February 12th, 2007
I have exciting news for the fight to change the American Psychological Association’s policy allowing psychologist participation in coercive national security interrogations. A group of us who have been active on the interrogations issue have decided to run Steven J. Reisner as a single issue candidate for APA President. We feel that a single issue candidacy is one of the best ways to press this urgent issue.
[For background on this issue, please see last month's Washington Monthly article: Collective Unconscionable: How psychologists, the most liberal of professionals, abetted Bush’s torture policy as well as my articles on the issue, available here.]
Here is the text of a letter just sent out to various email lists with APA members. Please circulate as widely as possible among sympathetic APA members.
Dear APA Colleagues,
We are writing to ask you to nominate Dr. Steven J. Reisner for President of APA for the sole purpose of putting an end to APA’s support for procedures being used at Guantanamo Bay and other detention centers around the world.. We view the participation of psychologists in these interrogations, conducted in conditions in which fundamental human rights are routinely violated, to be inhumane and antithetical to psychology’s most important values. APA’s failure to join other health care organizations like the American Psychiatric Association in taking this stand is indefensible.
In recent months we have been working for APA to adopt a moratorium on such participation by its members. Many of you have been among our colleagues, allies, and supporters in this effort.
We are now taking a new step in our struggle. We have decided to initiate the candidacy of Dr. Steven Reisner for President of APA. Dr. Reisner will run on one issue alone: calling a moratorium on the participation of psychologists in national security interrogations of enemy combatants and initiating an open participatory democratic process within APA to formulate a new policy consistent with our profession’s commitment to fundamental human rights. We believe that conducting a one-issue Presidential campaign will best allow the Association to focus upon this issue which threatens the moral integrity of our profession and our nation.
Dr. Reisner, a faculty member at NYU Medical School and at the International Trauma Studies Program at Columbia University, has been one of the foremost advocates for change in APA’s positions on participation in interrogations. Last June he debated then APA President Koocher on the nationally-syndicated Democracy Now! radio program. He was invited to present the case against participation in interrogations at the 2006 annual convention in New Orleans. We are attaching a recent article from the Washington Monthly that describes these important issues and highlights Dr. Reisner’s role in this struggle.
Those of us signing this letter have a variety of perspectives on the interrogations issue. Some of us believe that participation in interrogations is always in conflict with the fundamental values guiding our profession. Others among us believe that such participation might be acceptable in conditions where fundamental human rights are protected and respect for human dignity guaranteed. But we are united in our belief that the interrogation practices in use at Guantanamo and elsewhere, violate our ethical principles. We believe it is critical for the future of our profession that we call a moratorium on such participation and that future APA policy be decided by an open, participatory, democratic process. Dr. Reisner is firmly committed to that course.
We are well aware that there are many other important issues facing psychology that will be raised by other candidates. But we believe that the issue of unethical participation in interrogations needs to be addressed first as it has the potential to cause long-lasting damage to the profession of psychology, undermining, as it does, our reputation as a profession that upholds the highest ethical and human rights standards.
We call upon you to support the candidacy of Dr. Steven J. Reisner for APA President. At this time we ask that you write in his name on the APA Nomination Ballot that you should receive in the mail in the next few days. If you already support another candidate, please consider writing in Dr. Steven J. Reisner for number 2. Please forward this letter to any APA colleagues you know who feel similarly about this issue. Thank you.
Jean Maria Arrigo, Member of the 2005 Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security
Lew Aron, Director NYU Postgraduate Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis
Ghislaine Boulanger, Steering Committee, withholdapadues.com
Muriel Dimen, Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis, NYU
Brad Olson, President, APA Divisions for Social Justice
David Sloan-Rossiter, Massachusetts Institute of Psychoanalysis & Boston Institute for Psychotherapy
Stephen Soldz, Director, Center for Research, Evaluation, and Program Development, Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis
Frank Summers, Board Member, Division 39, APA & Supervising and Training Analyst, Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis
Ed Tejirian, Division 51 Representative, Divisions for Social Justice
Bryant Welch, Founder and former Director of APA Practice Directorate, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Mike Wessells, Member of the 2005 Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security
Phillip Zimbardo, Stanford University, Past President, APA
[Affiliations for identification purposes only]
We expect numerous additional endorsements in the hours and days to come.