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Anti-Torture Psychologists Respond to Attack from APA Division Chief

1:47 pm in Torture, Uncategorized by Jeff Kaye


Torture Chamber. Bodrum, Turkey.

The battle within the American Psychological Association (APA) to bring that organization into line with other human rights groups and attorney organizations in opposing the use of psychological personnel in national security interrogations accelerated last month when a prominent APA official came out strongly against a petition to annul APA’s ethics policy on national security and interrogations.

In June 2005, the APA published their report on Psychological Ethics and National Security (the PENS report). APA, stung by criticism that psychologists had been involved in torture at Guantanamo and elsewhere, nevertheless stacked the panel hastily assembled that Spring with over fifty percent military and/or military connected members.

These were not just any military individuals, but included the former Chief of Psychology at Guantanamo, a SERE psychologist who supported use of SERE techniques in interrogations, and a Special Forces top psychologist who, according to an investigation by the Senate Armed Services Committee, had actually trained interrogators in use of SERE torture techniques in interrogations.

Reposted below is a letter from the Coalition for Ethical Psychology (CEP), responding to an October 26  letter from the President of the American Psychological Association’s Division 42, Psychologists in Independent Practice, who had written a reply to CEP’s request for support for their call for annulment of the APA’s PENS report.

The original petition to annul the PENS report was posted at CEP’s website in October 2011. The petition called PENS “the defining document endorsing psychologists’ engagement in detainee interrogations.”

The petition continued: “Despite evidence that psychologists were involved in abusive interrogations, the PENS Task Force concluded that psychologists play a critical role in keeping interrogations ‘safe, legal, ethical and effective.’ With this stance, the APA, the largest association of psychologists worldwide, became the sole major professional healthcare organization to support practices contrary to the international human rights standards that ought to be the benchmark against which professional codes of ethics are judged.”

The political heat around the anti-PENS petition increased noticeably when CEP came out publicly against a so-called “member-initiated task force” to “reconcile policies related to psychologists’ involvement in national security settings.” This task force, actually established with APA Board and staff support, was opposed to the annulment petition, and likely was formed to blunt the impact of CEP’s call for annulment, which was gaining much support. One of the prominent members of this new “task force” is William Strickland, the president and CEO of the long-time military contractor-research group, Human Resource Research Organization (HumRRO),

A number of APA divisions have signed onto CEP’s petition, including Div. 6 (Behavioral Neuroscience & Comparative Psychology), Div. 27 (Society for Community Research and Action), Div. 39 (Psychoanalysis), and others. The CEP petition also gained the support of the ACLU, Center for Constitutional Rights, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Physicians for Human Rights, and other organizations, as well as prominent individuals, including past APA President Philip Zimbardo, psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton, and Nobel Prize winning geneticist Richard Lewontin, among many others.

“Harming our practice of psychology”

The Div. 42 letter was written by Jeffrey Younggren, a psychologist who has long presented himself or been recognized as an expert in psychological ethics, and who has a long-time association with military psychology, including a posting as Colonel in the United States Army Reserve to the Office of the Surgeon General, 1999 – 2002, and four medals for service to the Department of Defense.

Readers interested in Dr. Younggren and the Division 42 board’s point of view on PENS are encouraged to read their letter.

Quoted directly below is a portion of Younggren’s letter, wherein he describes the response of Div. 42′s Board to CEP’s original request to them for support of PENS annulment. Dr. Younggren concludes Div. 42 “will not introduce or sign onto any resolution about recalling or annulling the PENS report,” but his discussion goes farther than a mere statement of position on annulment.  He lambasted CEP itself (bold emphases are added for emphasis):

We request that your Coalition stop using the press to spread all negative information about its dissatisfaction with APA. You are harming our practice of psychology by giving false and biased information and therefore, impacting negatively on the ability of people who need psychological services to receive them from ethical and competent psychologists in independent practice….

[The PENS report] was properly vetted at the APA COR [Council of Representatives] meeting that voted to accept it. It is not APA policy. Rather COR merely accepted the information that may or may not be used in formulation of formal APA policies. Annulment [of PENS] would disenfranchise the COR members who voted to accept the report in 2005 and further would be disrespectful to the work done by members whose contribution may have helped the report be more honest than if only members who agreed with the Coalition’s were represented on it….

