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.