[Ppnews] Protecting the Torturers

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Sep 6 13:20:47 EDT 2006


September 6, 2006

Bad Faith and Distortions From the American Psychological Association

Protecting the Torturers


"A torturing nation uses fear, persuasion, and 
propaganda to secure the assent to torture from 
society in general and from members of its legal, 
academic, journalistic, and medical professions."

-- Steven Miles, M.D.,
Betrayed: Torture, Medical Complicity, and the War on Terror

Bahraini national al-Dossari has been imprisoned 
at Guantánamo Naval Base for over four-and-a-half 
years. Amnesty International has obtained his 
account of his treatment in United States care in 
Afghanistan and in Guantánamo Naval Base. Here is one excerpt:

"The investigators would also put psychological 
pressure on me. Some of the things that happened 
to me during investigations are: I was threatened 
with being murdered, tortured and having to spend 
the rest of my life in jail in Cuba, my daughter 
Nura would be kidnapped, they would make trouble 
for my family in Saudi Arabia and they threatened 
to assassinate me after I am released. They put 
very strong detergent in the investigation room 
and poured it all around me until I almost 
suffocated. They put a music stereo record on 
very, very loudly, they put very bright torches 
to my face, they put me in a very, very cold room 
and reduced the temperature to the lowest 
temperature for many long hours and did not allow 
me to have food or drink, go to the toilet or perform my ablutions to pray.

"There were many other things such as they tied 
my hands to my feet in the ring on the floor of 
the room. All the investigation rooms have a 
metal ring fixed in the floor to tie the detainees' feet to it.

"As for sexual assaults, many things happened to 
me and I will mention some of them here. One day, 
on a Saturday ­ I will tell you the reason for 
why I remember this date later ­ the soldiers 
took me at night for investigation. In the 
investigation room, they tied my feet to that 
steel ring and then they left me and went away. I 
sat alone for a long time. Then the door was 
opened forcefully and four soldiers wearing black 
masks and a female investigator came in. The 
soldiers started terrorising me by raising their 
voices and one of them had a video camera in his 
hand that he was taping this with. Then this 
investigator said to me, 'now we want you to 
confess that you are with Al Qaeda or that you 
have some connection to the attacks in America, 
otherwise tonight we will show you something that 
you will never ever forget for the rest of your 
life', and of course, I will never forget what 
happened for as long as I live. I told her that I 
had no connection to what she was talking about. 
They also had extra shackles with them that the 
soldiers moved in their hands to terrorise and 
frighten me. They started threatening me and when 
I realised that something serious was going to 
happen to me, I started screaming and shouting so 
that perhaps one of the brothers would hear my 
screams. However, that was out of the question as 
all the investigation rooms were soundproof. She 
said to me, laughing, 'it's Saturday, it's the 
weekend, it's late at night and there are no 
officials around'. After one final attempt to 
threaten me, she ordered the soldiers to start ­ 
what they had previously been ordered to do; the 
soldiers came and took me off the chair. My feet 
were tied to that ring as I mentioned before. 
They then laid me out on my back and put the 
extra shackles on top of my hand shackles and 
pulled me by them forcefully and brutally in the 
opposite direction, towards my feet, while I was 
lying on my back. Then the investigator signalled 
to a soldier who [had] a pair of scissors in his 
hand to cut off all my clothes (sic). The 
soldiers cut off all my clothes, removed them and 
threw them in a corner of the room. The 
investigator then started taking off her clothes 
­ the soldier with the camera was filming 
everything. When she was in her underwear, she 
stood on top of me. She took off her underpants, 
she was wearing a sanitary towel, and drops of 
her menstrual blood fell on me and then she 
assaulted me. I tried to fight her off but the 
soldiers held me down with the chains forcefully 
and ruthlessly so that they almost cut my hands. 
I spat at her on her face; she put her hand on 
her dirty menstrual blood that had fallen on my 
body and wiped it on my chest. This shameless 
woman was wearing a cross on a chain. The cross 
had a figure of a crucified man on it. She raised 
the cross and kissed it, and then she looked at 
me and said that this cross was a present for you 
Muslims. She stained her hands with her menstrual 
blood and wiped my face and beard with it. Then 
she got up, cleaned herself, put her clothes back 
on and left the roomthen the soldiers took my 
hands and tied them to my feet on the ground. All 
the soldiers left once they had taken my clothes 
from the corner of the room and left me in this 
state ­ tied up, naked and smeared with [] 
menstrual blood... [J]ust before dawn. I was in a 
hysterical state, I was in a really bad state; I 
almost went mad because of what had happened, how 
it had happened and why it had happened."

Al-Dossari's account is far from unique. 
Treatment such as that described has been routine 
at Guantánamo and other United States detention 
centers in the Global War Against Terrorism.

A significant aspect of the treatment at 
Guantánamo constitutes what Physicians for Human 
Rights has called (in their report Break Them 
Down: Systematic Use of Psychological Torture by 
US Forces) "psychological torture." Included 
under this term are "techniques such as sensory 
deprivation, forced nudity, forced grooming, 
isolation, and use of detainees' phobias, such as fear of dogs" (p. 25).

Integral to the interrogations at Guantánamo, and 
to the psychological torture that commonly 
occurred during them, has been the participation 
of members of the so-called "helping 
professions," including physicians, nurses, and 
psychologists. Perhaps most innovative is the 
existence of Behavioral Science Consultation 
Teams, or BSCT (pronounced "biscuits" in military 
jargon) consisting of psychologists and 
psychiatrists participating in interrogations and 
consulting on interrogation strategies for particular detainees.

