[Ppnews] Top Bush-era GITMO and Abu Ghraib psychologist is White House's newest appointment

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Mar 28 10:24:01 EDT 2011

Bush-era GITMO and Abu Ghraib psychologist is WH's newest appointment

By <http://www.salon.com/author/glenn_greenwald/index.html>Glenn Greenwald

One of the 
intense scandals the field of psychology has 
faced over the last decade is the involvement of 
several of its members in enabling Bush's 
worldwide torture regime. Numerous health 
professionals worked for the U.S. government to 
help understand how best to mentally degrade and 
break down detainees. 
the center of that controversy was -- and is -- 
Dr. Larry James. James, a retired Army colonel, 
was the Chief Psychologist at Guantanamo in 2003, 
at the height of the abuses at that camp, and 
then served in the same position at Abu Ghraib during 2004.

Today, Dr. James circulated an excited email 
announcing, "with great pride," that he has now 
been selected to serve on the "White House Task 
Force entitled Enhancing the Psychological 
Well-Being of The Military Family."  In his new 
position, he will be meeting at the White House 
with Michelle Obama and other White House officials on Tuesday.

For his work at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, Dr. 
James was the subject of two formal ethics 
complaints in the two states where he is licensed 
to practice: Louisiana and Ohio.  Those 
-- 50 pages long and full of detailed and 
well-documented allegations -- were filed by the 
International Human Rights Clinic of Harvard Law 
School's Human Rights Program, on behalf of 
veterans, mental health professionals and 
others.  The complaints detailed how James "was 
the senior psychologist of the Guantánamo BSCT, a 
small but influential group of mental health 
professionals whose job it was to advise on and 
participate in the interrogations, and to help 
create an environment designed to break down prisoners."  Specifically:

During his tenure at the prison, boys and men 
were threatened with rape and death for 
themselves and their family members; sexually, 
culturally, and religiously humiliated; forced 
naked; deprived of sleep; subjected to sensory 
deprivation, over-stimulation, and extreme 
isolation; short-shackled into stress positions 
for hours; and physically assaulted. The evidence 
indicates that abuse of this kind was systemic, 
that BSCT health professionals played an integral 
role in its planning and practice. . . .

<http://www.truth-out.org/1029091>Writing in 
2009, Law Professor Bill Quigley and Deborah 
Popowski, a Fellow at the Harvard Law School 
Human Rights Program, described James' role in 
this particularly notorious incident:

In 2003, Louisiana psychologist and retired Col. 
Larry James watched behind a one-way mirror in a 
US prison camp while an interrogator and three 
prison guards wrestled a screaming, near-naked man on the floor.

The prisoner had been forced into pink women's 
panties, lipstick and a wig; the men then pinned 
the prisoner to the floor in an effort "to outfit 
him with the matching pink nightgown." As he 
recounts in his memoir, "Fixing Hell," Dr. James 
initially chose not to respond. He "opened [his] 
thermos, poured a cup of coffee, and watched the 
episode play out, hoping it would take a better 
turn and not wanting to interfere without good reason ..."

Although he claims to eventually find "good 
reason" to intervene, the Army colonel never 
reported the incident or even so much as 
reprimanded men who had engaged in activities that constituted war crimes.

James treated numerous detainees who were abused, 
degraded, and tortured, yet never took any steps 
to stop or even report these incidents.  Last 
year, Steven Reisner -- senior faculty member and 
supervisor at the International Trauma Studies 
Program, who also teaches at New York University 
Medical School and Columbia University -- 
Now: "there is a lot of evidence that has been 
made public showing that the torture programs in 
the CIA and at Guantánamo, the Department of 
Defense, were created and overseen by health 
professionals, particularly psychologists" and 
that psychologists were at these facilities "to 
use their professional expertise to break down 
the detainees." James, argued Dr. Reisner, was directly implicated because:

Larry James was the chief BSCT starting in 
January 2003. And when you read the standard 
operating procedures for mental health, for how 
to -- behavior protocols for detainees during the 
time that Larry James was the chief psychologist, 
you find institutionalized abuse and torture -- 
isolation for thirty days at a time with 
absolutely no contact, prohibition of the 
International Committee of the Red Cross to see 
these detainees, no access even to religious 
articles, to the Qur’an, unless they cooperate 
with interrogations, not to mention frequent interrogation.

