American Psychological Association Finally Agrees to Investigate Collusion in Bush Torture Program

Monday, November 17, 2014
David H. Hoffman (photo: Sidley Austin LLP)

The American Psychological Association (APA) has announced it will analyze itself with respect to decisions made last decade to support the George W. Bush administration’s torture of terrorism suspects.


David H. Hoffman, a former federal prosecutor and Chicago inspector general, will lead the investigation. He has promised to take his probe “wherever the evidence leads.”


Some APA members were displeased when the organization altered its ethics rules in 2002 to provide cover to psychologists working for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and who participated in harsh interrogation sessions with detainees. Essentially, the change gave psychologists permission to ignore ethical concerns if ordered by the government to help extract information from al-Qaeda members.


Some have said this amounted to a Nuremberg defense, referring to the arguments that Nazi war criminals used to justify their actions during World War II against the Jews and others they persecuted.


The APA inquiry comes after a book, Pay Any Price: Greed, Power and Endless War by James Risen, detailed the relationship between psychologists and the Bush administration in the post-9/11 battle with terrorism, according to The New York Times.


The book detailed emails written by Scott Gerwehr, who worked with the CIA on its interrogation program. In particular, Gerwehr, who died in 2008, wrote of the APA’s reaction in 2004 to “unique ethical issues” that came up in the wake of the Abu Ghraib abuses. An APA task force set up then determined that psychologists could be involved with interrogations “to assist in ensuring that such processes are safe and ethical for all participants,” according to The Intercept.


“The APA’s action is a long-needed step toward an independent review of their post-9/11 activities,” Stephen Soldz, a professor at the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis, told the Times.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Psychologists to Review Role in Detainee Interrogations (by James Risen, New York Times)

New Evidence Links CIA to American Psychological Association’s “War on Terror” Ethics (Dr. Roy Eidelson and Dr. Trudy Bond, Global Research)

Blowing the Whistle on CIA Torture from Beyond the Grave (by Cora Currier, The Intercept)

American Psychological Association Refuses to Charge Member Who Committed Torture at Guantánamo (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman, AllGov)

Psychologists Move against One of Their Own Who Helped Torture (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)


Yom B. 9 years ago
Take away their shingle.

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