A July 2004 New Yorker article by Jane Mayer 
presented circumstantial evidence that these BSCT 
staff received specialized training by 
psychologists from the military's Survival, 
Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) program. 
This SERE program teaches military officers how 
to resist torture by subjecting them to a brief 
period of extreme psychological abuse. At the 
time of Mayer's article, hard evidence that 
Guantánamo interrogators had been trained in SERE 
techniques was lacking, despite the fact that top 
SERE staff were kown to have consulted at 
Guantánamo. Recently Salon found direct evidence 
that SERE techniques were indeed taught to 
Guantánamo interrogators. The Salon article 
details some SERE techniques reportedly utilized 
at Guantánamo (and at Abu Ghraib): "forced 
nudity, stress positions, isolation, sleep 
deprivation, sexual humiliation and exhaustion 
from exercise." Also used were extremely loud 
music and prolonged cold. Physician and 
bioethicist Steven Miles has reported the 
participation of BSCT psychologist Maj. John Leso 
in the brutal and prolonged interrogation of 
Mohammed al-Qahtani. (See also the detailed 
interrogation log on al-Qahtani, referred to as 
Detainee 063.) During al-Qahtani's interrogation 
he was subjected to extreme cold to the point 
where his heart slowed and he was hospitalized 
(he was then warmed up and again subjected to 
extreme cold), he was injected with several bags 
of saline solution while being strapped to a 
table until he urinated on himself, and he was 
forced to bark like a dog; we are not told what 
was done to him to get him to bark.

As the nature of the treatment of detainees at 
Guantánamo was revealed, this treatment was 
condemned as an illegal violation of human rights 
by numerous international organizations including 
the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, 
the United Nations Committee Against Torture, the 
European Union, the International Committee of 
the Red Cross, and Amnesty International.

Al-Dossari described the involvement of 
psychiatrists, other doctors, and nurses in his 
interrogation. As a result of repeated accounts 
like these, the American Psychiatric Association 
and the American Medical Association have barred 
the participation of psychiatrists and, indeed, 
all medical doctors in interrogations.

Unlike the medical and psychiatric associations, 
the American Psychological Association, as I 
documented in my recent article, A Profession 
Struggles to Save Its Soul: Psychologists, 
Guantánamo and Torture, has steadfastly refused 
to condemn (mis)use of psychological techniques 
to break detainees at Guantánamo or elsewhere and 
has consistently refused to forbid members to 
participate in interrogations at these 
facilities. In fact, the Association leadership 
has worked persistently to protect the ability of 
psychologists to participate in "national 
security" interrogations, even, at times, 
claiming an ethical obligation to do so to 
prevent harm to society, presumably from the 
"terrorists" imprisoned there for the last 
four-and-a-half years. (See also Olivia 
Moorehead-Slaughter's report on the Presidential 
Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National 
Security (PENS) she chaired: "as experts in human 
behavior, psychologists contribute to effective interrogations.")

In recent months the opposition to Association 
policy from within has strengthened. However, 
these efforts have been limited in nature and 
opponents have, in every instance, been 
outmaneuvered by the Association leadership. In 
addition to the disturbing events reported in my 
previous article, more evidence on the 
smokescreen of manipulations, distortions and 
downright lies used by the Association raises 
additional questions as to what the Association leadership is up to.

Ethics Code Exempts Government and Military 
Employees: Endorsing the Nuremberg Defense

"Psychologists strive to benefit those with whom 
they work and take care to do no harm."

-- American Psychological Association Ethical 
Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct

One questionable action concerns the Association 
ethics code that governs members' professional 
behavior, which was changed in 2002 so as to 
exempt psychologists working for the government 
(including the military) from being bound by the 
Association code. Thus, the 1992 code had a somewhat ambiguous clause:

"1.02 Relationship of Ethics and Law.

"If psychologists' ethical responsibilities 
conflict with law, psychologists make known their 
commitment to the Ethics Code and take steps to 
resolve the conflict in a responsible manner."

In 2002 this clause was changed to read:

"1.02 Conflicts Between Ethics and Law, 
Regulations, or Other Governing Legal Authority

"If psychologists' ethical responsibilities 
conflict with law, regulations, or other 
governing legal authority, psychologists make 
known their commitment to the Ethics Code and 
take steps to resolve the conflict. If the 
conflict is unresolvable via such means, 
psychologists may adhere to the requirements of 
the law, regulations, or other governing legal authority."

Note that the new wording explicitly exempts 
psychologists aiding torture or abuse under 
military or government orders from being charged 
with ethics violations as long as they can claim 
they took steps to resolve the conflict. By this 
change the Association in 2002 would have 
implicitly endorsed the defense of Lieutenant 
William Calley (convicted for ordering the My Lai 
massacre), Adolf Eichmann and other Nazi war 
criminals, and many others who claimed they were 
simply following orders, a defense that was 
rejected by the United States and the world 
through the Nuremberg and other war crimes trials.

In addition to directly incorporating the 
Nuremberg Defense into the ethics code, this 
change also has other harmful effects. By 
weakening the prohibition against acting in 
conflict with the ethics code, the Association 
significantly weakened the standing of any 
military psychologists desiring to refuse an 
immoral order or to refuse orders that violate 
international law. They could no longer call upon 
the ethics code as requiring refusal. While 
military personnel are allowed to refuse illegal 
or immoral orders, they do so at profound risk to 
themselves. In the case of military psychologists 
contemplating refusal of orders, the Association 
has increased this risk tremendously.

