[News] Psychologist Accused of War Crimes Opposes Investigations

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Sep 8 18:01:16 EDT 2009


September 8, 2009

The Case of Col. Larry James

Psychologist Accused of War Crimes Opposes Investigations


As a conflict has arisen as to whether the nation 
should seek accountability for torture and other 
human rights abuses during the so-called "War on 
Terror," the public and media have largely 
ignored  the spectacle of those, like Richard 
Cheney and John Yoo, who are likely targets of 
human rights abuse investigations. Potential 
investigations are denounced as political attacks 
that will gravely damage the country's security. 
The media have largely ignored the self-serving 
nature of these denunciations.

The latest human rights abuse target to join the 
anti-accountability chorus is former Guantanamo 
intelligence psychologist Col. Larry James 
(retired), about whom 
have been raised regarding 
or even illegal 
in war crimes. In a press release from Wright 
State University, where he is now Dean of the 
School of Professional Psychology, James –– has 
out against Attorney General Holder's limited 
criminal investigation of CIA torture:

"To reopen cases that were adjudicated as legal 
may be harmful to the mission and morale of the 
intelligence community," said Col. (Ret.) Larry 
James, now the Dean of the School of Professional 
Psychology at Wright State University. "That 
said, I agree with President Obama's statement 
several months ago to 'turn the page' and move on 
with regard to the interrogation of detainees of the Global War on Terrorism."

James said the outcome of appointing the special 
prosecutor could have negative repercussions on 
the intelligence-gathering function.

"Being an interrogator is a stressful, 
challenging and dangerous job," he said. "If 
there is new evidence that suggests crimes have 
been committed, then it would make sense to move 
forward with an investigation. However, since at 
the time of the interrogations they were deemed 
legal and acceptable by that sitting 
administration, I do not believe the 
investigation is warranted or necessary. I advise 
the president to be supportive of our current 
mission and be very careful as he moves forward in this sensitive area."

James has previously made clear his belief that 
intelligence professionals should close their 
eyes to possible abuses outside of their 
immediate sphere of action. Thus, when asked by 
an Associated Press reporter to comment on 
reports of a secret Camp 7 at Guantanamo, 
<http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,,-7288144,00.html>James replied:

"I learned a long, long time ago, if I'm going to 
be successful in the intel community, I'm 
meticulously _ in a very, very dedicated way _ 
going to stay in my lane
. So if I don't have a 
specific need to know about something, I don't 
want to know about it. I don't ask about it."

Like so many others arguing against torture 
investigations, James may have reason to desire a 
shut down of torture inquiries. Last month, the 
Canadian Centre for International Justice and the 
Center for Constitutional Rights appealed to the 
Canadian government 
a criminal investigation of James for potential involvement in war crimes:

"Allegations of abuse during Dr. James’ January 
to May 2003 deployment include beatings, 
religious and sexual humiliation, rape threats 
and painful body positions. Canadian citizen Omar 
Khadr is one of the prisoners who has alleged 
brutal treatment in the spring of 2003 when he was only 16 years old.

"Based on this information, the CCIJ and CCR 
called on the Canadian government to investigate 
whether action should be taken against Dr. James 
or other attendees of the APA Convention who may 
have been involved in abuse of detainees."

The two human rights organizations outlined the 
evidence justifying a criminal investigation in a 
document they presented to the Canadian 
government. At that time, James was in Toronto 
for the annual meeting of the American 
Psychological Association [APA], where he became 
President of the APA Division of Military 
Psychology Among the serious concerns regarding 
James's behavior warranting investigation are 
that he consulted to interrogators at Guantanamo 
while isolation was part of the 
operating procedure to make new detainees dependent on their interrogators.

James, however, has repeatedly claimed credit for 
ending all abuses at Guantanamo, and later, at 
Abu Ghraib. Thus, his sanitized memoir detailing 
these claims is entitled Fixing Hell. Similarly, 
a task force convened by the American 
Psychological Association in 2005 that he and 
other psychologists ended abuses at detention facilities:

"I am very proud of the fact, it was 
psychologists who fixed the problems and not 
caused it. This is a factual statement! the fact 
of the matter is that since Jan 2003, where ever 
we have had psychologists no abuses have been 
reported."  [Emphasis in original.]

