“CCHR says those psychologists directly involved in the torture should be prosecuted for violating the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.”
By Kelly Patricia O’Meara
July 22, 2015
Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) calls for prosecutions of psychologists involved in CIA-political torture. This follows the release of several damning reports about psychologists’ participation in torture in the years following the 9/11 attacks and that officials of the American Psychological Association (APA) were the primary creators of the “ethics policy” that enabled government entities to continue illegal and inhumane “enhanced interrogation” policies. Three top APA officials have either “retired” or resigned this week over the reports.
The APA’s chief executive officer, deputy CEO and communications chief were implicated in the report issued this month by former federal prosecutor David Hoffman, member of the Sidley Austin law firm, who concluded that APA leaders “colluded” with the Department of Defense (DoD) and aided the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in loosening professional ethics and other guidelines to permit psychologist participation in torture. Stephen Soldz, Ph.D. a member of Physicians for Human Rights wants the Hoffman report referred to the FBI for potential criminal investigations.
But CCHR says those psychologists directly involved in the torture should be prosecuted for violating the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). According to a Congressional Research Service report prepared for Congress last year, in accordance with CAT Article 2, parties are required to ensure that all acts of torture, as well as attempts to commit torture and complicity or participation in torture, are criminal offenses subject to penalty. Article 2 makes clear that “no exceptional circumstances whatsoever,” including a state of war or any other public emergency, may be invoked to justify torture.1
The law firm of Sidley Austin LLP was tasked by the APA with conducting an independent investigation of the numerous allegations in the APA colluding “to support torture.” The nearly 600-page Report to the Special Committee of the Board of Directors of the American Psychological Association lays out, quite succinctly, the role of the APA’s design of the “ethics policy” and concludes that key APA officials, principally the APA Ethics Director joined and supported at times by other APA officials, colluded to have APA issue loose, high-level ethical guidelines that did not constrain DoD in any greater fashion than existing DoD interrogation guidelines.2
In other words, the APA not only gave “ethics” blessing to “enhanced interrogation” methods like water boarding, rectal rehydration, near drowning and naked dragging and slapping at Guantanamo Bay and other “black” sites around the world, but also would allow continued participation of psychologists.
But why would the APA, one of the world’s self-aggrandized leading mental health organizations and a sector of the medical profession whose members take an oath to “first do no harm,” construct an “ethics” policy that effectively sanctioned torture? The Sidley Austin investigation concludes that the motives were self-serving, reporting that the APA “wished to implement a media communications strategy in which APA could portray itself as very engaged in the issue and very concerned about ethical issues… and wanted to foster the growth of the profession of psychology by supporting military and operational psychologists…”
Sidley Austin further explains that rather than confront reports of inhumane and illegal treatment, the “APA remained deliberately ignorant…” even “in the face of clear and strong indications that such abuse had in fact occurred (and APA did not even inquire with CIA officials on the topic, despite public allegations that the CIA had engaged in abusive interrogation techniques).” And, “based on strategic goals, APA intentionally decided not to make inquiries into or express concern regarding abuses that were occurring, thus effectively hiding its head in the sand.”3
According to Sidley Austin, another motive for APA’s lead role in crafting the “ethics policy” that allowed continued enhanced torture techniques was that “APA wanted to positively influence DOD regarding this policy so that psychologists would be included to the maximum degree possible, and psychologists would not lose the lead role to psychiatrists…” and “that APA would be rewarded with a very prominent role for psychologists in this new policy.”4
In essence, the APA was practicing a kind of quintessential one-upmanship with no regard for the psychological or physical pain inflicted on the individual. Moreover, the Sidley Austin investigation, while deliberately limited in its scope of review, makes no mention of the APA’s interest in, or concern for, the individual’s human rights but, rather, Sidley Austin explains that the professional organization’s oath to “do no harm” was deliberately withheld from the APA’s ethics policy. It is equally clear that the APA knowingly and repeatedly provided misleading public statements about its purported “strict ethical guidelines.”5
While the APA “profoundly regret, and apologize for, the behavior and the consequences that ensued,” and several of its officials have either “retired” or resigned, the fact remains that, for years, a mental health organization sworn to first “do no harm” actually reflected a policy of “do harm.” With the publication of the Sidley and Hoffman investigations, psychologists involved in torture and those condoning it should be referred for criminal investigation.
Kelly Patricia O’Meara is an award-winning former investigative reporter for the Washington Times’ Insight Magazine, penning dozens of articles exposing the fraud of psychiatric diagnosis and the dangers of the psychiatric drugs—including her ground-breaking 1999 cover story, “Guns & Doses,” exposing the link between psychiatric drugs and acts of senseless violence. She is also the author of the highly acclaimed book, Psyched Out: How Psychiatry Sells Mental Illness and Pushes Pills that Kill. Prior to working as an investigative journalist, O’Meara spent sixteen years on Capitol Hill as a congressional staffer to four Members of Congress. She holds a B.S. in Political Science from the University of Maryland.
1. Michael John Garcia, Legislative Attorney, “The U.N. Convention Against Torture: Overview of U.S. Implementation Policy Concerning the Removal of Aliens,” Congressional Research Service, Jan. 21, 2009, https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/intel/RL32276.pdf.
2. “Report to the Special Committee of the Board of Directors of the American Psychological Association Independent Review Relating to APA Ethics Guidelines, National Security Interrogations, and Torture,” Sidley Austin, LLP, July 2, 2015, p. 9, https://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.documentcloud.org/documents/2160985/report.pdf.
3. Ibid., p. 11.
4. Ibid., p. 14.
5. Ibid., p. 23.