June 18th, 2009
Archive for June 18th, 2009
Nathaniel Raymond, of Physicians for Human Rights has posted a piece on the PHR blog discussing Jane Mayer’s blockbuster revelation last weekend that former American Psychological Association [APA] President Joseph Matarazzo had a long relationship with the CIA, serving on its professional-standards board. This relationship antedated the creation of the agency’s “enhanced interrogations” torture program. This new information helps put in perspective the revelation in an NPR interview by Navy psychologist [and former APA ethics policy-maker] Bryce Lefever that Matarazzo had been recruiting SERE psychologists to “do their duty” to protect the country in the summer of 2001, before 911! The nature of the pre-911 activities for which Matarazzo was recruiting assistance are still secret. We also don’t know what was involved in serving on the agency’s professional-standards board.
Suspicions of Matarazzo’s CIA connection are not new. It was reported in 2007 that Matarazzo was on the board of Mitchell Jessen & Associates, the consulting firm owned by former SERE psychologists that designed and implemented the CIA torture program, for $1,000 a day, plus expenses. As is par for the course, Matarazzo then issued a non-denial denial, in which, as had Mitchell and Jessen previously, he denied he had participated in torture and stated that he abhorred torture. He, of course like Mitchell and Jessen before him, neglected to mention his opinion of the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” program.
In response to the revelations of Matarazzo’s involvement, the APA immediately denied that Matarazzo was presently involved in “APA governance,” just as they had previously denied that Mitchell and Jessen were members. But, just as they neglected to mention that they had included Mitchell and Jessen in their invitation-only 2003 CIA-APA-Rand workshop on the Science of Deception at which enhanced interrogation tactics were discussed, so they appeared unfazed that a former APA President was possibly involved in the CIA’s torture program. Of course, the fact that this CIA-connected psychologist and former President was still actively involved in the APA’s foundation, potentially giving him influence over what projects were funded, was acknowledged but promtly forgotten, never to be mentioned again. The APA never publicly commented again about this former President’s possible torture connection. They certainly took no steps to learn more or to determine if others connected to the APA had been involved in the U.S. torture efforts.
One wonders how many other former APA Presidents and other officials will eventually be found to be CIA or other intelligence agency connected. As Raymond emphasizes– and as the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology, Psychologists for Social Responsibility, Psychologists for an Ethical APA, and Physicians For Human Rights, have all called for — we desperately need a Commission of Inquiry to look into the torture psychologists and the assistance given them by the APA. The organization, and the profession, cannot go on as if nothing but a few misjudgments occurred.
Another implicit revelation in the Mayer article is that, as long suspected, former CIA psychologist Kirk Hubbard was apparently intimately involved with the creation of the torture program. If he was not closely involved, he could not state, true or not, that Dr. Matarazzo was not consulted about the interrogations. Of course, Hubbard’s claim that Matarazzo was not involved is almost impossible to believe since he was on the board of the CIA’s preferred torture consulting firm until the publicity after the release of the Office of Legal Counsel torture memos apparently caused the CIA to cancel the Mitchell Jessen & Associates contract that the Obama CIA had just renewed in February.
New Yorker: Former APA President Worked with CIA and on Board of Mitchell and Jessen
By Nathaniel Raymond
Perhaps the most interesting revelation in Jane Mayer’s latest New Yorker article on the CIA and US torture policy comes as an aside, towards the end. Ongoing investigations by PHR and others, including investigative journalists, are discovering disturbing connections between American Psychological Association officials involved in developing the ethics standards governing psychologists’ participation in interrogations and those involved in overseeing and facilitating the Bush administration’s CIA and US military programs of torture. Firedoglake blogger Marcy Wheeler has honed in on the passage in her coverage of Mayer’s piece:
In April, Panetta fired all the C.I.A.’s contract interrogators, including the former military psychologists who appear to have designed the most brutal interrogation techniques: James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. The two men, who ran a consulting company, Mitchell, Jessen & Associates, had recommended that interrogators apply to detainees theories of “learned helplessness” that were based on experiments with abused dogs. The firm’s principals reportedly billed the agency a thousand dollars a day for their services. “We saved some money in the deal, too!” Panetta said. (Remarkably, a month after Obama took office the C.I.A. had signed a fresh contract with the firm.)
