Monday, April 30, 2007

(Round 2) Stop Torture Campaign -- Netroots Can Play Special Role

Yesterday I launched a campaign to send letters, faxes, emails, and phone messages to the leadership, public affairs and ethics office of the American Psychological Association (APA). As my diary then indicated:

By a unique confluence of events, and the way the CIA and military organized their methods of interrogation, a serious weakness in their ability to conduct torture has been discovered. If we strike now -- with letters, faxes, emails, etc. -- we can put a great deal of pressure on a particular vulnerable group who has the ability to greatly hamper the ability of the U.S. government to torture.

The APA is "vulnerable" because they are the only health organization that is allowing their members to participate in the psychological torture teams organized to function in Gitmo, Baghram, and such places. -- And now this campaign has gotten off to a roaring start! And we need your help to make it even better!

Key figures within the American Psychological Association are fighting to bring about a moratorium to end psychologist participation in the torture-linked interrogations run at Guantanamo, and other U.S. run foreign prisons. But they are meeting great resistance from military psychologists and from the APA leadership as a whole.

Readers are already responding to the call to pressure the APA and support the internal dissidents call for a moratorium. I want to quote from a few letters that have already been sent. If you want to get into the action, too, scroll down a little bit to the latter part of the diary.

Gary L. Norton, who diaries here at Daily Kos, sent a wonderful letter, which he has given me permission to reproduce:

Dear Dr. Brehm,

I urge you to support the pending APA Moratorium Against Psychologists Participating in Torture Interrogations.

I am a retired attorney who spent a career in the Legislative and Executive branches of the Federal Government. I understand well the pressure that the government can assert to coerce a desired result. The APA must resist that pressure as did you sister organization of psychiatrists.

We are nearing the end of a shameful period in our history. Soon, people will be held to account for what they did or allowed to be done. Our treatment of detainees will be universally seen as a stain on our reputation here at home as it already is overseas. It will be viewed with the same infamy as our internment of Americans of Japanese ancestry during WW II.

Your organization is better than this. It's members are better than this. Moral courage in these times is difficult but essential. The reputation and standing of our country is at stake. You now have a special burden to participate in the process of righting our National ship of state. I urge you to undertake that burden and lead the APA in a direction that all of your members will look back on with pride.

Thank you for your consideration.

Gary L. Norton

Another well-known and thoughtful activist, possom at Never In Our Names (NION), also posted a letter, of which this excellent snippet:

Dr. Brehm,

I am an allied medical professional seriously concerned at the lack of a firm stance by APA in opposition to torture. I most strongly urge you to support the pending moratorium againsts psychologist's participation in any interrogation in which any measure of "torture" or "alternative interrogation" may be used....

Even a remote suggestion that a national organization of psychologists allows or condones such cooperation is not acceptable.

The national association of psychiatrists has already passed a measure forbidding their members from any measure of participation in these interrogations. The APA should follow without delay lest the organization be left with a dark stain on its reputation....

Our country is in danger of losing its moral standing and will only lose more if we, the people, fail to find the courage to stand for what is right against what is clearly wrong. Your members deserve leadership toward a clear and unequivocable stance against alternative interrogation or any other name given these days to torture.

These letters written to Dr. Sharon Stephens Brehm, the current president of APA (see the link to her "Ask the President" webpage below) are amazing examples of the kinds of communication that are needed.

The original diary in this series makes the full case as to why, strategically, the time is ripe to attack the government's torture policy through their reliance upon mental health professionals.

This is NOT a parochial "psychology" issue. This is a well-considered political attempt to completely frustrate the government's abilty to use its sensory deprivation/isolation/fear and stress/humiliation torture paradigm, which heavily relies on psychological assessment, planning, monitoring and implementation.

Internet readers... are you up to it? WE can make a difference, and even make history. In my mind, this is the most important task that this site has ever been called upon to perform.

I also want this campaign to spread far and wide, and, honestly, that is our primary function: to publicize, to pressure, to make this an integral part of the political picture RIGHT NOW.


Action Section


It is time to bring the struggle against torture to the leadership of the APA. They must hear the voices of the society as a whole, shouting NO to torture, and NO to psychologist participation in coercive interrogations.

Here's How...

Write or call the APA:

American Psychological Association
750 First Street, NE
Washington, DC 20002-4242
(800) 374-2721
(202) 336-5500

Write and call, now. Let them know how upset you are.

Send an email to the Public Affairs Office of the APA, expressing your outrage:

Phone the Ethics Office directly at (202) 336-5930 or use APA's toll free number (800) 374-2721, extension 5930, and give them a piece of your mind.

And finally, write to the President of the APA, Dr. Sharon Stephens Brehm. Be nice, be polite, but be firm (this is true for ALL communications).

Dr. Brehm has a web page, Ask the President. Follow the link to leave an email message directly for her.

If we apply enough pressure, it might make the APA stand up and take notice. If you are a Daily Kos diarist or front pager, you might want to help and make this fight yours, too. And, don't forget to write your congressman/congresswoman and senator, too!


We don't have to be powerless. We aren't helpless. Write, call, email today. Copy this diary's URL and send it to your friends.

I want to see APA inundated with thousands of messages saying "Stop torture. Stop psychologist participation in coercive interrogations. Support Dr. Altman's moratorium".

Together, we can prevail.

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