By distributing copies of this letter, we will ask APA to maintain a vigorous response to any further complaints publicized by the Coalition in the media that may damage our members’ independent practice of psychology. We believe that only by giving a partial story to the media, the Coalition is damaging the entire field of psychology.

PENS, Younggren, and APA’s Council of Representatives

Read the rest of this entry →

CJA Challenges NY State Decision Re Jurisdiction on Torture Psychologist

5:55 pm in Uncategorized by Jeff Kaye

On August 15, I reported that the New York Office of Professional Discipline (NYOP) had rejected a complaint against BSCT psychologist Major John Leso for his participation in the planning and implementation of torture at Guantanamo. Louis J. Catone at NYOP used specious arguments to deny that the agency had any jurisdiction over the Leso case. Today, the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) issued a press release in answer to the NYOP decision, and has also asked the American Psychological Association "to expel Dr. Leso from its association and to recommend revocation of his license."

From CJA’s press release (bold text in original):


CJA Responds to the New York Office of Professional Discipline With a Repeat Demand for Investigation of a Guantánamo Bay Psychologist Who Participated in Torture; CJA Also Calls on American Psychological Association to Expel Him From the Organization

San Francisco, CA – This week, the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) stepped up its efforts to hold psychologist Dr. John Francis Leso accountable for his participation in abusive interrogation and torture of detainees at Guantánamo Bay. In a letter to the New York Office of Professional Discipline (NYOP), CJA reiterated its request for an investigation of Dr. Leso for his clear violations of psychologists’ professional standards. Earlier this month, the NYOP, which is responsible for licensing and regulating the conduct of New York psychologists, denied CJA’s initial request for an investigation of Dr. Leso because it claimed it did not have jurisdiction.

In its letter to NYOP, CJA stated, “This Office is obliged to investigate instances of possible misconduct by New York licensees, and it is the only office authorized to do so. Your authority and responsibility in this case stem not only from the State of New York but also from federal law…. The Complaint details multiple instances in which, in his capacity as a professional psychologist, Dr. Leso crossed the line and committed misconduct.” Read the rest of this entry →

Psychological Group Charges APA with Complicity in Bush-era Torture Interrogations

2:43 pm in Uncategorized by Jeff Kaye

Coalition for an Ethical Psychology (CEP) has issued a press release on the eve of the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association (APA), currently underway in San Diego, California. CEP announces that it has sent a letter (PDF) to Carol Goodheart, current APA president, charging the APA with "its own complicity in supporting and empowering psychologists" in the development, research, supervision and/or implementation of interrogation torture abuses during the Bush years.

The CEP press release states:

This complicity includes APA involvement in the cases of three psychologists – James Mitchell, John Leso, and Larry James – against whom ethics complaints have recently been filed with state licensing boards. APA complicity goes back to 2002 when the association amended its ethics code in a way that protected psychologists involved in government sponsored torture.

The Coalition is calling for an independent, impartial, outside investigation to study the APA’s collusion in the U.S. torture program. The Coalition also calls upon the APA to write letters in support of state ethics complaints against APA members Larry James and John Leso, and to initiate an APA ethics investigation of Larry James. The Coalition further insists that the association fully implement the member-passed referendum withdrawing psychologists from sites in violation of or outside of international law, specifically including Guantánamo and Bagram Air Base.

APA’s Letter in the James Mitchell Complaint

On June 30, the American Psychological Association (APA) wrote a letter (PDF) to the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists. By APA’s own account, it was an unusual intervention into a licensing board complaint against former Air Force/SERE psychologist and CIA contractor, James Mitchell, who has been identified as involved in the abusive interrogation and torture of supposed Al Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah in the spring and summer of 2002. The U.S. government has since dropped its assertion that Mr. Zubaydah was even a member of Al Qaeda, though he remains imprisoned as a "high-value detainee" at Guantanamo Bay.

