June 21, 2009
To the Board of Directors:
Your open letter of June 18, 2009 represents the first acknowledgment by the APA leadership that psychologists have been involved in the torture and cruel, inhumane, degrading treatment at Guantanamo and other detention centers. Given this historical and serious admission, one would think that the signatories would also express regret that the APA has resisted this admission for the past five years and, at a minimum, admit that it was wrong to do so. However, the letter includes no recognition that the APA leadership has consistently and strongly supported and defended the right of psychologists to work in illegal detention settings where they engaged in conduct that amounts to torture under international law. Nor does the letter admit that the APA was wrong to say that psychologists must be in these settings in order to keep them “safe, ethical, and legal.” It is illogical and unacceptable for the APA to both acknowledge that psychologists have been involved in illegal and unethical activities in these sites while not admitting that it was wrong to support that very involvement. Even in the admission, you continue to make unfounded claims of ethical behavior on the part of “some psychologists”. The fact is that Standard Operating Procedure at Guantanamo in 2003 and 2004 with a full staff of psychologists included techniques that constitute torture with only a single documented instance of opposition by a psychologist. All the others did nothing to make the interrogations “safe and ethical.” The brutal reality is that the APA supported consistently and unequivocally the involvement of psychologists who were involved in a number of ways in interrogations that were conducted in violation of international ethical and legal standards.
Equally egregious is the vituperative attacks launched by the APA leadership on anyone who questioned the ethics of psychologists’ involvement. The APA owes an apology first to the public for supporting psychologists’ participation in settings where torture was routine rather than opposing it, and, second to the psychologists, reporters, bioethicists, and commentators who provided evidence that abuse was rampant at these sites and raised questions about the ethics of psychologists’ involvement in interrogations. The APA needs to apologize for the fact that instead of taking action to investigate abuse and end it, the organization preferred to attack those who with full justification brought it to public attention. Further, the APA owes its membership an apology for failing to act on ethics complaints against psychologists who were allegedly involved in abusive behavior.
In brief, your letter shows once again that the APA refuses to take responsibility for its unethical policies. Many psychologists and others, myself included, told the leadership of the substantial evidence of psychologists’ participation in torture and cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment only to be rebuffed and even abused for the effort. The APA supported psychologists who were engaged in egregiously unethical conduct while other professional organizations were unequivocal in their opposition to their members’ involvement in detention centers. There is no way the APA will be able to avoid its irresponsible and unethical behavior by a simple admission of wrongdoing among “some psychologists” without admitting its own support and complicity with those psychologists.
If the APA has any serious interest in cleansing itself of the stain it has placed on the profession of psychology it will submit to an independent truth commission charged with investigating its own organization.
Frank Summers, Ph.D., ABPP
Dear Dr. Bray and Board of Directors,
I regret that the Board of Directors still does not understand the gravity of the situation. The time is long past for statements that the APA and the Ethics Code prohibit involvement in torture. It is no longer simply about torture methods used during the Bush administration. It is about rescinding the APA/PENS endorsement of psychologist involvement in national security interrogations because this work violates so many ethics standards and is an indefensible role for psychologists. It is about deleting every instance of the clause “may follow orders” in an ethics/law/authority conflict from the Ethics Code. It is about immediately adjudicating the cases of abuse that the Ethics Committee has known about for years. It is about creating an open, serious review of ethical issues surrounding national security research and consulting with panels that represent a wide range of members before making policies that serve national security. It is about investigating and disentangling from the symbiotic relationship between the APA and the Department of Defense and CIA. Most of all, it is about the future and making sure that before the huge, new Obama administration programs for research and consulting on national security interrogations are launched, reforms of the APA administration, lobbying, and Ethics Code are in place so that the APA does not continue to sacrifice the reputation a nd ethics of the organization to the priorities of U.S. military and intelligence agencies.
Dear Dr. Bray and Members of the 2009 APA Board of Directors:
Many have read with interest your open letter of June 18, 2009. Though I’m no longer a member of APA, statements within your letter are of specific interest to me.
I am troubled by the Board’s subtle insistence on using the agenda of national security, as if this were somehow relevant to the use of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. At this time, it is well-known that the majority of prisoners at Guantanamo were categorically not a threat to national security. Many were innocent people who were sold for a bounty paid by our government. We cannot continue using the excuse of national security for the actions of the psychologists.
Equally troubling is the statement, “APA will continue to speak forcefully in further communicating our policies against torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment . . .” Speaking forcefully on this issue is of no value. Dr. Stephen Behnke “spoke forcefully” as long ago as December, 2005, providing the same mantra that the Board of Directors is speaking today, words no different from the past three presidents. These words are meaningless without action, and there has been no action.
I have previously written regarding the following:
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.
To me personally, this is nothing more than a lie, a lie told by the current and previous three presidents of APA and Stephen Behnke, as APA has not adjudicated my complaint again Dr. John Leso, nor the complaints of other psychologists filed against this same person. My complaint remains open, with no resolution.
Inaction speaks more forcefully than words.
Dr. Trudy Bond
3131 Executive Pkwy., Suite 104
Toledo, OH 43606
June 23rd, 2009