This change in the Association's ethics code has 
the effect of making other Association statements 
on allowable psychologist behavior largely 
irrelevant. Thus, statements forbidding 
psychologists from participating in torture or 
other abusive behavior have no standing if the 
psychologists are ordered to participate by a 
"governing legal authority," e.g., a commanding officer.

As long as Section 1.02 remains in the 
Association ethics code, efforts to get the 
Association to adopt statements on torture, 
coercive interrogations and the like (see next 
section) are essentially exercises in futility as 
these statements would not be binding on 
psychologist members working for the military or 
other government agencies (e.g., the CIA). 
Association critics working for such changes 
should realize that they have been wasting their 
time for the last several years pursuing what 
would have been ineffective changes in the ethics 
code. Some critics have recognized the problem 
and have tried for years, unsuccessfully, to get 
Section 1.02 amended to require adherence to 
international human rights standards when following laws or government orders.

Given the long history of discussion of the 
"following orders" defense, there is no 
possibility that the Association "ethics" 
leadership did not know exactly what they were 
doing. The only question is why they felt the 
need to build the Nuremberg Defense directly into 
the ethics code. Were there particular ethics 
violations they were aware of and were trying to 
protect, or did they have a more general goal of 
allowing free reign to psychologists enlisted in 
the then-beginning "Global War on Terror?" It is 
interesting that this revision occurred just as 
the first information was coming out about the 
torture occurring at Guantánamo and in 
Afghanistan and prior to the public awareness 
that psychologists were an intimate part of the interrogation apparatus there.

Revising Anti-torture Statement to Reduce Influence of International Law

"Every torturing government tries to apply a 
patina of law to these crimes. Any government can 
find lawyers or legislators to renounce, suspend, 
or define away the world's settled opinion 
opposing torture, expressed in documents like the Geneva Conventions." -

- Steven Miles, M.D., Oath Betrayed: Torture, 
Medical Complicity, and the War on Terror

At the APA Convention this August, the 
Association's Peace Psychology Division 
introduced a resolution to reaffirm long-standing 
APA opposition to torture. At the same time, this 
Division and the Association's Divisions for 
Social Justice (a coalition of 10 divisions 
supporting social justice initiatives) declined 
to put forward a resolution banning 
psychologists' participation in coercive 
interrogations, at least partially out of concern 
that such a resolution would be defeated. Between 
the final draft version of the anti-torture 
resolution prepared by proponents and the version 
that was actually adopted and published, crucial 
wording defining proscribed behavior was changed 
in a subtle, but profound way.

The original Final Draft clearly defined torture 
and abuse using the United Nations Declaration 
and Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, 
Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. It 
contained the following language:

"[T]he term 'torture' means any act by which 
severe pain or suffering, whether physical or 
mental, is intentionally inflicted upon a person 
for such purposes as obtaining from him or a 
third person information or a confession, 
punishing him for an act he or a third person has 
committed or is suspected of having committed, or 
intimidating or coercing him or a third person, 
or for any reason based on discrimination of any 
kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by 
or at the instigation of or with the consent or 
acquiescence of a public official or other person 
acting in an official [e.g., governmental, 
religious, political, organizational] capacity. 
It does not include pain or suffering arising 
only from, inherent in, or incidental to lawful 
sanctions [in accordance with both domestic and international law]."

The inclusion of this statement would seem to be 
a clear and unambiguous acceptance by the 
Association of international law and 
understandings as to what constitutes torture.

However, in the published version the following 
paragraph defining "cruel, inhuman, or degrading 
treatment of punishment" was added:

"BE IT RESOLVED, that the term 'cruel, inhuman, 
or degrading treatment or punishment' means 
treatment or punishment by any psychologist that 
is of a kind that, in accordance with the McCain 
Amendment, would be prohibited by the Fifth, 
Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the 
Constitution of the United States, as defined in 
the United States Reservations, Declarations and 
Understandings to the United Nations Convention 
Against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman 
or Degrading Treatment or Punishment done at New York, December 10, 1984."

This all sounds relatively benign. But the phrase 
"United States Reservations" should raise one's 
interest. Just what are these Reservations and 
what are they doing in the Association's 
resolution? It turns out that, when the United 
States ratified this UN Convention, the U.S. 
government took steps to significantly reduce or 
even eliminate its potential impact. (Several 
countries, namely Sweden, the Netherlands, and 
Finland took exception to the U.S. Reservations 
at the time.) As I, a non-lawyer, read these 
Reservations, there are two potentially relevant 
clauses (Daily Kos diarist Valtin provides a 
somewhat different discussion of the impact of 
the second of these clauses but seems to have 
missed the first). The first of these clauses states:

"That the United States considers itself bound by 
the obligation under article 16 to prevent 
'cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or 
punishment', only insofar as the term 'cruel, 
inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment' 
means the cruel, unusual and inhumane treatment 
or punishment prohibited by the Fifth, Eighth, 
and/or Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States."

That is, for behavior not rising to the level of 
"torture," U.S. ratification of this Convention 
did not make anything illegal that was not 
already illegal according to U.S. law. No 
international understandings will be binding. 
Interpretations of "cruel, inhuman, or degrading 
treatment of punishment" by other countries, by 
the United Nations, or by other international 
organizations and institutions are irrelevant. By 
this means, also, the U.S. made its obligations 
under the Convention subject to the vagaries of 
U.S. law in this area. If U.S. courts interpret 
U.S. law as constitutionally allowing a certain 
type of behavior, that behavior would then by 
definition not be banned by U.S. adherence to the 
Convention. As long as that behavior was not 
quite "torture," it wouldn't matter if it was 
proscribed by every other country on earth. 
Unfortunately, it is not at all clear that the 
"psychological torture" techniques used by U.S. 
interrogators are violations of the U.S. Constitution.