The complaint against Mitchell was filed on June 16, 2010, and is signed by Texas psychologist Jim L.H. Cox. Attorneys Dicky Grigg and Joseph Margulies are also signatories to the document.

While the APA gives the impression that it is interested about intervening in a licensing complaint against Mitchell — the Complaint (PDF) cites Mitchell with violations of rules regarding competency, improper sexual conduct, exploitation of authority, research without informed consent, and more — an examination of APA’s letter and the context of their intervention suggests that APA’s action is disingenuous at best, and more likely, a continuation of APA’s attempt to rewrite the history of their own participation in the torture scandal.

According to their letter, APA was writing to the Texas State Board to describe how "its Ethical Principles for Psychologists and Code of Conduct as well as relevant Association policies, apply to facts set forth in the [Mitchell] Complaint." Even so, the APA states it will not comment on any of the facts submitted in the Complaint, explaining they will limit their "information sharing… to APA policies on torture" only. According to APA, it is the Board’s responsibility to adjudicate the matter according to its own procedures, including the responsibility to "consider Dr. Mitchell’s explanation."

Meanwhile, APA spokeswoman Rhea Farberman described the letter to an AP reporter as an unprecedented action for APA, which was compelled "to act" by the seriousness of the allegations. The subsequent AP story was widely reported, usually with a headline that explained the APA wanted Mitchell stripped of his license to practice psychology. Yet a close reading of the letter demonstrates that APA was essentially concerned by how "the allegations regarding Dr. Mitchell’s conduct… [and] the scope of misperception and harm regarding the public’s understanding of the profession of psychology" (emphasis added). In other words, the APA was mostly concerned about the image of professional psychology, and not by the fact the U.S. government had used psychologists to develop and implement experiments into the torture of prisoners.

An APA President on the Board of Mitchell’s Company

There are many different ways in which the APA’s letter is disingenuous. The CEP letter (PDF) to APA President Goodman goes into some detail on these. Perhaps the most immediately apparent is the way APA disappears the association of one of its own leading members with Mitchell’s activities. The letter never mentions, and the AP story by Andrew Welsh-Huggins never alludes to the fact that former APA President Joseph Matarazzo was a "governing member" of James Mitchell’s company, Mitchell-Jessen and Associates. Even more, Dr. Matarazzo was reported by New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer to be "on the CIA’s professional-standards board at the exact 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."

When APA was confronted in August 2007 with the evidence surrounding the links between Dr. Matarazzo and Mitchell-Jessen, Rhea Farberman, APA’s director of public affairs, released a statement that said Dr. Matarazzo had "no active role in APA governance [since he was APA president 18 years previously] but has been actively involved in the American Psychological Foundation (APF), the charitable giving arm of APA. Dr. Matarazzo currently holds no governance positions in either APA or APF." Farberman also stated that APA member Matarazzo’s "professional activities are outside and independent of any role he has played within APA and APF… We have no direct knowledge about the business dealing of Mitchell’s and Jessen’s company; however, APA’s position is clear — torture or other forms of cruel or inhuman treatment are always unethical."

Despite ample reporting on the activities of Mitchell and his associates at the time, APA had no problem disregarding even the associations of one of its own active members, while once again repeating its mantra that it was on the record as being against torture. At the time, few took APA to task for its hypocrisy.

The Fate of the Leso Complaint

In a final twist of irony regarding the APA’s letter on Mitchell, a complaint against registered APA member Major John Leso, filed by the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) last month, was dismissed, as announced in a July 28 letter from the Director of the New York Office of Professional Discipline, Louis J. Catone, to Kathy Roberts of CJA. CJA is expected to appeal that decision.

APA has not chimed in on the Leso case, despite the fact Leso is an APA member. He was also a prime figure in the propagation of the highly experimental interrogation "Battle Lab" at Guantanamo. From the CJA complaint:

Dr. Leso led the first Behavioral Science Consultation Team (BSCT) at the United States Naval Station at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba (Guantánamo or GTMO) from June 2002 to January 2003. While at Guantánamo, Dr. Leso co-authored an interrogation policy memorandum that incorporated illegal techniques adapted from methods used by the Chinese and North Korean governments against U.S. prisoners of war. He recommended a series of increasingly psychologically and physically abusive interrogation techniques to be applied against detainees held by the United States. Many of the techniques and conditions that Dr. Leso helped put in place were applied to suspected al-Qaeda member Mohammed al Qahtani under Dr. Leso’s direct supervision, as well as to other men and boys held at Guantánamo.

