Psychologists Preferred For Detainees
By NEIL A. LEWIS (NYT)
WASHINGTON, June 6 — Pentagon officials said Tuesday that they would
try to use only psychologists, and not psychiatrists, to help
interrogators devise strategies to get information from detainees at
places like Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
The new policy follows by little more than two weeks an overwhelming
vote by the American Psychiatric Association discouraging its members
from participating in those efforts.
Dr. William Winkenwerder Jr., assistant secretary of defense for health
affairs, told reporters that the new policy favoring the use of
psychologists over psychiatrists was a recognition of differing
positions taken by their respective professional groups.
The military had been using psychiatrists and psychologists alike on
behavioral science consultation teams, called "biscuit" teams because
of the acronym, to advise interrogators on how best to obtain
information from prisoners.
But Dr. Steven S. Sharfstein, recent past president of the American
Psychiatric Association, noted in an interview that the group adopted a
policy in May unequivocally stating that its members should not be part
of the teams.
The counterpart group for psychologists, the American Psychological
Association, has endorsed a different policy. It said last July that
its members serving as consultants to interrogations involving national
security should be "mindful of factors unique to these roles and
contexts that require special ethical consideration."
Stephen Behnke, director of ethics for the organization, said
psychologists knew not to participate in activities that harmed
detainees. But Dr. Behnke also said the group believed that helping
military interrogators made a valuable contribution because it was part
of an effort to prevent terrorism.
Former military interrogators at Guantánamo told The New York
Times last year that some psychiatrists and psychologists had advised
them on how to "break" detainees to make them more cooperative. The
former interrogators said they had been counseled on how to use a
detainee's fears and longings to increase distress. One example was
their taking advantage of a prisoner's fear of the dark, known from his
Dr. Winkenwerder, the Pentagon official, disputed those assertions
Tuesday, saying he did not believe that such counseling had occurred.
He said the biscuit teams gave interrogators advice only on how to
establish a positive rapport with detainees.