Sunday, May 13, 2007

A Letter to Dr. Sharon Stephens Brehm, APA President

The following letter was sent to the President of the American Psychological Association, following the call by this blog for action to support the proposed moratorium against using psychologists in national security interrogations, since they have been compromised by copious reports and evidence of torture.

Dear Dr. Brehm,

I write to support Dr. Reisner's proposed moratorium. There is more than adequate evidence to demonstrate that psychologists have been involved in unethical and probably illegal interrogations, especially those related to work in Special Forces and BSCT teams.

I know of at least two specific instances of documented, direct psychologist misconduct during interrogations. Additionally, Former Army Surgeon General Kiley wrote in his report that BSCT hires from 2004 were primarily psychologists. If you put this simple fact together with the latest report from the International Red Cross on ongoing torture and misconduct concerning treatment of detainees and interrogations at Guantanamo, you have a high likelihood of psychologist misconduct.

The moratorium also must go with a greater openness and an end to secrecy surrounding the activities of the BSCT teams. Redacted documents should be released in unaltered form, and APA must demand this.

The future of the APA hangs by a thin thread, and it would be folly not to recognize this. I am an APA member, and talking with other members, I know that unhappiness with APA leadership on this question is wide-spread.

I also know that you have a tough job, and that many APA members support the current situation, including many in Division 19, but not only inclusive of them.

The history of professional, especially academic, psychology in collaborating with government entities in the preparation of interrogations that use torture is a sordid part of our history. It must end now if psychology is to emerge in the 21st century as a progressive and positive scientific force.

Otherwise, it will be anathemized and become, in the public's mind, congruent with the worst elements of human nature. If you think this is impossible, I ask you to reflect upon the Lysenko scandal among geneticists in the old Soviet Union.

Psychology may suffer soon the same fate. It will take leadership and courage to lead our guild away from this terrible future. I pray you have the wisdom to follow this course.

San Francisco, CA

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