Despite the self-evident participation as a "behavioral consultant" psychologist at the torture interrogations of al Qahtani — an interrogation labeled torture by no less than Judge Susan Crawford, the then-Convening Authority at Guantanamo — Catone, a former Democratic Party District Attorney in upstate New York, uses twisted logic to maintain that "Leso’s conduct did not constitute the practice of psychology," which he only defines as helping people.

I find no basis for investigating your complaint because it does not appear that any of the conduct complained of constitutes the practice of psychology as understood in the State of New York…. If Dr. Leso’s conduct did not constitute the practice of psychology, then he cannot be guilty of practicing the profession of psychology with gross negligence, with gross incompetence, etc., and he cannot be guilty of engaging in conduct "in the practice of the profession" evidencing moral unfitness to practice.

Redolent of the pettifogging apologia that DoJ maven David Margolis applied in clearing attorneys John Yoo and Jay Bybee from criminal misconduct in the writing of the August 2002 torture memos, Catone would have us believe that unless the action of a psychologist fit the category of the profession’s activities in New York legal code, then it cannot be misconduct. By this logic, no crime or unethical behavior could be misconduct, since misconduct is not part of the legally defined professional activities. This will be welcome news to psychologists who have been charged with sleeping with their clients, since having sex with patients is patently not part of a psychologist’s legally defined practice!

APA has never weighed in on the Leso complaint, and it is silent now in the wake of this immoral action by the New York authorities. The APA remains committed to its program of promoting "national security psychology". Their letter to the Texas Board on the Mitchell complaint may represent some second thoughts among some members of the APA hierarchy about their general position regarding enthusiastic support for the military and intelligence agencies, and their program of being major players in the expansion of national security and military activities in the wake of 9/11. But I wouldn’t count on it. Instead, it more likely represents a cynical ploy by APA to cover itself in case there is a possible indictment of James Mitchell coming out of the John Durham DoJ investigation, which many reports have indicated is wrapping up its work.

Correction: The letter to APA President Carol Goodheart and the press release for same was originally reported in this story as originating from Psychologists for an Ethical APA. The actual authors, as corrected, are Coalition for an Ethical Psychology. I regret any confusion from this error.

Top U.S. Behavioral Scientists Studied Survival Schools to Create Torture Program Over 50 Years Ago

12:02 pm in Uncategorized by Jeff Kaye

In commemoration of the passage of the treaty known as the Convention Against Torture (CAT), the United Nations declared June 26 the International Day of Support of Victims of Torture, I want to review where we are in the fight against U.S. torture today. I also want to revisit some important episodes in the history of how we arrived here, including the a look at the role of top U.S. behavioral scientists in the construction of a torture program for the CIA and military.

The U.S. is formally a signatory to CAT, but from the day it was ratified by the U.S. Senate, the treaty was eviscerated by a number of "reservations, declarations, and understandings", which legalisms were meant to shield the United States from actions that any reasonable person would understand constitute torture or cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment of prisoners. Still, the CAT remained a formidable obstacle to the Bush/Cheney lawyers, when they were drawing up their memorandum to allow torture. Yoo, Bybee and Bradbury made sure they addressed legal problems for the administration faced by the treaty the U.S. signed, and turned rhetorical and forensic somersaults to make sure that no one would charge U.S. actors for the crimes of torture.

Meanwhile, the administration of Barack Obama has made a fetish of the idea that U.S. society must not "look backward," and refuses to promote the necessary investigations and prosecutions of the crimes undertaken by the Bush/Cheney administration — and this is true even after recent revelations indicate that besides torture, illegal human experimentation on prisoners also occurred. Even worse, there is plenty of evidence to now indicate the Obama administration has itself embraced the policies of rendition, secret prisons, assassination, and abuse of prisoners.

