[News] What the APA Knew - The Complicity of Psychologists in CIA Torture

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Dec 11 11:06:29 EST 2014

December 11, 2014

*What the APA Knew*

  The Complicity of Psychologists in CIA Torture


Earlier this week the Senate Intelligence Committee released the 
long-awaited executive summary 
<http://www.intelligence.senate.gov/study2014/sscistudy1.pdf> of its 
6,000-page classified report on the CIA's brutal post-9/11 detention and 
interrogation program. The report provides gruesome details of the abuse 
that took place in several "black site" prisons -- waterboarding, 
confinement in a coffin-sized box, threatened harm to family members, 
forced nudity, freezing temperatures, "rectal feeding" without medical 
need, stress positions, diapering, days of sleep deprivation, and more. 
The report also found that the "enhanced interrogation techniques" were 
ineffective; that the CIA misrepresented their effectiveness; and that 
the program damaged the standing of the United States around the world.

Two names appear dozens of times in the committee's summary: Grayson 
Swigert and Hammond Dunbar. These are the pseudonyms 
<http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/10/world/senate-intelligence-committee-cia-torture-report.html> that 
were given to James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. It has been known 
<http://www.salon.com/2007/06/21/cia_sere/> for several years that these 
two contract psychologists played central roles in designing and 
implementing the CIA's torture program. Now we also know how lucrative 
that work was for Mitchell and Jessen: their company was paid over $80 
million by the CIA.

Prior to their CIA contract work, Mitchell and Jessen were psychologists 
in the military's Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) 
training program. Even though they had no experience as interrogators, 
spoke no Arabic, and had no expert knowledge of al-Qaeda, they were 
<http://www.pegc.us/archive/In_re_Gitmo_II/mitchell_final_20100617.pdf> by 
the CIA in late 2001 to reverse-engineer SERE principles and transform 
them into a set of new and more aggressive interrogation techniques. 
Mitchell and Jessen arrived at the CIA black site in Thailand in April 
2002 and applied those harsh techniques for the first time in their 
interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, a Palestinian national thought to be a 
high-ranking member of al-Qaeda. They kept Zubaydah naked for almost two 
months, with his clothes provided or removed depending on how 
cooperative he was judged to be. They deprived him of sleep for weeks at 
a time by painful shackling of his wrists and feet. And in August 2002 
they waterboarded him at least 83 times.

Responding to the new Senate report, the American Psychological 
Association (APA) was quick to issue a press release 
<http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2014/12/senate-intelligence.aspx> distancing 
itself from Mitchell and Jessen. The statement emphasized that the two 
psychologists are not APA members -- although Mitchell was a member 
until 2006 -- and that they are therefore "outside the reach of the 
association's ethics adjudication process." But there is much more to 
this story. After years of stonewalling and denials, last month the APA 
Board appointed 
<http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2014/11/risen-allegations.aspx> an 
investigator to examine allegations that the APA colluded with the CIA 
and Pentagon in supporting the Bush Administration's abusive "war on 
terror" detention and interrogation practices.

The latest evidence of that collusion comes from the publication earlier 
this fall of James Risen's /Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless 
War/ <http://www.powells.com/biblio/1-9780544341418-2>/. /With access to 
hundreds of previously undisclosed emails involving senior APA staff, 
the Pulitzer-prize winning reporter concludes 
<http://www.ethicalpsychology.org/materials/Coalition-Questions-for-APA-Board.pdf> that 
the APA "worked assiduously to protect the psychologists...involved in 
the torture program." The book also provides several new details 
pointing to the likelihood that Mitchell and Jessen were not so far 
removed from the APA after all.

Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, APA member and CIA head of behavioral 
research Kirk Hubbard first introduced 
<https://www.law.upenn.edu/live/files/2269-blochech7docs-as-warriors-i> Mitchell 
and Jessen to the CIA as "potential assets." A few months later, in 
mid-2002, Hubbard arranged 
<http://www.theatlantic.com/daily-dish/archive/2008/07/mayer-on-seligman/214016/> for 
former APA president Martin Seligman to present a lecture on his 
theories of "learned helplessness" to a group that included Mitchell and 
Jessen at the Navy SERE School in San Diego. And in 2003 Hubbard worked 
closely with APA senior staff in developing an invitation-only workshop 
<http://www.apa.org/about/gr/science/spin/2003/07/also-issue.aspx> -- 
co-sponsored by the APA and the CIA -- on the science of deception and 
other interrogation-related topics. Mitchell and Jessen were both 
participants (having returned from overseas where they were involved in 
the waterboarding of detainees Abu Zabaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed).

