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New Study Links American Psychological Association to CIA Torture of Terror Detainees

by Derek Gilna

Psychologists are supposed to operate by a strict code of conduct that prohibits questionable practices such as facilitating potential physical and psychological damage to individuals, but a new study has revealed that many psychologists abandoned their code of ethics to assist American Central Intelligence Agency operatives in devising "Enhanced Interrogation" techniques.  The law firm of Sidley and Austin, retained by the 130,000-member American Psychological Association (APA), has prepared a report that reveals that many healthcare professionals engaged in questionable practices that many experts have termed to be torture.

According to the report, "APA made these ethics policy decisions as a substantial result of influence from and close relationships with the U.S. Department of Defense (D0D), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and other government entities, which purportedly wanted permissive ethical guidelines so that their psychologist could participate in harsh and abuse interrogation techniques being used by these agencies after the September 11 attacks on the United States."

The report then focused on "APA's issuance of ethical guidelines that determined when psychologists could ethically participate in such interrogations," while acknowledging the pressure brought to bear on healthcare professionals to participate in activities that were justified in the name of national security.

According to the Guardian newspaper, "Human rights-minded psychologists railed for years that the APA had created an environment that was conducive to medical professionals effectively participating in torture."  APA had denied that allegation for almost a decade, until a New York Times article, based upon the emails of deceased behavioral-scientist researcher Scott Gerwehr, effectively punctured that carefully-constructed deception.  Now several APA officials have resigned, face civil legal action, and possible criminal prosecution.

In 2002 the APA amended its ethical policies to permit exceptions for a "governing legal authority" such as the DoD and the CIA, effectively putting detainees at the mercy of medical professional who were expert at the workings of the human mind. Although abuses at the military prison at Abu Ghrab in Iraq garnered the most widespread publicity, interrogation at CIA "black sites" included, according to the Times,  sleep deprivation,  detainees forced  to perform "dog tricks," use of "loud music for extended periods," and forcible intravenous hydration until one detainee "urinated on himself."

The report did not directly charge APA officials with knowledge that they "(a)ctually knew about the existence of an interrogation program using 'enhanced interrogation techniques.'"  It did, however, '(f)'ind evidence that during the time that APA officials were colluding with DoD officials to create and maintain loose APA ethics policies that did not significantly constrain DoD, APA officials had strong reasons to suspect that abuse interrogations had occurred."  Despite the APA's decade of deception, the truth about the torture of detainees has finally become known.

See:; “Independent Review Relating to APA Ethics Guidelines, National Security Interrogations, and Torture”, Report to the Special Committee of the Board of Directors of the American Psychological Association, 2015; New York Times