James has an idiosyncratic definition of "abuse." 
He claims at times 
to have witnessed 
<http://www.newsweek.com/id/164497>abuses at 
Guantanamo, where he was deployed as a member of 
the Chief Psychologist of the Joint Intelligence 
Group and BSCT #1 [Behavioral Science Consultation Team] in 2003 and 2007:

“When I walk through the camps, I can’t tell you 
that I have stumbled across a lot of things that 
are wrong. During my time here, I am proud to say 
that I have not seen a guard or interrogator 
abuse anyone in any shape or form,” said James. 
“These young men and women go out of their way 
well beyond the call of duty to make sure that 
detainees are treated safely and humanely at all times.”

James's account, of course, differs from that of 
and found persistent abuses continuing up to the 
present. [Even in his own account of his 
deployment at Guantanamo in his  self-justifying 
"memoir," James reports witnessing several 
instances of abuse - abuses which, however, he 
apparently failed to report to his commanders.]

In his memoir James claims to have had special 
responsibility for juveniles detained at 
Guantanamo. Yet, during his deployment there, 
young Mohammed Jawad [evidently between 12 and 16 
when incarcerated there] was subjected to the 
mandatory four weeks isolation 
his arrival in February 2003. Later that year 
Jawad was subjected to further isolation and 
other abuse on the recommendation of a BSCT 
psychologist; James declined to condemn this 
abuse to a Newsweek reporter, implying that there 
circumstances. Later, in May 2004, Jawad was also 
subjected to 
sleep deprivation in the so-called "frequent 
flyer program" in which, in the 
of his military JAG attorney:

"Mohammad Jawad’s arms and legs were 
in preparation for the first of 112 moves up and 
down the hall of L Block, every 3 hours for the next 14 days."

Also while James was deployed at Guantanamo, 
adolescent Omar Khadr reported being used as a 
mop "because he had urinated on himself during a 
bout of shackled isolation." The claim was 
investigated by the military, which has refused 
to release any information regarding the 
investigation. Records released by the Canadian 
government show that Khadr, like Jawad, was 
to the "frequent flyer" sleep deprivation program 
in 2004. Despite his professed concern for the 
decent treatment of juvenile detainees, other 
than his Newsweek comment, James nowhere 
describes his relationship to the Jawad or Khadr 
cases or comments on the documented abuse these 
young boys suffered at Guantanamo during and after his deployment.

Does James believe that no investigation of his 
actions at Guantanamo is warranted as his actions 
there "were deemed legal and acceptable by that 
sitting administration"? In other words, was he just following orders?

Due to the secrecy surrounding Guantanamo, we do 
not know James’s actual conduct  at Guantanamo. 
With his call to stop investigations of detainee 
abuses, James seems to desire that we never know. 
If he is innocent of participation in abuses, 
only an investigation will clear his name. If, 
however, he did participate in abuses, no defense 
that "at the time of the interrogations they were 
deemed legal and acceptable by that sitting 
administration" should be allowed to obscure the 
truth, and no claims of damage to the morale of 
the intelligence community should be allowed to 
impede an investigation and appropriate criminal 
and/or professional penalties.

Only the full truth can allow the abused 
detainees, the nation, and the profession of 
psychology, to "turn the page and move on." In 
the absence of the truth we will be forever 
looking over our shoulders, wondering just who 
did what and what did happen during this sorry 
chapter in our nation's recent history.

Stephen Soldz is a psychoanalyst, psychologist, 
public health researcher, and faculty member at 
the <http://www.bgsp.edu/>Boston Graduate School 
of Psychoanalysis. He edits the 
Science, and Society blog. He is a founder of the 
Coalition for an Ethical Psychology, one of the 
organizations working to change American 
Psychological Association policy on participation 
in abusive interrogations. He is also a Steering 
Committee member of 
<http://psysr.org/>Psychologists for Social 
Responsibility [PsySR]. He can be reached at: 
<mailto:mailto:ssoldz at bgsp.edu>ssoldz at bgsp.edu

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