As John Shifton argued in a recent article in 
Slate (Criminal, Immunize Thyself: The Bush 
administration's get out of jail card for 
torturers; see also Marty Lederman: The CIA 
Cruelty Authorization Act of 2006), the Bush 
administration is currently pushing to amend the 
U.S. War Crimes Act to legalize all abusive 
behavior that fails to meet the legal definition 
of torture. The added paragraph in the 
Association resolution will thus pass any new 
immunity down to psychologists engaged in 
interrogations. As U.S. law changes with regard 
to "cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment," so 
potentially will the ethical obligations of psychologists.

The second potentially relevant clause in the 
U.S. Reservations is concerned with limiting the 
definition of the most severe behaviors, those 
that are clearly proscribed by U.S. ratification of the UN Convention:

"That with reference to article 1, the United 
States understands that, in order to constitute 
torture, an act must be specifically intended to 
inflict severe physical or mental pain or 
suffering and that mental pain or suffering 
refers to prolonged mental harm caused by or 
resulting from (1) the intentional infliction or 
threatened infliction of severe physical pain or 
suffering; (2) the administration or application, 
or threatened administration or application, of 
mind altering substances or other procedures 
calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or 
the personality; (3) the threat of imminent 
death; or (4) the threat that another person will 
imminently be subjected to death, severe physical 
pain or suffering, or the administration or 
application of mind altering substances or other 
procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the 
senses or personality." (Emphases added)

Interestingly for psychologists, this, the 
longest clause in the U.S. Reservations, is 
explicitly designed to circumscribe the 
definition of torture so as to exclude most 
psychological torture. With the exception of 
attempts to create a "profound" disruption of 
"senses or the personality" or of threats to self 
or others of death or severe physical pain, the 
prolonged mental harm has to arise from the 
infliction of "severe physical pain or 
suffering." Further, the requirement of 
"prolonged mental harm" allows for great 
interpretive creativity. If a person recovers in 
a year, or in five years, was the harm 
"prolonged?" Is it OK to subject resilient 
individuals to more severe treatment? Further, as 
psychologists should know well, proving that a 
given behavior was the cause of a given negative 
psychological outcome can prove difficult, if not impossible?

The clever phrasing of this Reservation makes 
sure that the types of psychological torture that 
have historically been employed by the CIA and 
have been utilized by the American military in 
Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, and elsewhere are not 
considered to be torture. (Alfred McCoy has 
detailed the critical role of psychologists in 
developing these techniques.) Thus, much of the 
treatment al-Dossari describes receiving or that 
described in the interrogation log for al-Qahtani 
would likely not be considered torture under this 
definition. In fact, it appears that, according 
to the US reservations, Saddam Hussein's 
technique of having a man's daughter raped in 
front of him would not constitute torture as long 
as the daughter didn't suffer severe physical pain.

If one reads the Association resolution very 
literally, it appears that this second 
Reservation may not apply to the resolution, as 
the document only includes the phrase "U.S. 
Reservations" in the section defining "cruel, 
inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment." 
Thus, a lawyer might reasonably argue that these 
Reservations may not apply to the definition of 
torture and thus the exclusion of many forms of 
psychological torture may not apply. However, 
this interpretation is not certain. As Nat 
Hentoff points out, the recent McCain Amendment 
supposedly banning torture and cruel, inhuman, or 
degrading treatment provides that the standard 
applicable to accused interrogators is that a 
"person of ordinary sense and understanding would 
not know the practices were unlawful." Any 
aspects of the new resolution which muddy its 
interpretation increase the chances of such a 
successful defense. At a minimum, it is extremely 
disturbing that the Association would include in 
its resolution any reference to the U.S. 
Reservations, a document which attempts to 
protect the right to use psychological torture.

The Association's Press Release, entitled 
"American Psychological Association Reaffirms 
Unequivocal Position Against Torture and Abuse" states:

"The Council of Representatives of the American 
Psychological Association (APA) has approved a 
resolution reaffirming the organization's 
absolute opposition to all forms of torture and 
abuse, regardless of the circumstance. The 
resolution furthermore affirmed United Nations 
human rights documents and conventions as the basis for APA policy."

Unfortunately, as we have seen, this new 
Resolution is anything but an unequivocal 
position against torture and abuse. Further, 
"United Nations human rights documents," except 
in the most literal sense, were decidedly not the 
basis of the resolution's policy toward "cruel, 
inhuman, or degrading treatment." Not 
surprisingly, the Association's Military 
Psychology Division, which had reportedly 
succeeded in defeating a related resolution the 
previous year supported this one. Further, the 
Association's leadership, which has steadfastly 
acted to protect psychologists' participation in 
national security interrogations, threw no 
roadblocks in the path to passage of this 
resolution. Presumably they realized that the new 
resolution was, at best, an abstract and very 
equivocal public relations effort with little or 
no actual impact on interrogations.

