Sunday, September 30, 2007

Torture on Trial in Arizona Desert

[After writing this, I found a wonderful essay on this case by JG over at NION. Please go check it out!]

Blogger Cosmic Debris over at popular new blog Docudharma has written up an important news story concerning two priests, a Franciscan, Fr. Louis Vitale and a Jesuit, Fr. Stephen Kelly, who on October 17, 2007 "will be tried for having trespassed onto the property of Ft. Huachuca on November 19, 2006 as part of a protest against torture training there."

According to the Fort Huachuca website, the military base is...

... a product of the Indian Wars of the 1870s and 1880s. In February 1877, Colonel August B. Kautz, commander of the Department of Arizona, ordered that a camp be established in the Huachuca Mountains....

In 1886, General Nelson A. Miles designated Fort Huachuca as his advance headquarters and forward supply base for the Geronimo campaign.

During World War II, the base trained the 92nd Infantry Division for assignment in the European war.

A new era began in 1954 when control passed to the Chief Signal Officer, who found the area and climate ideal for testing electronic and communications equipment. The importance of the fort in the national defense picture grew steadily from that moment. In 1967, Fort Huachuca became the headquarters of the U.S. Army Strategic Communications Command....

In October 1990, the post changed hands with the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command became the new host command; the U.S. Army Intelligence Center and Fort Huachuca now operates the post.

According to Cosmic Debris, the priests were attempting to deliver a letter to Major General Barbara Fast, who is currently the commanding general of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center and School (USAICS) at Ft. Huachuca. Vitale and Kelly were arrested for alleged trespassing, and for disobeying an officer's order. The priests, who have a history of civil disobedience actions, maintain they were not trespassing on base property at the time of their arrest. Vitale is being defended by Loyala University (New Orleans) law professor Bill Quigley, while Kelly is representing himself. C.D. continues:

While serving in Iraq, Fast was the head of intelligence for the U.S. command in Baghdad at the time that the worst abuses took place at Abu Ghraib.

Critics believed she should have been held partly accountable for the abuse. However, she was never charged or officially reprimanded. On 14 November 2006 human rights advocate and attorney Wolfgang Kaleck filed a high profile criminal complaint at the German Federal Attorney General (Generalbundesanwalt) against Donald Rumsfeld and several senior US officials including Barbara Fast for their involvement in alleged human rights violations at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and at the prisoner detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. Kaleck filed the claim on behalf of eleven former prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.[2] However, legal scholars speculated shortly thereafter that the case has little chance of successfully making it through the German court system. [Link]

Government Tries to Limit Defense

According to a June 7, 2007 Sierra Vista Herald story on the case (linked in the Docudharma essay):

Kelly, Vitale and their supporters contend the trespassing and disobeying counts are basically insignificant misdemeanor charges, with them alluding at the time they were taken into custody they were not on post property but which fort officials claim is not true. The priests face a maximum of 10 months confinement if convicted of both charges. Both have served prison terms for other acts of civil disobedience....

Fort Huachuca and the Intelligence Center is the focal point of the priests’ defense because of their allegations of torture being taught on the post.

“We are here to put torture on trial,” Kelly said in the corridor outside the courtroom after the hearing.

Of course, the government is resisting any attempt by the defense to introduce evidence of military conduct:

U.S. Attorney Daniel G. Knauss filed a motion to preclude the two priests and their attorney from introducing evidence by raising “the morality or immorality of the government’s use of interrogation techniques....[emphasis added]

At the website Torture on Trial you can read much more about the case, with links to all legal filings.

On September 5, Magistrate Hector Estrada ruled on the pretrial motions. He denied the defense requests for a jury trial and dismissal of the charges against the two priests. He also denied the government's motion to use Fr. Vitale's prior arrests and convictions as prima facie evidence of trespass. [Valtin note: Estrada earlier turned down a military prosecutor's punitive request to jail the priests until their trial.]

In a significant order that effectively gags the defense, Estrada granted the government's motion in limine to preclude defenses.... [such as] the defenses of duress, justification, necessity, or self-defense; the morality or immorality of the government's use of interrogation techniques, training of soldiers in interrogation techniques; the legality of the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan; any military actions to support interrogations in any foreign countries; the legality of the Military Commission Act of 2006; the defense of international law; or the wisdom of any political question or government policy. [Emphasis added]

As Fr. Vitale says over at the defense webite:

Our effort may just be the first steps in exploring what is happening at Ft. Huachuca, but the larger picture continues to emerge. I feel an ever greater commitment to do what we can to stop what is happening at Ft. Huachuca and wherever we encounter this force of domination and suffering."