According to ProPublica, the investigative reporting group, Mitchell and Jessen’s firm, which in 2007 had a hundred and twenty people on its staff, recently closed its offices, in Spokane, Washington. One employee was Deuce Martinez, a former C.I.A. interrogator in the black-site program; Joseph Matarazzo, a former president of the American Psychological Association, was on the company’s board. (According to Kirk Hubbard, the former head of the C.I.A.’s research and analysis division, Matarazzo served on an agency professional-standards board during the time the interrogation program was set up, but was not consulted about the interrogations.)
Mayer notes, parenthetically, that she has learned from the CIA’s Kirk Hubbard that former American Psychological Association president Joseph Matarazzo sat on the CIA’s professional-standards board at the time when psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen were developing an interrogation program for the CIA, based on the US military’s SERE training program. Much more remains to be known about the involvement of Mitchell and Jessen, as well as other psychologists, including former senior APA officials, such as Matarazzo. In order to fully understand how psychology and psychologists were used to design, supervise and legitimize a regime of physical and psychological torture, a commission of inquiry, supported by the Administration and authorized by the Congress, is the best way to answer these outstanding questions. In the meantime, investigative reporting by Jane Mayer and others will have to continue asking and answering these questions in lieu of a formal process of accountability for abuses that rise to the level of war crimes.
More needs to be known regarding Matarazzo’s role in the CIA, but immediately troubling is that while he was serving on the Agency’s professional-standards board, he was also sitting on the board of Mitchell and Jessen’s firm. According to a 2007 report by the Spokesman Review, public records show that Matarazzo was “one of five ‘governing people’” in the Mitchell Jessen firm.” This is a conflict of interest not unlike the ones we saw for some members of the PENS task force of civilian and military psychologists whom the APA assembled in 2005 to
[E]xamine whether our current Ethics Code adequately addresses [the ethical dimensions of psychologists’ involvement in national security-related activities], whether the APA provides adequate ethical guidance to psychologists involved in these endeavors, and whether APA should develop policy to address the role of psychologists and psychology in investigations related to national security. (Report of the Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security [PDF])
PHR has called for the APA to launch an investigation of potential conflicts of interest between the APA and the military and national security community regarding use of psychologists in illegal interrogations. Matarazzo’s service on both the board of Mitchell, Jessen & Associates and on the CIA’s professional-standards board must be part of any such inquiry.
1 comment June 18th, 2009
Bioethicist Steven Miles Responds to Latest American Psychological Association Board Letter on Interrogations Policy
Bioethicist Steven Miles sends the following response to yesterday’s letter from the American Psychological Association Board on the association’s interrogations/torture policies:
June 18, 2009
APA Board of Directors
Re: Your Open Letter to APA Membership
of June 18, 2009 on Psychologists and Torture
I have been extensively involved in studying the issue of health professional involvement in abusive interrogations in the war on terror prisons. Your June 18, 2009 letter to the APA membership is a welcome but incomplete shift of APA policy.
It is welcome because it states that the APA has retreated from its untenable insistence that no psychologists were involved in torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. This official acknowledgment is new but the fact of these abuses has been established for several years. Speaking in their official capacities, APA’s former President, Dr. Gerald Kootcher, and its ethics officer, Dr. Stephen Behnke, have repeatedly issued ungrounded denials of these facts despite having ample information that those denials were false.
The APA Board’s letter was also welcome because, it states that the 2008 petition, Psychologists and Unlawful Detention Settings with a Focus on National Security, would be fully integrated into APA policy. That resolution was openly opposed by the Defense Department operating those same detention centers. After passage by the membership who voted in accordance with APA by-laws, APA governance gave that position second class status by asserting that since it did not pass through the conventional internal ethics policy making process, it could not serve as a standard for assessing the conduct of APA members.