Then, in mid-2004, shortly after the horrific Abu Ghraib photos were 
released, Hubbard was among a small group of senior CIA and Pentagon 
officials who received an invitation 
<http://www.ethicalpsychology.org/materials/Coalition-Questions-for-APA-Board.pdf> to 
a private meeting from APA Ethics Office Director Stephen Behnke. 
According to emails obtained by Risen, one key reason for the gathering 
was to "sort out appropriate from inappropriate uses of psychology" in 
national security settings. In extending the invitation, Behnke assured 
Hubbard and the other attendees that their names and the substance of 
their discussions would never be made public, and that "in the meeting 
we will neither assess nor investigate the behavior of any specific 
individual or group" (presumably including the activities of Mitchell 
and Jessen).

That private meeting was the springboard 
<http://www.apa.org/about/gr/science/spin/2005/02/ethics.aspx> that led 
to the creation of the APA's controversial 
<http://ethicalpsychology.org/materials/Coalition-Statement-on-Complicity-Psychology-and-War-on-Terror-Abuses.pdf> 2005 
Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security 
(PENS). The PENS task force was dominated by representatives 
<https://www.clarku.edu/peacepsychology/tfpens.html> from the military 
and intelligence community, several of whom were drawn from chains of 
command where detainee abuses reportedly took place. The task force held 
a single weekend meeting and then issued a report 
<http://www.apa.org/pubs/info/reports/pens.pdf> asserting that it was 
ethical for psychologists to serve in various national security-related 
roles, including as consultants to detainee interrogations.

Although Hubbard was not a member of the PENS task force, he played an 
influential role. Indeed, according to Risen, within days of the release 
of the PENS report in July 2005, Hubbard received an email from Geoff 
Mumford, APA's Science Policy Director. In that letter Mumford thanked 
Hubbard for his "personal contribution...in getting this effort off the 
ground" and assured him that his views "were well represented by very 
carefully selected [PENS] task force members." A month before receiving 
that note of appreciation, Hubbard had emailed Mumford and other 
colleagues to let them know that he had retired from the CIA. In the 
same message Hubbard also told them about his new job: "Now I do some 
consulting work for Mitchell and Jessen Associates."

These troubling connections -- between Mitchell and Jessen, Hubbard, and 
the APA -- represent only a single trail in what must be a broad and 
thorough investigation of possible collusion and corruption within the 
world's largest organization of psychologists. Other evidence 
<http://ethicalpsychology.org/materials/Coalition-Statement-on-Complicity-Psychology-and-War-on-Terror-Abuses.pdf> suggests 
that the abhorrent actions of two highly paid CIA contractors were by no 
means the only instances in which the profession's do-no-harm principles 
were tragically abandoned 
So while this week's grim Senate report provides important answers to 
crucial questions, for the psychology profession there is much more yet 
to be illuminated.

/*Roy Eidelson* <mailto:reidelson at eidelsonconsulting.com> is a clinical 
psychologist and the president of Eidelson Consulting 
<http://www.eidelsonconsulting.com/>, where he studies, writes about, 
and consults on the role of psychological issues in political, 
organizational, and group conflict settings. He is a past president of 
Psychologists for Social Responsibility <http://www.psysr.org/>, 
associate director of the Solomon Asch Center for Study of 
Ethnopolitical Conflict at Bryn Mawr College, and a member of the 
Coalition for an Ethical Psychology 
<http://www.ethicalpsychology.org/>.  Email: 
reidelson at eidelsonconsulting.com <mailto:reidelson at eidelsonconsulting.com>/

/*Trudy Bond* <mailto:drtrudybond at gmail.com>**is a counseling 
psychologist in independent practice in Toledo, Ohio. She is a member of 
the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology and on the steering committee of 
Psychologists for Social Responsibility.  Email: drtrudybond at gmail.com 
<mailto:drtrudybond at gmail.com>/

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