Nor has Congress acquitted itself especially well. The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) undertook an in-depth investigation of Department of Defense involvement in detainee abuse, producing a fairly redacted public report that described how the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency and its Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape school (SERE) personnel were utilized to teach torture methods to the CIA, the DIA, and Special Operations teams (and perhaps others — see PDF report). Nevertheless, the SASC never recommended any specific reforms, and not one high-ranking military officer was held accountable for what had occurred. The use of JPRA personnel in interrogations remained "a policy decision" to be decided by the Secretary of Defense — who happens to remain, over a third of the way through Obama’s current term of office, Bush Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

The Senate and House Intelligence Committees were supposedly briefed on the CIA’s interrogation program, but as a number of articles by Marcy Wheeler have documented, the CIA lied about who was briefed, and falsified the evidence of the briefings when it was convenient to them.

Even so, one could criticize the overall actions of Congress on the torture issue. The Senate Intelligence Committee currently is investigating the circumstances around the CIA’s interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, and other aspects of the CIA "enhanced interrogation" program, including charges of human experimentation. But this investigation is behind closed doors, and we cannot judge its efficacy, nor does it do what real investigations of torture should do: educate the public about what has occurred, and mobilize society for the necessary task of cleaning up the government from the infection of torture and brutality that debilitates it. In order to keep the truth at bay, ever-increasing attacks against whistleblowers, ever-increasing encroachments on civil liberties and privacy, are taking place.

On this International Day of Support of Victims of Torture, I offer a reposting of an article of mine from last year, posted at Jason Leopold’s The Public Record. This is an important article that details the origins of the torture program, and demonstrates the importance of delaying real accountability. A failure to end the practice of torture has resulted in increasing militarism, increasing governmental secrecy, and the empowerment of a clique of individuals whose operations and immorality have penetrated to every major societal institution.

If this article is too long for you, bookmark it and read it later. Send it to your iPad or Kindle, print it out and read it at your leisure (though you might miss the hyperlinks). As an accompanying piece, you might also wish to take a look at this excellent diary at Daily Kos, which describes the uses of torture domestically, in U.S. jails and Supermax prisons. Torture at home, torture abroad, the question we must be asking ourselves is this: So far down the road to becoming a "torture state," do we have the courage and fortitude to turn back, to create a better society, or will we succumb to barbarism?


Top U.S. Behavioral Scientists Studied Survival Schools to Create Torture Program Over 50 Years Ago

A couple of recent articles have highlighted the unseemly fact that some past presidents of the American Psychological Association (APA), the foremost professional organization for psychologists in the United States, if not the world, had links to the use of torture, or at least to military research into coercive interrogations.

An article by Jane Mayer in the recent New Yorker on CIA Director Leon Panetta noted in passing the participation of a former APA president Joseph Matarazzo on the governing staff of the Mitchell, Jessen & Associates (MJA) torture firm. First identified as one of the “governing people” of MJA by Bill Morlin in a Spokesman Review article in August 2007, Matarazzo is now known to have also been CIA, as noted in an article by Physicians for Human Rights Campaign Against Torture director, Nathaniel Raymond (emphasis added):

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.

This new information came at the same time as former APA insider Bryant Welch was publishing his own tell-all about APA and the Defense Department, "Torture, Psychology, and Daniel Inouye". Welch singled out former APA presidents Gerald Koocher and Ron Levant, along with Senator Daniel Inouye’s office, as key lobbyists for the participation of psychologists in interrogations (emphasis added):

One of Inouye’s administrative assistants, psychologist Patrick Deleon, has long been active in the APA and served a term in 2000 as APA president. For significant periods of time DeLeon has literally directed APA staff on federal policy matters and has dominated the APA governance on political matters. For over twenty-five years, relationships between the APA and the Department of Defense (DOD) have been strongly encouraged and closely coordinated by DeLeon.

Another famous former APA president, Martin Seligman, was also linked with the government’s recent torture program. According to Jane Mayer, Seligman taught his “learned helplessness” theories to the Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape or SERE psychologists, who reverse-engineered it into the “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” used by the CIA and DoD to torture prisoners in “war on terror” prisons around the world. Seligman admitted lecturing at SERE, but has denied any role in torture.

