Friday, August 05, 2016

Some psychologists want to get back into the torture business

Doctors have professional codes of ethics that prohibit them from participating in torture, even in the interests of "national security." So do nurses. Their watchword is ancient: "Do no harm."

But in the Forever War on Terror, psychologists disgraced their profession by assisting and even designing the U.S. torture program at Guantanamo, in Afghanistan and Iraq, and in secret C.I.A. prisons all over the globe. After much controversy, the American Psychological Association (APA) commissioned an independent review, the Hoffman Report, which documented psychologists' role in illegal and unethical activity and the subversion of their organization's processes by the Pentagon. In 2015, the Association adopted an ethics code that prohibits psychologists who want to remain in good standing with their governing body from participating in interrogations alongside with the U.S. military and other government agencies.

According to an article in the Colorado Independent:

the new rules bar psychologists from even tangential involvement in national security interrogations, including the type of non-coercive interrogations the Obama administration now carries out against terror suspects. They also ban psychologists from working with detainees at Guantánamo and other detention facilities that the United Nations says violate international human rights.

Many states include APA standards among their licensing requirements. Psychologists who break the group’s rules risk not only ethics complaints, but also losing their licenses.

That’s why, shortly after the new rules went into place last year, the Pentagon yanked from Guantanamo its team of psychologists who worked with detainees. ...

Now some psychologists who are close to the military, including Larry James who served as Guantanamo’s chief psychologist in 2003 and as Abu Ghraib‘s chief psychologist in 2004, are trying to take back the prohibition. Their resolution will be put to a vote by the APA's executive council in Denver this week. The news story says the vote will be close.

Our government really does want the service of psychologists when messing with the minds and bodies of its prisoners; some psychologists apparently value that role, more than they value upholding national and international law as well as ancient ethical standards.

UPDATE: The linked article now reports that the revised ethics standard has been tabled until a February meeting.


Hattie said...

It's hard to believe that APA is even considering this.

Sand Ra said...

Yes, it is sickening. Doesn't give me faith in psychologists is they think it is ok to participate in torture.

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