Steven Reisner, an activist against involvement 
of psychologists in coercive national security 
interrogations who addressed the Association 
Council meeting on the issue, was mortified when 
he became aware of the addition of the U.S. 
Reservations to the resolution. He asserts that 
he and others at the Association Council meeting 
became aware of the absence of a definition of 
"cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment" and that 
he, in consultation with others, drafted a 
"friendly amendment" tying the definition of 
these behaviors to the May 2006 report of the 
United Nations Committee Against Torture. When he 
tried to describe it to the Council, he was cut 
off by Association President Gerald Koocher, 
allegedly because he was not a Council member, 
even though he had earlier, by invitation, 
addressed the Council on the interrogation issue. 
Dr. Reisner then sought a Council member to 
introduce the amendment, but was turned down by three members.

As Dr. Reisner relates in an email, there was 
then a short break, "during which time a small 
group changed some minor wording based on the 
Council debate, which had focused on the words 
'knowingly' and 'punishment.' During the break, 
the resolution was revised, a new version was 
typed up and printed, and placed on a table for 
people who wanted to read [it]. No one raised the 
idea of more specific definitions of CID ["cruel, 
inhuman, or degrading treatment"] and I thought 
the point was lost. The Council members 
reconvened, were told about additions of one 
'knowingly' and two 'or punishment's. A vote was 
called and the resolution passed unanimously." 
Only later did Reisner discover to his horror 
that, apparently during that break, the 
resolution was revised by the addition of the 
U.S. Reservations, thus severely weakening it. A 
number of others involved in anti-torture efforts were similarly horrified.

Others associated with the development of the 
resolution from the leadership of the 
Association's Peace Division have asserted that 
the reference to the U.S. Reservations was 
included because the Reservations contain the 
only definition of "cruel, inhuman or degrading 
treatment or punishment" in international law. It 
appears that this absence may be intentional as 
some in the human rights community feel that 
there should not be an explicit definition of 
these behaviors. The Peace Division leadership 
has not explained how references to the American 
Constitution, which has been subject to over two 
hundred years of complex and ever changing 
interpretation provides any kind of clear 
definition for the resolution. They also have not 
explained why, if they valued clarity so much, 
they did not include a clear list of proscribed behaviors in the resolution.

Both the Association President, Gerald Koocher, 
and its Ethics Director, Stephen Behnke, have 
denied, in emails to me, having any knowledge of 
these revisions or any view as to their 
interpretation. Both declined to respond, 
claiming lack of knowledge, to explicit questions 
as to which of the clauses in the United States 
Reservations were relevant to interpreting the 
Association resolution. Both also denied any 
intent to weaken the prohibition against torture.

If they and other Association leaders are indeed 
correct that the inclusion of the U.S. 
Reservations does not weaken the Resolution and 
that the Association stands "unequivocally" 
against torture and abusive interrogation, they 
can demonstrate this by swiftly adopting new 
ethics code statements that specify exactly which 
interrogation techniques (e.g. waterboarding, 
sleep deprivation, loud music, heat and cold, 
exploitation of phobias, forced nudity, sexual 
abuse, etc.) are actually proscribed. If it was 
critical to include a definition of "cruel, 
inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" in 
the resolution, then surely it is even more 
important to clearly state what is proscribed. If 
Association leaders refuse to issue such a list 
we should presume that the new resolution was 
just a public relations gambit and the U.S. 
Reservations were included to weaken, not to strengthen it.

While the Association Council overwhelmingly 
adopted the equivocal anti-torture resolution 
that makes no mention, in its text or in its 
Justification Statement, of the reports of 
psychologist participation in torture at 
Guantánamo and elsewhere, only a few members of 
the Association Council were willing to stand up 
and propose a moratorium on psychologists' 
participation in national security 
interrogations. Without a bending of the rules, 
any such proposal now will require at least 
another year to be considered by the Association 
Council. At that point it will have been almost 
five years since psychologist Maj. Leso took part 
in the torture of Mohammed al-Qahtani, Detainee 
063. The unwillingness of the Association 
leadership to unambiguously cut the ties to the torturers runs deep.

Distorting the Position of Other Organizations

"Psychologists seek to promote accuracy, honesty, 
and truthfulness in the science, teaching, and practice of psychology."

-- American Psychological Association Ethical 
Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct

As the criticism of the Association has mounted, 
its leadership has engaged in a concerted public 
relations effort. Allowing the passage at their 
recent Convention of the abstract and seriously 
weakened anti-torture resolution that made no 
mention of the claims of psychologist 
participation in abuses was one part of this 
effort. Another was the repeated claim that the 
Association's position did not substantively 
differ from that of the American Medical 
Association. This claim was asserted by 
Association President Gerald Koocher in a June 
16, 2006 debate on Democracy Now! But its most 
full statement came in the form of an extended 
comparison of the position of the Association 
with those of the American Medical and 
Psychiatric Associations (Ethics and 
interrogations: Comparing and contrasting the 
American Psychological, American Medical and 
American Psychiatric Association positions) by 
Stephen Behnke, Director of the Association's Ethics Office.

The AMA policy statement adopted at their June 
2006 meeting states unequivocally:

"Physicians must neither conduct nor directly 
participate in an interrogation, because a role 
as physician-interrogator undermines the 
physician's role as healer and thereby erodes 
trust in the individual physician-interrogator and in the medical profession."

It further states that:

"physicians must not monitor interrogations with 
the intention of intervening in the process, 
because this constitutes direct participation in interrogation."

It does allow that:

"physicians may participate in developing 
effective interrogation strategies for general 
training purposes. These strategies must not 
threaten or cause physical injury or mental 
suffering and must be humane and respect the rights of individuals."

