Uwe Jacobs, is the Director of Survivors International in San Francisco, an organization that specializes in the psychological and medical treatment of torture survivors. Thus, Dr. Jacobs knows torture and its effects very well. In response to the recent letter by psychologist Michael Gelles criticizing the attempts to get psychologists out of interrogations at Guantanamo and elsewhere, Dr. Jacobs has written a very moving letter asking Dr. Gelles to respond to a series of questions about his experiences and beliefs:
Uwe Jacobs, PhD
Director, Survivors International
March 23, 2007
Dr. Michael Gelles
c/o Dr. Stephen Behnke
Ethics Office of the APA
Dear Dr. Gelles,
I have read with great interest your rebuttal to the proposed moratorium resolution by Dr. Altman, as well as his reply. I do not wish to try your patience with more of the same but I urge you to consider my request for clarification of several issues, even if the answers to some of my questions could perhaps be gleaned from the record. I know that I write on behalf of many colleagues who also do not know what precisely your involvement with the interrogation process was at Guantanamo Bay but who salute you for having honorably reported the human rights abuses you had become aware of. However, we remain unclear about the following:
1. Do you believe that the detention of enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay has been a productive practice and that this practice has been preferable to their detention on American soil, with all the relevant legal and constitutional protections?
2. Did you have any sense of unease about following an order to assist with the interrogation of these detainees under the circumstances? Conversely, were you not ordered to but eager to be of help and do you continue to think that aiding these interrogations was useful?
3. At what point precisely did you find it necessary to report abuses? What were the techniques used that you found objectionable? This is critical to understand.
4. More importantly, what were the techniques used that you did not find objectionable? To cite a few examples, did you believe it was ethical to transport prisoners to Guantanamo under conditions of sensory deprivation, i.e. wearing hoods, goggles, earmuffs, and other devices designed to create sensory deprivation and isolation, along with very restrictive shackling? Did you believe it was ethical to keep prisoners in solitary confinement for very long periods of time? Is it ethical to deprive prisoners of sleep? Is it ethical to subject them to severe heat and cold, constant noises or lights, stress positions, short shackling, screaming abuse etc.? You know the list I am referring to. Do you agree that these techniques have long been proven to produce severe nervous system dysregulation and often lasting psychological damage? Do these techniques not by definition constitute torture, just as stated by the UN?
5. I only have expertise on torture, not on interrogation in the wider sense. It is important for those of us who are not interrogation experts to understand what precisely an expert like you finds acceptable or unacceptable. Do you concur with those professional interrogators who have stated that anything but a collaborative approach to interrogation is both ineffective and unethical? If yes, did you spend any time at Guantanamo Bay or reviewed the transcripts from Guantanamo and remained under the impression that the general interrogation approach was collaborative?
6. Did you think that the prisoners’ confinement in the cages we have seen in documentaries and other media was regrettable but sufficiently humane and dignified? Did you think that cruelty was not frequently apparent? In short, did you find that the overall situation you were in was consistent with general practices of correctional confinement in the United States?
7. Did you ever find yourself weighing what appeared ethically unsound against a notion of the greater good? What principles did you follow if you weighed such issues?
Dr. Gelles, I feel some regret that your doing the right thing under difficult circumstances gets you not only praise but also further scrutiny and some perhaps difficult questions. However, the moral fiber of our profession is at stake and we depend on a full and candid account from you to enable us to sort out what has and has not happened. I do not lay claim to asking you all the right questions but I do believe they are representative of what troubles many colleagues. I believe that our professional organization has to protect our own, especially those who strive to act ethically while serving in the armed forces during a time when their orders and instructions have become unlawful or immoral.
Alberto Mora said: “To my mind, there’s no moral or practical distinction between cruelty and torture. If cruelty is no longer declared unlawful, but instead is applied as a matter of policy, it alters the fundamental relationship of man to government. It destroys the whole notion of individual rights.” You surely agree that it is this respect of human rights for which his family left Cuba for the United States. Do you think our ethics code is compatible with taking prisoners back to Cuba and taking their rights and dignitiy away from them? Or is it ethical to do that only to some people who are the worst of terrorists and perhaps not all of the Guantanamo detainees? Or do you think it is, as John McCain observed, not about who they are but about who we are?
Let me conclude by agreeing with Dr. Altman that we are indebted to you for your courage. Please understand that the inevitable expression of my sentiments on these matters is not meant to accuse, for I do not know where you stand on them. I sincerely hope you will help us further by addressing the concerns I tried to express above. With my best regards,
Uwe Jacobs, PhD
This document is an incredible moral statement. If Dr. Gelles responds in detail, we will understand better what actually goes on at Guantanamo. We will also better understand the moral reasoning that allows some to justify working in environments that many of us find beyond the pale.
If Dr. Gelles responds in detail, it may allow a true dialog, as dialog is based on information and on details regarding one’s reasoning. Unfortunately, this information and these details were lacking from Dr. Gelles’ original letter against the Moratorium.
1 comment March 25th, 2007