On Aug. 18, 2007, the American Psychological Association's legislative council passed a resolution opposing mock executions, water-boarding, sexual humiliation, induced hypothermia, hooding, use of dogs for intimidation, and sleep deprivation, but overwhelmingly rejected a measure to ban its members from being present during U.S. government interrogations of terror suspects.  --  The following passage from Alfred McCoy's A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror (Metropolitan Books, 2006) provides important background for the understanding of the APA's deliberations.[1]  --  McCoy documents the fact that in 2005 "the American Psychological Association (APA), reflecting its long involvement in military research and CIA behavioral experiments, claimed that its members were not barred from 'national security endeavors.'  In fact, the APA's code of ethics has stricter, more specific standards for the treatment of laboratory animals than for human subjects such as the Guantánamo detainees."  --  Given this history, the refusal of the APA's legislative council on Sunday to ban participation of psychologists in interrogations of terror suspects is disappointing, and shows that what McCoy calls the APA's "ethical crisis" is far from resolved....

1.

[Book excerpt]

From Chapter 5, "Impunity in America," in Alfred W. McCoy, A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror (New York: Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt and Company, 2006), pp. 182-84:

Parallel inquiries into the compromised role of medical personnel added to the sinking sense of an ethical miasma at Guantánamo Bay. One military interrogator, describing the role of the Behavioral Science Consultation Teams [BSCTs] in detainee interrogation, told the New York Times that "their purpose was to help us break them."  After similar interviews, two Georgetown University lawyers, writing in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, found that psychiatrists and psychologists "have been part of a strategy that employs extreme stress, combined with behavior-shaping rewards, to extract actionable intelligence from resistant captives."*nbsp; Since August 2002, moreover, the Southern Command had ordered medical personnel to "convey any information . . . obtained from detainees in the course of treatment to non-medical military or other Untied States personnel," meaning CIA operatives.  Indeed, former military interrogators to the Times that doctors, either psychologists or psychiatrists, had given them information from prisoner medical files and advised them how to play upon "a detainee's fears and longings to increase distress," including one prisoner's "fear of the dark" and another's "longing for his mother."  Following General Miller's original guidelines, the first BSCT psychologist, Major John Leso, had "prepared psychological profiles for use by interrogators . . . sat in on some interrogations, observed others from behind one-way mirrors, and offered feedback to interrogators."  Instead of treating patients, these mental health professionals had joined the guards to become, in the words of the New England Journal of Medicine, "part of Guantánamo's surveillance network."  As the controversy continued, the assistant secretary of defense for health matters, Dr. Willima Winkenwerder Jr., claimed that Defense Department rules allowed doctors to assist lawful interrogations and called press criticism of their role "an outrageous distortion."  A senior Pentagon spokesman, Bryan Whitman, insisted that doctors advising interrogators were "behavioral scientists" exempt from "ethics strictures." [Note 65:  New York Times, June 24, June 27, July 6, 2005; M. Gregg Bloche and Jonathan H. Marks, "Doctors and Interrogators at Guantánamo Bay", New England Journal of Medicine 353, no. 1 (July 7, 2005), 6-8.]

But many psychiatrists unreservedly rejected the Pentagon's logic.  In condemning the practices at Guantánamo as a clear ethical violation, these doctors cited the American Medical Association's advice to "diligently guard against exploiting information furnished by the patient," to "release confidential information only with the authorization of the patient," and, finally, to avoid evaluating "any person charged with criminal acts prior to access to . . . legal counsel." [Note 66: New York Times, June 24, June 27, July 6, 2005; The Principles of Medical Ethics: With Annotations Especially Applicable to Psychiatry (Washington: American Psychiatric Association, 2001), 7-9.]  The AMA's guidelines, are, of course, applications of broader ethical principles — from the ancient Hippocratic oath to do no harm, all the way to the World Medical Association's 1975 ban on participation in "torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading procedures," and the UN's 1982 Principles of Medical Ethics prohibiting any physician contact with prisoners "which is not solely to evaluate, protect or improve their physical and mental health."  [Note 67: Ole Vedel Rasmussen, "Medical Aspects of Torture," Danish Medical Bulletin 37, no. 1 (1990), 43, 84, 86.]

By contrast, the American Psychological Association (APA), reflecting its long involvement in military research and CIA behavioral experiments, claimed that its members were not barred from "national security endeavors."  In fact, the APA's code of ethics has stricter, more specific standards for the treatment of laboratory animals than for human subjects such as the Guantánamo detainees.  In response to this crisis of ethics, the APA formed a special task force, including military psychologists, which ultimately rejected the Pentagon's proposition that Guantánamo practitioners were ethically exempt, and insisted that "psychologists do not engage in, direct, support, facilitate, or offer training in torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment."  But this APA conclusion, released June 2005, failed to bar members from military interrogations outright, saying, simply and vaguely, that they should be "mindful of factors unique to these roles . . . that require special ethical consideration."  The task force also refused to recommend that members be bound by "international standards of human rights," neglected to specify their obligations to detainees, and even recommended research to "enhance the efficacy . . . of psychological science . . . to national security," including the "effectiveness of information-gathering techniques." [Note 68:  New York Times, June 24, June 27, July 6, 2005; American Psychological Association, "Report of the American Psychological Association Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security" (June 2005), 1, 5, 8-9, http://www.apa.org/releases/PENSTaskForceReportFinal.pdf; accessed July 7, 2005.  In its "ethical principles," updated in June 2005, the APA suggests that researchers "make reasonable efforts to minimize the discomfort, infection, illness, and pain of animal subjects" but only requires that its members "take reasonable steps to avoid harming their clients/patients" who happen to be human beings.  (American Psychological Association, "Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct," http://www.apa.org/ethics/code/2002.pdf; accessed June 29, 2005).  In a letter to the New York Times, the APA president Ronald F. Levant, faulted the critical tone of the paper's July 6 coverage of his association's ambiguous stance in this controversy, insisting that "using a phobia to inflict severe psychological distress is clearly prohibited by the task force report."  But the task force report, cited in the text above, indicates that the Times's account did indeed capture the unresolved ambiguity of the APA's relationship with national security. (New York Times, July 7, 2005.)]