We must demand the acquittal of Kelly and Vitale, and the Senate Armed Services Committee should commence post haste with their proposed hearings into the misuse of government and military resources for the use of torture and abusive interrogations by the Pentagon and the CIA.

Appendix added, from JG's NION article referenced at the top of this page, this is the letter Vitale and Kelly tried to deliver to Barbara Fast:

To: Maj. Gen. Barbara Fast --

We are here today as concerned U.S. people, veterans and clergy, to speak with enlisted personnel about the illegality and immorality of torture according to international humanitarian law, including the Geneva Conventions.

We condemn torture as a dehumanization of both prisoners and interrogators, resulting in humiliation, disability and even death. In addition to the hundreds of detainees who have died, we are also concerned about U.S. military personnel. Alyssa Peterson committed suicide after participating in the torture of Iraqi prisoners. Lynndie England and others have been imprisoned for their illegal activities.

We are here today at Ft. Huachuca in solidarity with tens of thousands of people at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation at Ft. Benning, Georgia (formerly known as the School of the Americas) to say that the training of torturers must immediately stop. Nothing justifies the inhumane treatment of our fellow brothers and sisters. Torture by U.S. military personnel has reached alarming proportions and has horrified people around the world.

We are convinced that the Military Commissions Act of 2006 is unconstitutional. We totally reject its conclusions. Torture is a useless and unreliable tool that leads to an accepted practice of terrorization and the rationalization of wrongdoing.

We are here today to repent and clearly state that because of our sense of moral and human decency we condemn torture. NOT IN OUR NAME.

Signed this 19th day of November, 2006 --

Louis Vitale,OFM
Steve Kelly, SJ

Friday, September 28, 2007

Still Photos from Edgewood Arsenal: Human Experimentation Seen Up Close

Thanks to tigana for the link to this online resource regarding the U.S. Army's decades-long experimentation of biological and chemical agents on human subjects. The site has a number of documentary photographs from the testing at Edgewood itself. The photos include both animal and human exerimentation. They are shocking in their display of cold, clinical, Nazi-like science. I recommend following up by reading the link to the Senate hearings included below. I will have much more to say on this subject in the near future.

Between 1955 and 1975, the U.S. Army used 7,000 enlisted soldiers as human guinea pigs for experiments involving a wide array of biological and chemical warfare agents.

These tests were conducted jointly by the U.S. Army Intelligence Board and the Chemical Warfare Laboratories at Edgewood Arsenal's research facility in Maryland. Approximately 3,500 of these soldiers were given doses of powerful mind-altering psychochemicals, including LSD, PCP, and BZ. These "volunteer" test subjects were not told which drugs they were given, and were not fully informed of the extreme physical and psychological effects these drugs would have on them.

The images presented here are stills from documentary footage of these experiments filmed by the U.S. Army. To learn more, read the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on covert military testing of human subjects; see also the excellent A&E Investigative Reports documentary "Bad Trip to Edgewood."

For more on the history of the Edgewood Arsenal Experiments, see the Wikipedia article, which I had a hand in assembling:

The Edgewood Arsenal experiments (also known as Project 112) are said to be related to or part of CIA mind control programs after World War II, like MKULTRA.... The experiments were performed at the Edgewood Arsenal, northeast of Baltimore, Maryland, and involved the use of neurological agents and heavy hallucinogens like LSD, THC, and BZ, in addition to biological and chemical agents.... In the mid-1970s, in the wake of many health claims made from exposure to such agents, including psychotropic and hallucinogenic drugs administered in later experiments, Congress began investigations of misuse of such experiments, and inadequate informed consent given by the soldiers and civilians involved.

The Edgewood experiments took place from approximately 1952-1974 at the Bio Medical Laboratory, which is now known as the U. S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense. The volunteer would spend the weekend on-site. They would perform tests and procedures (math, navigation, following orders, memory and interview) while sober. The volunteer would then be dosed by a scientist and perform the same tests. These tests occurred in the building/hospital under the care of doctors and nurses. At times the tests would be taken outside to study the effects while in the field. For example the volunteer would have to guard a check point while under the influence to see what effects certain drugs had on the patient.

A pamphlet produced by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Health Effects from Chemical, Biological, and Radiological Weapons (Oct. 2003), discusses the Edgewood Arsenal Experiments in some detail.