The role of former APA presidents DeLeon, Koocher, Levant, Seligman, and Matarazzo in supporting the role of military psychologists in interrogations, even after evidence of torture by the U.S. government was manifest, is perhaps unequalled in the annals of professional societies, as providing political, and possibly organizational and theoretical or practical support to unethical procedures, especially torture. (Stephen Soldz has outlined some of this recent history in an article just posted at ACLU Blog of Rights.) One might think this a terrible offshoot of the former Bush administration’s insane post-9/11 turn to the “dark side.”

But that is not the end of the story; it is not even the beginning.

Before this set of military/CIA-collaborationist APA presidents, there was Harry Harlow, and before him, Donald Hebb. Both were famous, distinguished U.S. psychologists, and both had been presidents of the APA in the 1950s. Both engaged in research, some of it secret, for the military and CIA. Hebb was a pioneer in the study of sensory deprivation. Harlow’s contribution was more synthetic: he helped construct an entire paradigm around the problem of how to break down an individual by torture.

In 1956, in the pages of an obscure academic journal, Sociometry, I.E. Farber, Harry F. Harlow, and psychiatrist Louis Jolyon West published a classic work on interrogation, Brainwashing, Conditioning, and DDD (Debility, Dependency, and Dread) (BCD). It was based on a report for the Study Group on Survival Training, paid for by the U.S. Air Force. (See West LJ., Medical and psychiatric considerations in survival training. In Report of the Special Study Group on Survival Training (AFR 190 16). Lackland Air Force Base, Tex: Air Force Personnel and Training Research Centers; 1956.) This research linked Air Force “Survival” training, later called SERE, with torture techniques, and as we will see, use of such techniques by the CIA, something we would see again decades later in the Mitchell-Jessen “exploitation” plan.

BCD examined the various types of stress undergone by prisoners, and narrowed them down to “three important elements: debility, dependency, and dread”.

Debility was a condition caused by “semi-starvation, fatigue, and disease”. It induced “a sense of terrible weariness”.

Dependency on the captors for some relief from their agony was something “produced by the prolonged deprivation of many of the factors, such as sleep and food… [and] was made more poignant by occasional unpredictable brief respites.” The use of prolonged isolation of the prisoner, depriving an individual of expected social intercourse and stimulation, “markedly strengthened the dependency”.

Dread probably needs no explanation, but BCD described it as “chronic fear…. Fear of death, fear of pain, fear of nonrepatriation, fear of deformity of permanent disability…. even fear of one’s own inability to satisfy the demands of insatiable interrogators.”

The bulk of BCD explains the effects of DDD in terms of Pavlovian conditioning and the learning theories of American psychologist Edward Thorndike. The consequence of the resulting “collapse of ego functions” is described as similar to “postlobotomy syndrome”.

By disorganizing the perception of those experiential continuities constituting the self-concept and impoverishing the basis for judging self-consistency, DDD affects one’s habitual ways of looking at and dealing with oneself. [p. 275]

BCD explains aspects of the U.S. torture program that otherwise to our eyes appear insane. (Not that it isn’t on a moral level “insane.”) Take the painful stress positioning of prisoners documented at Abu Ghraib and other U.S.-run detainee prisons — most recently, at Bagram prison in Afghanistan. BCE explains: it’s all part of inducing dependency through expectation of relief, but in a diabolical way. Forced stress positions are a “self-inflicted punishment”, one which increases the expectancy of relief via “voluntary” means. But the latter is “delusory… since the captor may select any behavior he chooses as the condition for relieving a prisoner’s distress” [pp. 276-277].

This form of carrot and stick torture may not seem that sophisticated, but it is the use of basic nervous system functioning and human instinctual need that makes it “scientific”. The need for sensory stimulation and social interaction, the need to eat, to sleep, to reduce fear, all of these are used to build dependencies upon the captor, using the fact that “the strengthening effects of rewards — in this instance the alleviation of an intensely unpleasant emotional state — are fundamentally automatic” [p. 278]. This impairment of higher cognitive states and disruption and disorganization of the prisoner’s self-concept, producing something like “a pathological organic state”, was subsequently modified and used by the CIA in its interrogations of countless individuals. If more brutal forms of torture sometimes were used, especially by over-eager foreign agents or governments, DDD remained the gold standard, the programmatic core of counterintelligence interrogation at the heart of the CIA’s own intelligence manuals.