In the face of this text sounding strikingly 
different than anything coming from the American 
Psychological Association , Behnke states:

"the AMA report states that physicians may 
consult to interrogations by developing 
interrogation strategies that do 'not threaten or 
cause physical injury or mental suffering' and 
that are 'humane and respect the rights of 
individuals.' Substitute 'psychologist' for 
'physician,' and the relevant passages in the AMA 
report could be inserted into the PENS report 
with no change in APA's position whatsoever-that 
'It is consistent with the APA Ethics Code for 
psychologists to serve in consultative roles to 
interrogation and information-gathering processes 
for national-security related purposes' when 
acting in accordance with strict conditions. 
While one recommendation in the AMA report places 
physician consultation in a training context, 
numerous statements in the body of the report and 
in the report's 'Conclusion' convey a scope of 
involvement that extends well beyond training. As 
one example, the AMA report states explicitly 
that the presence of a psychiatrist at an 
interrogation may serve to benefit the individual 
under questioning by virtue of a trust that can 
facilitate the interrogation, i.e., 
information-eliciting process. The AMA report 
must be carefully read in its entirety to 
understand and appreciate the breadth of its 
position on the appropriate role for physicians in interrogations."

Thus, Behnke claims that the AMA policy 
recommendations do not mean what they appear to 
mean, or what they actually say. In both written 
and verbal statements, AMA officials claim 
otherwise. On August 22, the President of the AMA 
wrote a letter to the Executive Director of 
Physicians for Human Rights reiterating these differences. The letter states:

"I certainly believe that the recommendations 
pertaining to the ethical role of physicians are 
unambiguous. In developing its recommendations, I 
know that the members of CEJA [the AMA's Council 
on Ethical and Judicial Affairs] deliberated the 
meaning of every word; I also know that the AMA 
Code of Medical Ethics does not use the words 
'must not' lightly. The guidelines, therefore, 
leave no room for confusion. The AMA has adopted 
a strict prohibition on physician participation 
in the interrogation of an individual, and only 
permits that medical knowledge be used to develop 
strategies that can be presented in the context 
of general training. This was clearly reiterated 
in the statement the AMA released on June 12, 2006.

"The AMA is aware of the article published in the 
July/August issue of the Monitor on Psychology. 
We have found that the commentary analyzing the 
AMA and the American Psychological Association 
positions did not accurately represent our 
ethical guidelines. By arguing that the two 
positions are similar and by failing to point out 
critical differences, we believe the readers of 
the Monitor could be induced in serious error 
regarding the ethically acceptable role for 
physicians. For this reason, the chair of CEJA, 
Dr. Robert Sade, has submitted a letter to the 
editor of the Monitor to refute the proposition 
that the policies are similar. In his words: 'AMA 
and APA policy differ substantially in ethical 
acceptability of supporting interrogation.'"

In the letter by Sade referred to, he explicitly 
takes issue with Behnke's quote from the AMA 
which Behnke claims allows physician participation in interrogations:

"Behnke misrepresents the substance of the AMA 
guidelines when he says: '...the AMA report 
states explicitly that the presence of a 
psychiatrist at an interrogation may serve to 
benefit the individual under questioning by 
virtue of a trust that can facilitate the 
interrogation.' He has taken this statement out 
of its context in a discussion of potential roles 
of physicians, and has failed to observe that it 
is negated by the guidelines themselves."

Sade goes on to state:

"To clarify the crux of AMA's new ethical policy: 
Physicians must not conduct, monitor with an 
intent to intervene, or directly participate in 
any way in an interrogation, because each of 
these actions undermines the physician's role as 
healer. Because it is often justifiable for 
physicians to serve the public interest, AMA's 
policy permits physicians to develop general 
interrogation strategies that are not coercive, 
but are humane and respect the rights of 
individuals. In contrast, APA prohibits 
psychologists from participating in cruel, 
inhuman or degrading treatment but accepts that 
they can 'serve in the role of supporting an 
interrogation' and as a consultant. Thus, AMA and 
APA policy differ substantially in ethical 
acceptability of supporting interrogation."

(To be fair, it should be noted that Behnke, in 
his original article as well as in his response 
to Sade's letter, refers to the "body of the 
[AMA] report" and insists that this report must 
be read in its entirety. I have so far not been 
able to get access to the text of this full 
report. AMA officials state that the report is 
being prepared for publication in a medical 
journal. Most such journals have a strict policy 
against publishing papers that have already been 
reported in the popular press. Thus, they refuse 
to release the report prior to publication (a 
position I find understandable yet troubling in 
matters with significant public policy import).

I was told by the AMA officials, however, that 
the report has no official standing with the AMA. 
Only the Recommendations were adopted by vote, 
the report was not voted on but simply "filed." 
These officials stated that the Recommendations 
stand on their own. Only with the publication of 
this full report can we be certain, but, at this 
point, it certainly looks like the claim that the 
Association's and AMA's policies are virtually 
identical is yet another smokescreen thrown up to 
obscure the Association's long-standing practice 
of protecting psychologists' participating in the 
abuses at Guantánamo and elsewhere.