This post is dedicated to the victims of white phosphorus at Fallujah.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Torture Critics, Ethics Games, and Institutional Corruption

Also posted at Daily Kos, Docudharma, and NION

Dr. Michael Wessells, one of ten members of the American Psychological Association's 2006 Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security (PENS), has released a letter to APA strongly condemning the position taken by that organization regarding psychologist participation at national security interrogations at sites like Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib prison.

Dr. Wessells is Professor of Clinical Population and Family Health at Columbia University, and also Professor of Psychology at Randolph Macon College. He is the psychosocial advisor for the Children's Christian Fund, and "regularly advises U. N. agencies, donors, and governments on policies regarding child protection and well-being". Dr. Wessells is the author of Child Soldiers: From Violence to Protection.

The PENS Task Force, of which Dr. Wessells was a member, was ostensibly organized to address the controversy over psychologists working in national security settings. As the APA/PENS June 2005 Report described it, PENS was to

[E]xamine whether our current Ethics Code adequately addresses [the ethical dimensions of psychologists’ involvement in national security-related activities], whether the APA provides adequate ethical guidance to psychologists involved in these endeavors, and whether APA should develop policy to address the role of psychologists and psychology in investigations related to national security.

The report, and the subsequent 2006 APA Resolution Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Treatment or Punishment, came in for a lot of criticism. At their 2007 annual meeting, the APA passed a "Reaffirmation" of the 2006 resolution. The new resolution did not stem the tide of criticism regarding APA policy, both within the organization, and without.

The main sticking point for the opponents of official APA policy has been that APA allows psychologist participation at sites where human rights, such as habeas corpus, are denied. Furthermore, despite banning participation in a number of odious forms of torture, such as waterboarding, APA resolutions have threaded the legal needle in allowing some forms of modern psychological torture under some circumstance, such as isolation, sensory deprivation, sensory overload, and use of drugs. The APA states that it is resolutely against torture, but it consistently misrepresents the position of its opponents, and spins the truth around what its policy allows.

Mike Wessells is not the only original member of PENS committee to speak out against the process that led APA to its current position, and at least one APA insider has also written publically about the corruption of the APA decision-making bodies around the interrogation issue. But Dr. Wessells was notably the only PENS member to resign, in January 2006, from the task force. In a letter to PENS chair Olivia Moorehead-Slaughter, he explained:

Out of ethical concerns, I have decided to step down from the PENS Task Force because continuing work with the Task Force tacitly legitimates the wider silence and inaction of the APA on the crucial issues at hand. At the highest levels, the APA has not made a strong, concerted, comprehensive, public and internal response of the kind warranted by the severe human rights violations at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay. The PENS Task Force had a very limited mandate and was not structured in a manner that would provide the kind of comprehensive response or representative process needed.

A Letter to the President

Dr. Wessells new letter, dated yesterday, and addressed to current APA President Sharon Brehm, shows the same concerns over APA policy. It is reproduced here in full (originally published on-line at Stephen Soldz's blog Psyche, Science, and Society):

September 25, 2007

Dr. Sharon Brehm
American Psychological Association

Dear Dr. Brehm,

I am writing to you out of strong concern regarding the ethics of psychologists’ involvement in coercive interrogations. Events during and following the 2007 APA Annual Convention have created significant ethical questions regarding both the substance of APA’s position and the process through which APA leaders debate these complex issues.

Substantively, the main problem is that the 2007 Resolution by APA Council makes it ethical practice for psychologists to violate international human rights standards. In particular, the resolution allows psychologists to practice and support interrogations in sites that operate outside the protections offered by the Geneva Conventions and other international human rights instruments such as the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). The illegal, indefinite detention of people at these sites itself constitutes a violation of international law and human rights standards, and psychologists’ presence at these sites only legitimates these human rights violations. No profession should put itself above international human rights standards as the APA has done in this matter. In fact, international human rights standards ought to be the foundation of any professional Code of Ethics. By allowing psychologists to practice in ways that flaunt international human rights standards, APA has committed itself to an unethical course of action.

