[News] Torture, Psychology, and Daniel Inouye
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
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
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 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
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.)
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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