The current Board’s position, as outlined in the June 18 letter, remains incomplete.
1. It lays out a process for incorporating the 2008 referendum into APA policy but it does not give a timeline.
2. Its newly passed “No defense to torture under the APA ethics code” statement (http://www.apa.org/releases/ethics-statement-torture.pdf) is a hastily written statement that does not define torture; ignores the concept of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment; does not address the duty to report observing such abuse and so on.
3. It does not acknowledge the failure of the APA to manage the conflicts of interest in membership and process of the PENS Task Force. These failures stained the reputation of APA, divided APA’s membership, separated APA from the larger community of health oriented professionals and produced a report that was tailor made to the design, policies, and operation of previous United States system of abusive interrogations.
4. It states the APA will monitor and will investigate reports of ethical misconduct by APA members but it does not address the status of previously filed allegations.
This progress and these omissions suggest steps that the APA Board should now take.
1. It should entirely retract the PENS Task Force report.
2. It should reassign Dr. Stephen Behnke from the position of Director of the APA Ethics Office. His credibility in that position has been irredeemably compromised by his management of the conflicts of interest of the PENS Task Force, his repeated categorical denials of psychologist and APA member involvement in abusive interrogations, and his Office’s handling of formal allegations about the APA member’s complicity with abusive interrogations. He cannot serve effectively in his position.
3. It should endorse the Declaration of Madrid and Declaration of Tokyo, substituting in the word psychologist for psychiatrist or physician. Perhaps this could be a provisional time-limited measure until APA reconstitutes a process for creating a specific standard for psychologists.
4. The Ethics Office should clarify the status of proceedings and findings (if upheld) of psychologists against whom formal complaints of complicity with abusive interrogation have been filed.
These steps would go a long way to putting the APA on a new direction. They would create a clean break with its past. They would bring the APA back into the international community of health professions. They would enable it to speak with moral authority on behalf of psychologists who are endangered by speaking out against torture in other nations.
Steven H. Miles, MD
Professor of Medicine
Center for Bioethics
University of Minnesota
410 Church Street SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455
3 comments June 18th, 2009
The American Psychological Association Board today issued the following statement on psychologist involvement in US torture and abusive interrogations. the statement follows recent reprehensible actions by senior APA staff to undermine the 2008 Referendum in public communications. This undermining was most notably visible in their communications about the British scientific journal Nature, in response to an inaccurate Nature editorial endorsing psychologists participation in national security interrogations. While the Nature editorial made no mention of the member-passed APA referendum that opposed participation of psychologists at Guantanamo and elsewhere, APA staff described the editorial as “fair and balanced” (I kid you not!) and boasted of all the information they gave Nature during its preparation.
This communication from the APA’s PR office was met with a withering barrage of criticism from members. [Nature has accepted a letter of mine, along with two other letters from APA critics, for publication soon, perhaps as soon as next week.] The APA Board, to its credit, has heard the message loud and clear. We will not stand for them undermining the member-passed policy. Let’s hope that this is a sign of major change by the APA. But I won’t hold my breathe.
Unfortnately, the styatement, while an improvement on recent communications from APA, is still deeply flawed. Notice that they fail to mention that among the “some psychologists[that] did not abide by their ethical obligations to never engage in torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment” were likely several members of their PENS [Psychological Ethics and National Security] task force that formed ethics policy for the association. Any claim that the APA leadership acted in good faith as they confronted this isssue is belied by that leadership’s actions in creating and long standing behind this deeply flawed unethical task force with multiple conflicts of interest at its core.