The process of the communications following the APA Convention is also cause for significant concern. The recently released statement of the APA Communications Office on APA’s position on torture presents a view that falls short of accepted standards of full, accurate disclosure. In particular, the statement conveniently fails to mention the aforementioned point that illegal, indefinite detention itself violates the CAT and that psychologists who practice at sites operating outside international human rights protections thereby enable a form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. A more balanced, honest statement would outline the important steps that the APA has taken on these issues and also point out the ongoing debates within the Association and the issues that warrant further analysis. Stronger concern arises out of the statement made by former APA President Gerald Koocher in which he attempted to use in public sensitive, psychological disinformation (most of it was false) to discredit the statements and activities of a former PENS Task Force member who criticized the PENS process. Such misuse of sensitive, personal information by an APA leader is ethically questionable, diverts attention from the wider issues that warrant much discussion, and could have a chilling effect on the open discussion and debate that are badly needed on these complex issues.

I urge you to exercise leadership in helping the APA to act in an ethical, responsible manner in addressing these issues of substance and process. Your leadership is needed to bring the APA in line with international human rights standards and to enable the processes of accurate disclosure, dialogue and mutual learning that will promote ethical action within the APA.


Michael Wessells, PhD
Columbia University

Is Change Possible?

So far, the response from President Brehm and her colleagues has been to disseminate letters critical of their APA opponents. And APA has also released a "Frequently Asked Questions" webpage to answer their critics. This is what Dr. Wessells refers to in his letter as a "recently released statement of the APA Communications Office". Full of half-truths and self-serving misrepresentations, internal APA opponents to the mainstream policy of support to Bush's "war on terror" interrogations and abrogation of interntional law, are promising a thorough rebuttal in coming days.

It is my opinion that the APA is not reformable, at this point. The integration of APA leadership, and much of the academic psychological community and university departments, into the national security apparatus of the United States government is far too advanced to admit significant change. While I respect those who fight to change APA, and restore trust to the field of psychology, I cannot see how that change can take place. At the very least, a real movement towards change would mean severing the organizational links of the Society for Military Psychology (Division 19) from the APA. Military psychologists are subject to the command structure of the Pentagon before they are subject to an ethical oversight process of the APA. No other entity within organized psychology is allowed such special status, and this special relationship, which goes back to the foundation of the American Psychological Association, must end. I'll note that it was members of Division 19 that introduced and led the argumentation at APA Council for the current insufficient policy resolutions on torture and cruel, unusual, and inhumane interrogations passed by that body.

How They Do It

Mike Kimmel's article, "Reflections from Panama", in an upcoming newsletter of APA Division 48 (Peace Psychology), "Paul Kimmel writes of how APA sidelined a 2004 report from an APA task force he chaired, the Task Force on the Psychological Effects of Efforts to Prevent Terrorism".

In his article, Dr. Kimmel describes how the work of the many psychologists honestly involved in study of this issue had that work bureaucratically suppressed at the last minute (much as in 2007, APA proponents of a moratorium against psychologist participation in national security interrogations were broadsided by last minute "substitute" resolutions, substitute "substitute" resolutions, word changes, etc., and very little time to debate issues on allowed amendments). The entire article is worth viewing, but I close here with this excerpt, which tellingly portrays the futility of action in an organization, like APA, whose leadership is dedicated to collaboration with the forces of the government, and who practice the dread arts of bureaucratic suppression. The quote begins with Dr. Kimmel describing why he submitted his report to last minute requests by APA heavyweights Ron Levant, Rhea Farberman, and others for further "review", which was supposed to make reception of the report even more "powerful":

My expectation was that by going through the review process, the Report would be stronger and the Association would act upon it more quickly and comprehensively after Council approved it in February 2005.

Attending the meetings and responding to the suggestions of the many Boards and Committees involved a lot more work for me and our authors, as these groups had different interests and points of view regarding our findings and recommendations.

When we finished revising our Report in light of their suggestions, the APA Board of Directors recommended it be rejected as lacking “peer review” in spite of the fact that it was a policy piece and not an academic journal article.

It was also suggested that our findings and recommendations were too “political” (it seems that only the status quo is not “political” or “politically correct” at the Association).

We brought our responses to the Board of Directors’ objections to the February 2005 Council meetings, only to find our item being moved down the agenda by Ron Levant (presiding as President) until there were just 10 minutes left in the final afternoon session.

This was barely enough time to go over the main item and no time for discussion of or response to the Board’s critique.

Our first speaker was cut off by Levant (there were several others ready and able to address their issues) and a vote was called.

We were voted down - as Representatives were leaving to catch flights and other Convention activities - and the Report was never received by the APA.

Monday, September 24, 2007

"Our impenetrable national narcissism"

The following quote is from Chris Floyd's blog, Empire Burqlesque, which I recently added to my blogroll. The quote in the title above, though, is from an article by Arthur Silber.