A detailed article in Psychiatric News, a 
publication of the American Psychiatric 
Association (note for non-mental health 
professionals: psychiatrists are medical doctors 
specializing in mental health treatment, 
psychologists are not medical doctors), also 
tends to refute Behnke's interpretation of AMA 
policy and supports the interpretation that the 
AMA policy means what it appear to say: no 
participation in interrogations. For example, the 
article quotes Steven Sharfstein, the Psychiatric 
Association's immediate past President, as saying 
"I really think this is a very strong statement 
that closely corresponds to and reinforces the 
APA [American Psychiatric Association] position 
that physicians, including psychiatrists, should 
not be participating in any way in the 
interrogation of individual detainees." (emphasis 
added) This article also indicates that the 
wording of the AMA statement was changed the day 
before approval to strengthen the prohibition against physician participation:

"In a letter dated June 8, Appelbaum [chair of 
the Psychiatric Association's Council on 
Psychiatry and Law] wrote on behalf of APA to 
members of CEJA to address concerns about the 
wording of the passage as it stood at the time, 
just one day prior to the opening of the AMA 
meeting. It read: 'Physicians may participate in 
developing effective interrogation strategies 
that are not coercive but are humane and respect the rights of individuals.'

"'This language appeared to allow physicians to 
consult on the planning of interrogations of 
particular detainees,' Appelbaum told Psychiatric 
News. 'In contrast, APA's statement explicitly 
rules out advising authorities on the use of 
specific techniques of interrogation with particular detainees.'

"The final wording in the CEJA report was changed 
to emphasize that the development of strategies 
be for 'general training purposes.'"


The pattern of behaviors going back at least to 
2002 ­ documented here and in my previous article 
­ by the American Psychological Association 
leadership supportive of psychologist involvement 
in national security interrogations strongly 
suggests that sections of the leadership are 
working, probably intentionally, to avoid the 
development of any position, guideline, or ethics 
code statement that would unambiguously forbid 
members from engaging in national security 
interrogation, even though these interrogations 
frequently involve the kinds of psychological 
torture documented as occurring at Guantánamo and 
elsewhere by Physicians for Human Rights and 
condemned by numerous United States and 
international organizations. This effort appears 
to have begun before the issue became 
controversial among the membership or the public. 
Thus, the 2002 ethics code revision was pushed 
through before the controversy regarding health 
professionals' roles in interrogation became a 
major issue, resulting in pressure for 
Association change. (For early works on these 
issues, see 2004's New York Times article by Neil 
Lewis: Red Cross Finds Detainee Abuse in 
Guantánamo; 2005's Bloche & Marks: Doctors and 
Interrogators at Guantánamo Bay; and Susan Okie: 
Glimpses of Guantánamo - Medical Ethics and the War on Terror).

Let's put together in one place what is known 
about Association protection of psychologist 
participation in torture and inhumane treatment:

* 2002 ­ Ethics code changed to allow government 
laws or orders to supersede psychological ethics

* 2005 ­ PENS task force formed with membership 
and deliberations kept secret. Turns out 
membership includes a majority of members from 
the military, including several involved in 
interrogations and with histories of consulting 
on interrogations at Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, and Bagram Air Base.

* 2005, June ­ PENS Task Force issues final 
report concluding "It is consistent with the APA 
Ethics Code for psychologists to serve in 
consultative roles to interrogation and 
information-gathering processes for national 
security-related purposes." Also concludes that 
no changes are necessary to ethics code. Fails to 
even mention accusations of psychologist 
participation in torture at Guantánamo. In a 
highly unusual procedure, the report was 
immediately adopted by the Association's Board of 
Directors without the usual discussion and 
approval by the broader-based Council of Representatives.

* 2005, October ­ Association President Levant 
travels to Guantánamo. Praises contributions of 
psychology to national security investigations. 
Neglects to mention persistent reports of torture 
and abuse during these interrogations.

* 2006, February ­ Incoming Association President 
Koocher devotes monthly President's Column in 
Association newsmagazine to defending Association 
against critics. Without a shred of evidence 
nastily attacks critics: "A number of 
opportunistic commentators masquerading as 
scholars have continued to report on alleged 
abuses by mental health professionals."

* 2006, June ­ Association Ethics Director writes 
article claiming there is little difference 
between the position of the Association and the 
AMA. In August, AMA President denies similarity.

* 2006, August ­ Association anti-torture 
resolution gets surreptitiously modified, substantially weakening its meaning.

There is thus a long history of bad faith and 
active efforts to resist calls for the 
Association to take a clear, unequivocal stand 
against psychologists' participation in coercive 
national security interrogations, to respond in 
any way to persistent reports of torture and 
abuse during those interrogations, or to strongly 
condemn psychological torture. The only 
reasonable conclusion is that the Association 
leadership is committed to doing everything they 
can to protect psychologists' involvement in 
torture under the guise of national security 
interrogations. They are thus in the role of enablers of that torture.

Association critics have largely addressed this 
issue as one of professional ethics. They have 
been very polite, forming committees, writing 
letters, introducing motions, and asking for case 
examples to be added to the ethics code. At every 
step these polite critics have been stymied, manipulated, and out-maneuvered.

It is time for Association critics to accept that 
the issue is larger than one of ethics 
statements. Yes, the Nuremberg Defense needs to 
be excised from the ethics code and involvement 
in national security interrogations needs to be 
unambiguously banned. But reform needs to go far 
deeper. There is something truly rotten in the 
Association. The organization has had a 
long-standing symbiotic relationship with the 
American "defense" establishment which has led it 
to go all out to support the participation of 
psychologists in national security 
interrogations, and to avoid any Association 
investigation into reports of psychological 
torture. Its leadership apparently has acted in 
bad faith in their efforts to protect the torturers.

