torture. Banning 
psychologists' participation in reputed torture mills was clearly 
unnecessary, proponents of the APA policy argued.  To do so would be 
an "insult" to military psychologists everywhere. No psychologist 
would ever engage in torture. Insisting on a change in APA policy 
reflected a mean-spirited attitude toward the military psychologists. 
The supporters of the APA policy managed to transform the military 
into the victims in the interrogation issue.

In the end, however, it was psychologists' self-assumed importance 
that carried the day on the torture issue. Psychologists' 
participation in these detention centers, it was asserted, was an 
antidote to torture, since psychologists' very presence could protect 
the potential torture victims (presumably from Rumsfeld and Cheney, 
no less!). The debates on the APA Council floor, year after year, 
concluded with the general consensus that, indeed, psychology was 
very, very important to our nation's security.

We psychologists were both too good and too important to join our 
professional colleagues in other professions who were taking an 
absolutist moral position against one of the most shameful eras in 
our country's history. While the matter was clearly orchestrated by 
others, it was this self-reinforcing grandiosity that led the 
traditionally liberal APA governance down the slippery slope to the 
Bush Administration's torture program.

During this period I had numerous personal communications with 
members of the APA governance structure in an attempt to dissuade 
them from ignoring the rank-and-file psychologists who abhorred the 
APA's position.  I have been involved in many policy disagreements 
over the course of my career, but the smugness and illogic that 
characterized the response to these efforts were astonishing and went 
far beyond normal, even heated, give and take. Most dramatically, the 
intelligence that I have always found to characterize the profession 
of psychology was sorely lacking.

Outside the self-absorbed culture of the current APA governance, to 
the rest of the world, the APA arguments simply do not pass the 
red-face test for credibility. Instead, their transparent 
disingenuousness only made the APA sound embarrassingly like 
apologists for the Bush Administration.

The Conclusion

The inability to deliberate rationally on the torture issue was but 
the tragic denouement of an organizational process that was actually 
set in motion in the early 1990's, largely to serve the convenience 
of a very small number of individuals. As a result of the management 
style of the 90's, the governance of APA was ill prepared for 
thoughtful deliberation on a matter as important as the torture 
issue. The governance was simply over its head in trying to 
effectively address such a socially and ethically consequential 
issue. This was especially true in a debate in which one side had 
organized support from powerful military interests, then-current APA 
presidents like Gerald Koocher and Ronald Levant, and Senator 
Inouye's office all pushing for APA involvement in the 
interrogations. Few people stood up to them, and those who did were 
people who were inexperienced in the duplicity and manipulative style 
of politics that characterized APA.

With the increasing uproar from the membership and the media, APA's 
more recently elected leaders and the current CEO, Norman Anderson, 
have been extraordinarily quiet on the subject of psychologist and 
APA involvement in the torture issue. Instead, second level APA 
employees have been put out front to defend the APA position to the 
membership and to the public. These are almost exclusively people 
hired by Fowler to fit into his carefully designed model of an 
organization that would be controllable, if somewhat non-dynamic and 
uncreative. Thus, the public relations staff Fowler hired, the staff 
legal and psychological expertise he hired, and most remarkably his 
ethics director have all served as the "face of APA" on the torture 
issue in recent years. Not surprisingly, forced to function under the 
watchful eye of the public they have not acquitted themselves in 
credible fashion.

In a recent book, I used several organizational examples to 
illustrate that many of the same techniques of political manipulation 
used in the Bush Administration were used in other organizational 
settings. Many of those examples were drawn from the APA. At the time 
of writing I never dreamed the techniques would lead to APA's 
complicity in torture.

But such is the fate of a regressed and chronically manipulated 
organization. Despite being an organization of psychologists, APA has 
been subjected to considerable manipulation but to very little 
analysis. The people who run APA have "reverse engineered" the very 
field of psychology itself and used it against its own membership.

Psychologists are amongst the most moral and ethical people I know. 
They deserved better from their national organization, just as 
Americans throughout that same era deserved better from their government.

Bryant Welch is a clinical psychologist and attorney living in Hilton 
Head, SC.  He is the author of State of Confusion: Political 
Manipulation and the Assault on the American Mind, St. Martins Press, 2008.)

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