Chapter Nine of the 1963 CIA KUBARK manual, ”Coercive Counterintelligence Interrogation of Resistant Sources,” describes coercive interrogation procedures as “designed to induce regression.”

The anonymous authors of KUBARK quote the BCD article specifically:

Farber says that the response to coercion typically contains “… at least three important elements: debility, dependency, and dread.” Prisoners “… have reduced viability, are helplessly dependent on their captors for the satisfaction of their many basic needs, and experience the emotional and motivational reactions of intense fear and anxiety”….

The subheads to the chapter are evocative of the DDD paradigm: “Deprivation of Sensory Stimuli”, “Threats and Fear”, “Debility”, “Pain”, “Heightened Suggestibility and Hypnosis”, and “Narcosis”. That this was all constructed, in part, by the demented genius of a famous U.S. psychologist and former president of the APA only contributes to a deep, dark irony that runs like a blood-red gash through the body politic of this country.

The 2006 rewrite of the Army Field Manual was lauded for banning the beating of prisoners, threatening them with dogs, sexual humiliation, performing mock executions, electrocution of prisoners, and waterboarding, among other “techniques.” But in an appendix to the manual, the following procedures are authorized for certain prisoners: complete separation, sometimes with forced wearing of goggles and earmuffs, for up to 30 days (after which approval for more must be sought); limiting sleep to four hours a day, for 30 straight days (and more, with approval); and other concurrent techniques, including “futility”, “incentive”, and “fear up harsh”. In the latter, fear within a detainee is significantly increased, through knowledge of the person’s phobias, if possible.

In the press, and in the speeches of politicians on both sides of the aisle, the new AFM was praised as a model of reform. The CIA was urged to embrace the AFM’s policies, but has demurred. Meanwhile, the Obama administration is studying the interrogation issue, but so far has advocated the AFM be the government-wide interogation standard. Why, one wonders, as it’s evident the AFM has maintained a core DDD operational capacity (isolation, sleep and sensory deprivation, fear)? The Center for Constitutional Rights, Physicians for Human Rights, Amnesty International and other human rights organization have called publicly for the Obama administration to rescind Appendix M and other offensive sections of the Army Field Manual.

It is important that all elements of the U.S. torture program be exposed and made illegal. If the country can not rise morally to this, then a terrifying future lies before us.

APA Scrubs Pages Linking It to CIA Torture Workshops

12:49 am in Terrorism, Torture by Jeff Kaye

Like a modern-day Ministry of Truth, the American Psychological Association (APA) has scrubbed the webpage describing "deception scenarios" workshops that were part of a conference it conducted with the CIA and Rand Corporation on July 17-18, 2003. In addition, the APA erased the link to the page, and even all mention of its existence, from another story at its July 2003 Science Policy Insider News website that briefly described the conference.

In May 2007, in an article at Daily Kos, I noted that the workshops were describing "new ways to utilize drugs and sensory bombardment techniques to break down interrogatees." Quoting from the APA’s description (and note, the link is to an archived version of the webpage; emphasis is added):

  • How do we find out if the informant has knowledge of which s/he is not aware?
  • How important are differential power and status between witness and officer?
  • What pharmacological agents are known to affect apparent truth-telling behavior?….
  • What are sensory overloads on the maintenance of deceptive behaviors? How might we overload the system or overwhelm the senses and see how it affects deceptive behaviors?

In August 2007, in a landmark article at Vanity Fair, journalist Katherine Eban revealed that SERE psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen were participants at the APA/CIA/Rand affair. Mitchell and Jessen have since been linked with the implementation of the CIA’s "enhanced interrogation techniques" in 2001-2002.