The leadership's actions have undermined the 
faith of many Association members in the entire 
Association. After my first article appeared, 
many members wrote asking if it was time to 
resign membership in such an organization. I 
suggested that they wait, in hopes that the 
Association could be changed from within. The 
August Convention ­ with the Association Council 
not interested in even discussing ending 
psychologist participation in abusive 
interrogations and the experience of an 
anti-torture resolution being surreptitiously 
substantially weakened ­ raises questions for me 
as to whether reform is possible. It remains for 
the Association's members to decide what kind of 
organization we are going to allow to represent us.

At this point, mere resolutions or even a change 
in the ethics code are not enough to save the 
Association. Nothing less than a leadership 
change in conjunction with an independent 
investigation of the entire involvement of the 
Association with the national security state and 
its torture apparatus can possibly excise the 
rot. We have learned from South Africa and Latin 
America the importance of public testimony and 
the pursuit of truth to the ability to 
successfully move on. As psychologists we know 
all too well that mental health cannot be built 
on a foundation of either lies or denial.

Al-Dossari's Torment Continues

Let's return to al-Dossari's treatment

"Nurse 'Irish' and some people and soldiers from 
the psychiatric clinic were waiting for me at the 
camp so that they could keep me under special 
guard. After that and before they removed my 
shackles, a soldier with scissors came forward 
and cut off my shirt and left me naked in the 
metal cell under the cold air conditioner without 
clothes, a pillow, a blanket, shorts, a small 
plastic mat [or] even plastic bathroom slippers. 
The doctor issued an order to prevent me having 
these things. This happened in mid January 2004.

"The metallic cell was very cold as I have 
already mentioned and the air conditioner was on 
directly above the metal bed. The light in the 
cell was very poor. The cell was very small: if I 
got off the metal bed, the toilet was just 
underneath me so I slept next to the toilet to 
avoid the chill from the air conditioning. 
However, I was happy when I found that there were 
some other detainees in the camp. They welcomed 
me dearly and they helped me. Were it not for 
Allah, the Exalted, and them, I would have killed myself in that situation.

"The doctor did not allow me to have any toilet 
tissue or water (as they had blocked the 
washbasin), except for a glass of drinking water 
if I asked for it. For more than two weeks, I 
used the toilet without toilet tissue or water. I 
would clean myself with water from the flush. 
After that, they allowed me to have very little 
toilet tissue, which was not enough at all. The 
soldiers from Camp Delta [the Guantánamo prison 
camp] who came especially for me harmed me a lot 
and followed a set programme of harming me. They 
would harass me and they would harm my food: they 
would put the plate of food besides their shoes 
and sometimes I had to take pieces of rubbish out 
of the food. I later found out that they spat in 
the water they gave me in the cup so I started to 
drink and make my ablutions from the flush water. 
As I mentioned before, the toilets in Camp Delta 
were metallic Turkish toilets, so I would pull 
the chain and put my hands next to the toilet and 
cup the water in my hands and drink from it and 
perform my ablutions. I had no other choice. I 
did this for more than three months and when I 
told the doctor that a soldier had spat in my 
water and that a number of soldiers had seen this 
and he had done this in front of the psychiatric 
nurse, he said, 'what do you want me to do about 
it?' He knew about everything that had happened 
and these orders came from him, as I was later 
told by a soldier (who felt sorry for me). This 
doctor who had violated my rights was responsible 
for the washbasin being welded shut because when 
I was in the hospital, I had asked to take a 
bath. He even prevented me from performing the 
compulsory ghusl (full ablutions). I told him, 
'when I was in the camps, I used to bath 
everyday'. That was why he ordered the washbasin in my cell to be turned off."

In October 2005, Mr. al-Dossari was found by his 
attorney hanging by his neck in an apparent 
suicide attempt. Though other Guantánamo 
detainees succeeded in their suicide attempts, 
this time al-Dossari was revived in time. 
Al-Dossari had left a suicide note for his attorney. In it he states:

"I hope you will always remember you met and sat 
with a 'human being' called 'Jumah' who suffered 
too much and was abused in his belief, self, 
dignity, and also in his humanity. He was 
imprisoned, tortured, and deprived from his 
homeland, his family and his young daughter who 
is in the most need of him for four years with no 
reason or crime committed. Remember that there 
are hundreds of detainees in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba 
­ they are in the same situation of suffering and 
misfortune. They were captured, tortured and 
detained with no offense or reason. Their lives 
might end like mine When you remember me in my 
last gasps of life before dying, while my soul is 
leaving my body to rise to its creator, remember 
that the world let us and our case down."

The American Psychological Association still 
believes it is appropriate for psychologists to 
participate in interrogations at the institution 
where, less than a year ago, Mr. al-Dossari was 
tortured till he lost the will to live. Mr. 
al-Dossari made at least one more suicide attempt 
in 2006, his 12th. Does this constitute enough 
evidence of "prolonged mental harm" to move 
psychologists? Those psychologists and citizens 
of goodwill who don't believe in torture as 
public policy should cry out with one voice at 
such indifference to human barbarity. If we fail 
to act we cannot claim, as did so many Germans, "We didn't know!"

Stephen Soldz, a researcher and psychoanalyst, is 
Director of the Center for Research, Evaluation, 
and Program Development at the Boston Graduate 
School of Psychoanalysis. He is a member of 
Roslindale Neighbors for Peace and Justice and 
founder of Psychoanalysts for Peace and Justice. 
He maintains the 
Occupation and Resistance Report web page. He can 
be reached at: <mailto:ssoldz at bgsp.edu>ssoldz at bgsp.edu.

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