[News] The Ethical Demise of the American Psychological Association - facilitates torture

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed May 13 11:10:28 EDT 2015


May 13, 2015
*http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/05/13/the-ethical-demise-of-the-american-psychological-association/*

<http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/05/13/the-ethical-demise-of-the-american-psychological-association/#> 

*Is Everything for Sale?*


  The Ethical Demise of the American Psychological Association

by GEOFF GRAY

The conscience of the American Psychological Association (APA) is slowly 
dying as it facilitates torture, cheats its own members, and hussles 
junk science boondoggles to the defense industry. But the APA wasn’t 
always this way. Founded in the late 19th century by the intellectual 
giant William James and others, it had a proud history of advancing the 
science of psychology, defending the rights of those served by 
psychology, and promoting the interests of its members.

In 2005 the leadership of the APA violated its governance rules to allow 
psychologists to support the Bush era torture program. This was critical 
because the Justice Department had ruled that a health professional 
needed to be present during “enhanced interrogations” and because other 
professional organizations such as the America Medical Association and 
the America Psychiatric Association had unequivocally declared these 
programs unethical and out of bounds for their members. A national panel 
of human rights experts investigated a newly released cache of emails 
showing the APA, with the collaboration of the White House and CIA 
personnel, secretly modified its ethics policy to keep psychologists 
involved in torture. The New York Times reported 
<http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/01/us/report-says-american-psychological-association-collaborated-on-torture-justification.html?_r=0> 
on the panel’s findings on its front page late last month.

In its official response, the APA characterized the report as 
“recirculated allegations” and maintained 
<http://www.apa.org/news/press/response/new-york-times.aspx> that “last 
October we released a statement refuting these allegations.” But this 
response is a lie. The human rights experts presented new evidence of 
APA support of torture and refuted earlier APA denials. One email from 
Kirk Hubbard, the CIA agent overseeing the torture program, gives a 
shout out to former APA president Martin Seligman, saying he “had helped 
a lot over the last 4 years.” [2] Seligman had earlier denied involvement.

The APA describes the whole issue as a “public misunderstanding” and it 
has reluctantly hired an attorney to investigate the matter. It intends 
to publish its own report after which it plans “an aggressive 
communications program” to set the record straight. Sounds like they’ve 
already decided what their investigators will find.

Deceit is baked into the APA. Over the last several decades the 
compensation for APA leadership and staff has become increasingly 
generous and secure as the ability of the members to earn a living has 
become more precarious. During this time the organization’s relationship 
to its members became increasingly exploitative.

The APA recently settled a class action lawsuit 
<http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/01/us/report-says-american-psychological-association-collaborated-on-torture-justification.html?_r=0>. 
For 24 years APA members practicing as clinicians thought they had to 
pay a substantial special assessment that was not charged to academic 
psychologists. Why did clinicians think that they had to pay the extra 
assessment? Because the APA called the special assessment “mandatory” 
and said clinicians “must pay.” The APA leadership perpetrated this 
deception until 2011 when a disgruntled clinician learned that the 
mandatory assessment had never been approved.

Last month after four years and undisclosed legal expenses 
<http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/05/13/the-ethical-demise-of-the-american-psychological-association/%20http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2015/01/practice-assessment.aspx> 
the APA proposed a settlement of 9.02 million dollars and agreed to 
change its Orwellian member communications practices. But the 
organization is not apologizing. According to its president, one Barry 
Anton, Ph.D., “we do not concede that there was any wrongdoing on our part.”

A professional organization should be guided by its membership. If the 
members want to pay lower dues for scaled back services that should be 
the end of the story. A professional organization struggling in a legal 
battle with its membership, as if it represents something other than its 
membership, has clearly lost its way.

So what about the integrity of psychological science and services? More 
spin, deception, and bullshit as the APA shills behavioral programs to 
the military-security state. Building on relationships developed while 
crafting torture policies, APA and APA connected psychologists have spun 
off a series of ventures noteworthy for their pseudoscientific 
underpinnings, lack of real world effectiveness and high cost. Some of 
the programs the APA has sponsored, abetted or profited from include:

Comprehensive Soldier Resiliency Program (237 million dollars) was 
developed by Martin Seligman and is now deployed throughout the military 
. This program aims to prevent stress-related mental health problems by 
teaching soldiers to be more resilient and optimistic. The APA 
enthusiastically promoted the program in a slew of puff pieces in its 
peer reviewed flagship journal, the American Psychologist. But 
independent evaluations show the program doesn’t work. An Institute of 
Medicine scientific panel noted that the program was never vetted 
<http://www.nature.com/news/2010/100526/full/465412a.html> for 
effectiveness and could, in fact be harmful. USA Today article cites 
“startling negative results.”(6) When USA Today confronted the Army, 
military psychologists went back and lowered the threshold for optimism 
to make the results look less bad.

Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (81 million). Two psychologists, James 
Elmer Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, created interrogation techniques using 
principals developed by the same Martin Seligman. However, this program 
has not only failed to elicit useful information via torture, it has 
blackened America’s name around the world and contributed to Middle East 
instability and blowback.

Screening Passengers by Observation Techniques, SPOT (900 million 
dollars). Developed by psychologist Paul Ekman, the program trains 
<http://www.intelligence.senate.gov/study2014/sscistudy1.pdf> “behavior 
detection officers” to identify potential threats at US airports based 
on personal characteristics, behavior and facial expressions. To date 
there has not been one verified case of a successful terrorist detection 
using the program.

The American Psychological Association poses as a professional 
organization. In truth it is a racket benefiting a few insiders. It 
reflects the larger society where the accumulation of money and power is 
the measure of success and the public good an afterthought; a society in 
which our president lauds bankers who impoverish millions of ordinary 
workers as “savvy businessmen.” The APA’s failure to fulfill its broad 
social mission impoverishes us all.

/*Geoff Gray* has a Ph.D. in psychology./

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