August 8th, 2008
As regular readers know, their is an effort afoot to pass a referendum in the American Psychological Association that would express opposition to psychologists aiding US detention centers operating outside of international law or the Constitution. The ballots are currently arriving in members mailboxes.
The APA has launched a strong effort at spin and disinformation regarding the referendum. Unfortunately, some of our colleagues who should support this efforts have also parsed the text in such a way as to perceive a potential threat. In response to expressed concerns, the referendum authors have issued a clarifying statement:August 6, 2008
Dear APA members:
As sponsors and supporters of the referendum, we are aware that this is a period given to commentary from those who have introduced the referendum, and that–consistent with APA policy–such commentary will be considered in future policy decisions as valid interpretation of the resolution’s intent. We are also aware that there has been some concern voiced on several listservs that the resolution may have ‘unintended consequences’; namely that it may impact the work of psychologists working in existing U.S. jails, prisons, psychiatric facilities, and hospitals.
While we believe a reading of the full referendum in its context resolves these concerns, we would like to be sure that there are no misunderstandings on this point. We are therefore using this commentary period to reiterate the application of the petition, its meaning, and intent:
This referendum is focused on settings such as Guantánamo Bay and the CIA ‘black sites’ set up by the U.S. as part of its ‘global war on terror’; settings where the persons being detained are denied the protections of either constitutional or international law, settings which have been denounced by the United Nations, the Council of Europe, and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
We are well aware of the harms and legal struggles facing certain prisons and jails inside the domestic U.S. criminal justice system. However, the referendum takes no position on such settings where prisoners have full access to independent counsel and constitutional protections; nor does the referendum take a position on settings that now exist within the domestic mental health system where clients and patients also possess these basic rights.
For Psychologists for an Ethical APA
Various illustrious colleagues and organizations are starting to line up in support of the referendum. The Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International has issued this statement in support:
The Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International (TASSC) is an organization each of whose members is a survivor of torture. Our mission is two-fold: to support torture survivors in any way we can and to oppose torture wherever it may be practiced.
We understand the petition submitted by Ethical APA Psychologists to be entirely consistent with this mission. That such a petition is necessary seems, at the very least, distressing but since it is, we express our support for it and thank psychologists for this action.
Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International (TASSC)
Additionally — Jean Maria Arrigo, the brave psychologist who served on the APA’s PENS [Psychological Ethics and National Security] task force in 2005 and revealed it as a cover job for an already decided upon policy — has issued the following explanation for her “Yes” vote on the referendum:
The ballot arrived today from APA, and I just voted Yes on the Referendum. To my mind, the timeliness of the Referendum as social action supersedes the problem of misinterpretation of the text.My thinking on this matter has been most strongly influenced by military and intelligence personnel I know, including senior interrogators.At an emotional level, I was much affected by audience responses to my February presentations to anti-torture symposia at two universities in Sao Paulo and the regional psychological association. Audiences were outraged by the APA endorsement of psychologists at military interrogation centers (people standing up and shouting) and truly horrified that I had agreed to the PENS report. (In Brazil, the word “interrogation” is virtually synonymous with “torture.”) If the APA leadership accommodates current government policy on interrogations, well, Brazilian psychologists can understand…, but if the APA membership defeats the Referendum, at this point in our history, that sends a bad message I cannot explain away. They are worried about the passivity of the APA legitimizing torture by our government, which legitimizes torture by their government and delegitimizes their own protests as psychologists.Respectfully,Jean Maria Arrigo