Just last November, in an article at Firedoglake, I recalled the issue of the 2003 conference and asked Who Will Investigate CIA/RAND/APA Torture “Workshop”? I wrote at that time:

The APA and CIA have a very long history of working together on interrogation techniques, in particular on sensory deprivation and use of drugs like LSD and mescaline in interrogations, and other methods of breaking down the mind and the body of prisoners.

Use of drugs to influence interrogations, in addition to sensory deprivation, distortion and overload or bombardment were signal techniques in a decades-long interrogation research program that came to be known by its most famous moniker, MKULTRA (although these torture techniques were studied and tested by the CIA even earlier, in its 1950s projects Bluebird and Artichoke). Such techniques were codified by the early 1960s in a CIA Counterinsurgency Interrogation Manual, also known by its codename, KUBARK.

The story on the APA/CIA/Rand workshop received a good deal of dissemination on the Internet, and one can imagine that the description of the abusive techniques explored there were an embarrassment to the honchos of the APA, who strive to maintain an organizational aura of liberalism and scientific respectability, while at the same time selling its wares to the Defense Department and intelligence agencies in promoting the "war on terror" and "homeland security."

The URL for the former webpage — — now brings up a message that "the page is not available." A search of the APA site and a Google search does not retrieve a link to the original page, which can now be accessed, thankfully, only through a web archive search engine.

The same is true for the webpage for the APA’s July 2003 "Spin" newsletter, which has a story entitled "APA Works with CIA and RAND to Hold Science of Deception Workshop". Listed at the end of the story is a link telling readers to "View the thematic scenarios from the workshop." (See archived version.) The old URL —– brings up another "page not available" message. However, the bulk of the webpage now resides at a new address — — with the former link now missing from the story.

While the scrubbing of the page describing truth drugs and sensory overload could be attributed to some normal archiving decision, or the victim of a web do-over (and APA does appear to have redesigned their site), the excision of the text and link to the site on the referring page cannot be an accident.

What is APA up to?

Recently, APA has made some noises about finally respecting the decision of its membership in a September 2008 referendum that decisively repudiated "the APA leadership’s long-standing policy encouraging psychologist participation in interrogations and other activities in military and CIA detention facilities that have repeatedly been found to violate international law and the Constitution." The referendum voted to prohibit psychologist participation in settings where human rights violations take place. This policy took dead aim against use of psychologists in the Behavioral Science Consultation Teams (or BSCTs) used at Guantanamo and elsewhere.

To date, however, the referendum has had no effect, although the Public Interest Task Force for the APA recently has told APA members involved in passage of the referendum that it is gathering information on offending sites in order to implement the new policy, over a year and a half since the vote on the referendum took place. I will hope, though I have little trust, that APA will take the necessary steps.

But APA has a history of bad faith on such issues. Recently, they rewrote a problematic section of their ethical code, dubbed the Nuremberg loophole by some, which allowed psychologists to violate their ethical rules if done to comply with "law, regulations, or other governing legal authority." As Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) described it, "The new language restores the 1992 version of the code, which prohibits use of the standard ‘to justify or defend violating human rights.’"

But PHR also noted:

Section 1.02 was inserted into the APA ethics code in August 2002, and was used by both the APA and the Bush Administration to allow the participation of psychologists in the "enhanced interrogation" program, in which detainees were systematically abused and tortured under the supervision of health professionals. PHR is calling for the APA to also reform section 8.05 of the 2002 ethics code, which allows research on human subjects without their consent if such research comports with law or regulations.

Section 8.05 allows psychologists to dispense with the use of informed consent in research experiments where "permitted by law or federal or institutional regulations." The use of informed consent guarantees the voluntary participation of human subjects in research done upon them, and is considered a bedrock of ethical research.

The gyrations of the APA remind one of the razzle-dazzle misdirection of the Obama administration, which trumpets "transparency," but recently told the Supreme Court to turn down Maher Arar’s appeal of his rendition-torture lawsuit. In addition, President Obama’s own secret black site prisons have now been revealed, over a year since Obama made a big deal out of closing down the CIA black sites. When it comes to hiding the crime of torture, the U.S. government and its contracting agencies have made a fetish out of secrecy, and the promise of an end to torture after the hideous Bush/Cheney years is revealed to be a chimera.