Of course, as Bryant Welch points out in his new article, posted yesterday, APA leadership has been deeply entrenched with the military-intelligence establishment for years. It will take far deeper changes than a nice sounding statement to transform the organization to an ethical institution based upon “psychology’s longstanding commitment to the highest standards of professional ethics–including, and especially, the protection of human welfare.” It’s too bad they didn’t think of this committement when they were actively shutting their eyes to psychologists’ participation in torture and denouncing those of us who refused to close our eyes as “zealots.”
I would love to find outr that, this time, unlike all those other times, the APA leadership really intended to change. But I’m from Missouri, the “Show Me” state. I’ll wait till I can see real action, not nice words.
June 18, 2009
An Open Letter from the Board of Directors
As a psychologist and member of the American Psychological Association (APA), you no doubt share our serious concerns about reports regarding the involvement of psychologists in torture and abusive interrogations as part of the Bush administration’s “war on terror.” We recognize that the issue of psychologist involvement in national security-related investigations has been an extremely difficult and divisive one for our association. We also understand that some of our members continue to be disappointed and others angered by the association’s actions in this regard. Although APA has had a longstanding policy against psychologist involvement in torture, many members wanted the association to take a strong stand against any involvement of psychologists in national security interrogations during the Bush administration.
Information has emerged in the public record confirming that, as committed as some psychologists were to ensuring that interrogations were conducted in a safe and ethical manner, other psychologists were not. Although there are countless psychologists in the military and intelligence community who acted ethically and responsibly during the post-9/11 era, it is now clear that some psychologists did not abide by their ethical obligations to never engage in torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. The involvement of psychologists, no matter how small the number, in the torture of detainees is reprehensible and casts a shadow over our entire profession. APA expresses its profound regret that any psychologist has been involved in the abuse of detainees.
This has been a painful time for the association and one that offers an opportunity to reflect and learn from our experiences over the last five years. APA will continue to speak forcefully in further communicating our policies against torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment to our members, the Obama administration, Congress, and the general public. In so doing, we will continue to highlight our 2008 petition resolution policy, Psychologists and Unlawful Detention Settings with a Focus on National Security. APA will ensure that association communications convey clearly that the petition resolution is official association policy and must be central to psychologists’ assessment of the appropriateness of their roles in specific work settings related to national security. Our association’s governing body, the Council of Representatives, will soon be receiving guidance from various governance groups regarding further steps to implement this resolution. The history of APA positions and actions related to detainee welfare and professional ethics can be found at http://www.apa.org/releases/timeline.html.
On a closely related matter, the Ethics Committee and APA governance as a whole are focused intently on Ethics Code Standards 1.02 and 1.03, which address conflicts between ethics and law and between ethics and organizational demands, respectively. In light of Bush administration interrogation policies and uncertainty among our membership, the Ethics Committee has issued the attached statement, “No defense to torture under the APA Ethics Code” (http://www.apa.org/releases/ethicsstatement-torture.pdf ). Invoking language from the U.N. Convention Against Torture, this statement clarifies that the Ethics Committee “will not accept any defense to torture in its adjudication of ethics complaints.”
APA will continue to monitor material in official reports related to psychologist mistreatment of national security detainees, will investigate reports of unethical conduct by APA members, and will adjudicate cases in keeping with our Code of Ethics. The association’s focus on these ethical standards is consistent with its position that no psychologist involved in detainee abuse should escape accountability.
In conclusion, as part of APA’s elected leadership, we have an obligation to protect and further psychology’s longstanding commitment to the highest standards of professional ethics–including, and especially, the protection of human welfare.
American Psychological Association 2009 Board of Directors James H. Bray, PhD Carol D. Goodheart, EdD Alan E. Kazdin, Ph.D.
Barry S. Anton, PhD
Paul L. Craig, PhD
Norman B. Anderson, PhD
Rosie Phillips Bingham, PhD
Jean A. Carter, PhD
Armand R. Cerbone, PhD
Suzanne Bennett Johnson, PhD
Melba J.T. Vasquez, PhD
Michael Wertheimer, PhD
Konjit V. Page, MS
2 comments June 18th, 2009