The latter is quoted by Floyd in an article that begins by mentioning the civil rights march in support of the Jena 6. Fifty years ago, the civil rights movement cut through the Cold War demagogy of the post-WWII anti-communist consensus, which swaddled the nation with lies and militarism, until the country was almost suffocated. But now, as Floyd points out, even a large civil rights protest is lost among the sewer detritus that is the current political situation in the United States.

The recent news that the Iraq War death count has reached something like a million human beings rippled through American society like a feather dropped into an empty ocean. -- Have we all become the "good Germans" now?

Likewise, last week's peaceful rally against Jim Crow justice in Jena, Louisiana, was indeed heartening; but as we have seen, not even years of the civil rights movement at its strongest, widest and deepest impact was able to break the power of the conglomeration: the empire of bases kept growing, the militarization of the economy and society accelerated, millions of people were massacred in Indochina.... The half-century of hope that dawned on a Montgomery bus ended with the illegal installation of George W. Bush and his bloodthirsty clique in the White House.

In any case, the history of the past six years has shown that the American people, as a whole, cannot be stirred even by the most brazen outrages. Not by the wholesale assault on their liberties; not by the rot of their roads, bridges, towns and cities; not by the massive perversion of their electoral system; not by the deaths of their sons and daughters, their friends and neighbors, in a war of aggression they were tricked into by deliberate lies; not by their government's embrace of torture, concentration camps, secret prisons, and death squads; not even by the murder – in their own name – of more than one million Iraqis. Not even this genocidal fury – powerfully evoked here by Arthur Silber and here by Lew Rockwell – has shaken them from the half-sleep of what Silber calls "our impenetrable national narcissism."

The only problem with the narcissism charge is the old one of which came first, the chicken or the egg? Even back in 1979, Christopher Lasch noted the American retreat "to purely personal preoccupations", which included "a retreat from politics and a repudiation of the recent past". (The Culture of Narcissism, W. W Norton & Co., p. 4-5). The "past" in question was the Sixties and Seventies, years of social and political turmoil dominated by the Vietnam War, the fight for African-American civil rights, and the political revelations, post-Vietnam, of the crimes of the American executive branch and its agencies in the Pentagon and at the CIA.

I am assured by some of the politically quiescent that I know that their withdrawal is based upon fear of repression, and upon a sense of politically futility, a futility only accentuated by the cowardice of the ostensible opposition party, the Democrats.

In psychology, there used to be quite a row over what mattered more in behavior, the stimulus or the response. That artificial dichotomy was shattered in a famous essay by American pragmatist John Dewey.

What was true of static, overly idealized views a hundred years ago of psycholgical and physiological functioning in an organism is true of simplistic political analyses today. And here, I am not arguing against either Floyd or Silber, but with the mainstream punditry of our large circulation press, the networks and cable news channels, of the respectable magazines, etc.

The "dialecticians" among Marxist thinkers had deconstructed it all long ago: power and the people ruled by power exist in an unstable relationship to each other. It may only seem stable when viewed up close, by the measuring stick of a life span, or of two, or even three life spans -- rarely more than that.

Viewed with any historical perspective, we can see that a lulled population and its political somnolence can only last so long. That's why the creeps at NSA work night and day to record everything we say or write. They even want to know what we think (and would if they could).

There is still time for the American people to take their rightful place on the stage of history. And their role will be to expose and bring down one of the most corrupt and criminal organizations to ever find their way to control of an ostensibly democratic state.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

CIA PR Campaign a Pack of Lies

In an unusual departure for the Central Intelligence Agency policy, the CIA has apparently decided to publicly attack its critics, and comment thereby on its clandestine programs. What precipitated this public relations foray was a July 2007 article by Katherine Eban at Vanity Fair, who wrote an important piece detailing how military psychologists who worked for the Pentagon's Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape program (SERE) were hired by the CIA to conduct interrogations of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan. (You can read my review of this article here.)

Ms. Eban also was interviewed by Amy Goodman at Democracy Now!, and further described how the CIA worked with the American Psychological Association in organizing meetings to "debate" the efficacy of coercive interrogations, the use of "truth serums" and the like, in interrogations. (Again, this is something I have also written on.)