For his part, Dr. James claims he attempted to 
protect the detainees under his care from abuse 
and psychological injury.  Meanwhile, the 
Louisiana psychology board refused to review the 
merits of the complaint against James on the 
grounds that the alleged acts were too old 
(outside the statute of limitations), while the 
Ohio board issued a 
cursory letter which decreed, without any 
explanation whatsoever, that "it has been 
determined that we are unable to proceed to 
formal action in this matter."  So while the 
charges against him have not been formally 
sustained by either board, neither have they been 
evaluated or rejected by any apparent 
consideration of the merits. Judicial review of 
the Ohio board's decision is still possible (a 
Louisiana federal court ruled it lacked 
jurisdiction to review the board's Statute of Limitations findings).

Despite the overwhelming evidence against him, 
James should not be deemed guilty in the absence 
of a formal adjudication.  But the White House's 
conduct in selecting him is nonetheless baffling, 
at best.  Of all the psychologists to choose 
from, why would they possibly choose to honor and 
elevate the former chief psychologist of 
Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib at the height of the 
Bush abuses?  More disturbing still, among those 
most damaged by detainee abuse are the service 
members forced to participate in it; why would 
the White House possibly want to put on a task 
force about the health of military families 
someone, such as Dr. James, who at the very least 
is directly associated with policies that so 
profoundly harmed numerous members of the military and their families?

This isn't exactly a powerful Task Force, but 
what this appointment does is have the White 
House -- 
-- signal that it does not really take very 
seriously the Bush torture regime.  On appearance 
grounds alone, the Obama administration should 
not be embracing and legitimizing the Bush-era 
Chief Psychologist of Guantanamo and Abu 
Ghraib.  Is there really nobody in the White 
House who was able to come to that realization on 
their own, or is this part of some twisted 
"reaching out" effort to show that they view 
bygones as bygones when it comes to the war 
crimes our leaders committed and whom the Obama 
administration continues to protect? Whatever the 
explanation, the symbolism here is as ugly as the mindset underlying it.

UPDATE: Here is the full text of the email sent 
by Dr. James, as provided to me yesterday by 
Harvard Law School’s Human Rights Program:

Message from Dean James for the SOPP Community:

Hello Everyone,

It is with great pride and pleasure that I write 
to the SOPP community and say that I have been 
appointed by the First Lady to a White House Task 
Force entitled Enhancing the Psychological Well-Being of The Military Family.

The first meeting will be at the White House next 
Tuesday (the 29th) and will be hosted by Mrs. 
Obama and her staff. Indeed, I feel honored and 
privileged to represent the SOPP, WSU and the APA in this important endeavor.

Next week I will provide a follow-up e-mail to provide more information.

All the best,

Larry C. James, Ph.D., ABPP
Dean & Professor
School of Professional Psychology
Wright State University
3640 Colonel Glenn Hwy
Dayton, Ohio 45435-001
Phone: xxx-xxx-xxxx

its own website, HLS’s Human Rights Program 
reported that James sent this email "to 
colleagues and students of Wright State 
University, where Dr. James serves as Dean of the 
School of Professional Psychology.”

The White House, however, now tells a much 
different story. In an email to me from the First 
Lady’s Communications Director, the White House claims:

Several members of the White House staff are 
convening a meeting with multiple mental health 
professionals on Tuesday to discuss issues 
pertaining to the wellness of military families. 
SAMHSA and the American Psychological Association 
have both been asked to attend. We understand 
that Dr. James is involved with these groups and 
may have been indirectly invited to attend this meeting.

She claims, however, that he now will not be at 
that meeting, and further states that "Dr. James 
has not been appointed to serve in any capacity with the White House."

There’s obviously quite a discrepancy between the 
claims in the James email as provided by HLS' 
Human Rights Project and the White House’s 
claims. Calls to Dr. James regarding this matter 
have not been returned, but if I speak with him, 
I’ll post his response to the White House's denials

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