Other journalists have covered much the same ground, particularly as revelations emerged regarding the interrogation of Al Queda higher-up Abu Zubaydah some years ago now in Afghanistan. I'm thinking here especially of Jane Mayer's article in The New Yorker a few months ago, "The Black Sites", also about the evolution of the CIA's interrogation program and use of torture in the so-called "war on terror". Mark Benjamin's June 2007 article at, "The CIA's Torture Teachers" also covered much the same material as the Eban article, and Benjamin was the first to name two SERE psychologists who worked for the CIA in constructing coercive and abusive interrogations, reverse-engineering SERE methods -- meant to protect U.S. military personnel in POW situations -- and using them to torture foreign detainees.

All this coverage has apparently hit a nerve over at Langley, perhaps because Senate hearings on the SERE torture are due to start this fall at the Armed Services Committee, chaired by Senator Carl Levin. We can see this in an unusual public letter to the editor from the CIA's Deputy Director of Public Affairs published in Vanity Fair magazine.

CIA Writes to the Editor

The controversy addressed by the CIA spokesperson concerns the interrogation of Al-Qaeda lieutenant Abu Zubaydah, captured in Pakistan in April 2002. Katherine Eban described the situation in her VF article, "Rorschach and Awe" (July 17, 2007):

A C.I.A. interrogation team was expected but hadn't yet arrived. But the F.B.I. agents who had been nursing his wounds and cleaning him after he'd soiled himself asked Zubaydah what he knew. The detainee said something about a plot against an ally, then began slipping into sepsis. He was probably going to die.

The team cabled the morsel of intelligence to C.I.A. headquarters, where it was received with delight by Director George Tenet.... When someone explained that the F.B.I. had obtained the information, Tenet blew up and demanded that the C.I.A. get there immediately....

Zubaydah was stabilized at the nearest hospital, and the F.B.I. continued its questioning using its typical rapport-building techniques. An agent showed him photographs of suspected al-Qaeda members until Zubaydah finally spoke up, blurting out that "Moktar," or Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, had planned 9/11....

It was an extraordinary success story. But it was one that would evaporate with the arrival of the C.I.A's interrogation team. At the direction of an accompanying psychologist, the team planned to conduct a psychic demolition in which they'd get Zubaydah to reveal everything by severing his sense of personality and scaring him almost to death....

While the methods were certainly unorthodox, there is little evidence they were necessary, given the success of the rapport-building approach until that point.

What follows is the CIA's response published in the October Vanity Fair, p. 152, and headlined, "American Torture". Unfortunately, VF chose not to post the letter, and the response from author Katherine Eban, on its website. The selections from the following letters were transcribed by a colleague of mine:

Katherine Eban’s recent article for on terrorist interrogations... is gravely flawed. For starters, the terrorist Abu Zubaydah provided virtually all of his valuable intelligence during C.I.A. questioning. That process was lawful and successful.

Initially, Abu Zubaydah was evasive. There may be people elsewhere who believe they built some sort of rapport with him in those early days, but neither Abu Zubaydah’s conduct nor, most important, the production of intelligence from him backs that up. It was, most of all, the efforts of the C.I.A. that led Abu Zubaydah to share concrete, actionable information that our government used to identify other terrorist figures and disrupt their activities.

"There may be people elsewhere who believe they built some sort of rapport with him in those early days..." People elsewhere? Let's be clear: the CIA is calling the FBI liars.

The letter, signed by Paul Gimigliano, Deputy Director of Public Affairs, CIA, goes on to decry the "myth" surrounding "the C.I.A.’s terrorist-detention program", and chalks it up to unfortunate but supposedly necessary secrecy around interrogation methodology, the better to keep potential Al Qaeda detainees ignorant of what fate awaits them. This will also supposedly make them more susceptible to interrogation. Gimigliano also maintains that CIA interrogations have been "small, legal, carefully run, and reviewed with the executive branch and by Congress."

He concludes:

It has also been highly productive, providing a unique window into al-Queda that has helped our country, and other, foil terrorist plots and save innocent lives. Had Eban asked me about Abu Zubaydah, I would have tried to correct the misimpressions that wound up shaping her story.

An Author Defends Her Work

VF followed with Katherine Eban's reply. She insisted that with a 10 month investigatory effort, and more than 70 sources on the story, she could only draw one conclusion:

...that coercive interrogation techniques of the kind employed at black sites by the C.I.A. do not work any better than traditional rapport building.

It was humane interrogation that got Abu Zubaydah to reveal the identity of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed as 9/11’s master planner. Many experts and insiders I interviewed say that American interrogators could have stayed within the Geneva Convention guidelines and achieved equal intelligence gains, with far less stain on our reputation abroad. Instead, the C.I.A. turned its interrogation training over to two psychologists who reportedly lacked real-world experience and advocated untested methods.

The two psychologists she mentions are Bruce Jessen and James Mitchell, formerly of SERE, contracted to the CIA, and most recently proprietors of Mitchell, Jessen and Associates, an "executive consultancy" firm in Spokane. According to Mark Benjamin at, MJA has been a contractor for the CIA since 9/11. Techexpo, which bills itself as having "the leading career fairs for all professionals with security clearance" says:

Mitchell, Jessen, and Associates, LLC (MJA) is an executive consulting firm specializing in the area of understanding, predicting, and improving performance in high-risk and extreme situations. MJA develops specialized assessment and selection programs for high-risk occupations, devises and conducts tailored training for related, high-risk programs, and is additionally approved by the American Psychological Association to offer continuing professional education for psychologists.

What seemed to make the CIA/SERE link even more controversial was a broadside from the least expected party, a Pentagon Office of the Inspector General report on detainee abuse from August 2006 was declassified, leading Senator Carl Levin to announce he would hold hearings in the matter this fall.

Senate Hearings? or Another Cover-up?

While it is one thing for me to label the CIA's public relations response to recent allegations "a pack of lies", it's another thing for a Senate committee to find wrongdoing among government agencies.

So far, no word from Senator Levin's office as to when hearings might begin. Therefore, it's important that we keep the heat on and tell our representatives we want U.S. use of torture investigated by our elected Congress. The most effective strategy will be to contact members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, where the matter is still "being investigated". Here's a list of committee members:

Carl Levin (Michigan), Chairman
Edward M. Kennedy (Massachusetts)
Robert C. Byrd (West Virginia)
Joseph I. Lieberman (Connecticut)
Jack Reed (Rhode Island)
Daniel K. Akaka (Hawaii)
Bill Nelson (Florida)
E. Benjamin Nelson (Nebraska)
Evan Bayh (Indiana)
Hillary Rodham Clinton (New York)
Mark L. Pryor (Arkansas)
Jim Webb (Virginia)
Claire McCaskill (Missouri)

John McCain (Arizona), Ranking Member
John W. Warner (Virginia)
James M. Inhofe (Oklahoma)
Jeff Sessions (Alabama)
Susan M. Collins (Maine)
Saxby Chambliss (Georgia)
Lindsey O. Graham (South Carolina)
Elizabeth Dole (North Carolina)
John Cornyn (Texas)
John Thune (South Dakota)
Mel Martinez (Florida)
Bob Corker (Tennessee)

The U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee can be reached at (202) 224-3871.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Behind the Scenes of Anti-Torture Struggle Against DoD/APA

On September 5 of this year, I posted an article, Empire Strikes Back: APA Tops Lash Out at Anti-Torture Opponents, which discussed the efforts of former American Psychological Association president Gerald Koocher and former Presidential Task Force on National Security (PENS) Chair Olivia Moorehead-Slaughter to counter the charges of PENS member Jean Maria Arrigo that the PENS task force was heavily loaded by U.S. Department of Defense members and supporters. The latter was to assure that psychologists would still be available to staff the abusive settings and interrogations at Guantanamo, Abu Graib, CIA secret "black sites", etc. Both Koocher and Moorehead-Slaughter gave biased and sometimes outright false accounts of the events leading up to the 2006 resolution against torture by the American Psychological Association.

The 2006 resolution is important, as it served as the basis for the 2007 APA resolution, labeled as a "reaffirmation" and extension of the earlier text. The 2007 resolution banned some coercive interrogation techniques, while allowing wiggle room for others to persist. It also allowed psychologists to participate at settings where human rights are being abridged, i.e., where there is no right to habeas corpus.

What follows is a long letter, with accompanying documentation, by Stephen Soldz, Steve Reisner and Brad Olson of Coalition for an Ethical APA, exposing the amalgam of lies and half-truths put forward by Koocher and Moorehead-Slaughter in their recent letters. While opponents could also call Soldz et al. biased, I think we can let readers study and decide for themselves.


September 19, 2007

Dr. Sharon Stephens Brehm
American Psychological Association

Dear Dr Brehm:

You recently distributed a letter from Dr. Olivia Moorehead-Slaughter to members of the American Psychological Association (APA) that has spread to many APA listservs and other outlets. There are serious distortions, inaccuracies and misrepresentations in this letter, and our aim here is to correct these errors, as well as those in a related letter by former APA President Gerald Koocher, and to encourage you to distribute the correction.

At the August, 2007 Convention in San Francisco, at the invitation of the American Psychological Association’s mini-convention planners, Dr. Jean Maria Arrigo presented a paper on the PENS Task Force process. In that paper and presentation, Dr. Arrigo offered a critique of the PENS process, which included the results of her consultation with two counterintelligence experts. Amy Goodman, producer of the public television and radio program Democracy Now!, played a portion of Dr. Arrigo’s presentation on her program (August, 20, 2007) 1.

Dr. Moorehead-Slaughter and Dr. Koocher, each of whom have held positions of leadership in the APA, and both of whom were participants in the PENS process, have written open letters attacking Dr. Arrigo’s scholarship, integrity, and in one instance, her mental stability. Although these attacks were personal, we will focus on the substance of their attempts to challenge Dr. Arrigo’s critique of the PENS process.

As you know, Dr. Arrigo deposited copies of the PENS listserv and documentation materials at the Hoover Institution Archives at Stanford University in August 2006, and made these materials available to certain historians and investigators, including the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Coalition for an Ethical APA. The PENS documentation includes the full text of the listserv communications of the PENS Task Force and observers over a fifteen month period, as well as notes and documents pertaining to the Task Force meeting and the ensuing Report. Having studied these materials, we can attest that the PENS documents support Dr. Arrigo’s interpretation of the data and refute many of the statements made by Drs. Koocher and Moorehead-Slaughter. The purpose of this letter is to provide you and the public with the evidence that refutes these unfounded assertions.

Dr. Arrigo’s Critique of the PENS Task Force Process

Dr. Arrigo’s critique of the PENS Task Force Process included the following points:

1) Dr. Arrigo asserted that the PENS Task Force was created in response to press reports stating that psychologists were involved in interrogation abuses at Guantánamo and elsewhere. Neil Lewis, for example, in the November 30, New York Times 2, cited a report by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). This report stated that psychologists and other health professionals were participating in abusive interrogations ”tantamount to torture.” The article further reported that these health professionals utilized medical records to guide the processes of such interrogations. During their visits to Guantánamo in early 2003, the ICRC found these practices to be such egregious violations of medical ethics that they refused to return for six months. The article further reported that the teams of interrogation supervisors, Behavioral Science Consultation Teams (BSCTs), singled out by the ICRC, consisted primarily of psychologists and/or were trained and supervised by psychologists. This has since been validated by a Department of Defense Office of the Inspector General report, 20063.

2) Dr. Arrigo pointed out that the task force was not an independent body. Six of the nine voting PENS members were in the employ of the Department of Defense at the time of the meeting. Three held positions in the very chains of command during a critical period when, according to the Inspector General of the Department of Defense, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the Behavioral Analysis Unit of the FBI, the abusive interrogation techniques were nothing less than “standard operating procedures.”

3) Dr. Arrigo expressed concern that two APA officials holding leadership positions in the organization, neither of whom were members of the Task Force, took dominant roles in task force proceedings. Her observation was that these APA leaders guided the direction, focus, and conclusions of the task force at multiple critical points, and marginalized minority opinion. In the room, too, and privy to listserv communications, were four other unacknowledged observers, who had been APA lobbyists to the DoD and to Congress. While it is not unusual to have observers at Presidential Task Force proceedings, the presence of observers who had been lobbyists on issues that overlapped with the mission of the Task Force constitutes a further conflict of interest and potential source of bias. This is magnified by the fact that their activities included directly lobbying one of the Task Force members, who had been the Director of the Psychology Unit of the highly secret DoD Counterintelligence Field Activity Unit (CIFA) (See APA’s ‘Science Policy Insider News’ [SPIN] October, 20044.)

4) Dr. Arrigo also pointed out that the Task Force proceedings, the names of the members, and, in particular, the names of the observers, although shared with Council, were kept from the membership and from the public in a manner that is unusual for Presidential Task Forces.

5) Dr. Arrigo also presented the results of her consultation with two former counterintelligence professionals, skilled in tracing covert influences and who had not been part of the PENS process. They agreed to review the PENS procedures and staffing. Both counterintelligence professionals independently found the process consistent with “a typical legitimization process for a decision made at a higher level in the Department of Defense.”

Assessment of Dr. Koocher’s Remarks

[Dr. Koocher’s letter is available here.]

Dr. Koocher charges Dr. Arrigo with “a substantial number of false and defamatory allegations regarding me [Dr. Koocher] and other members and staff of the American Psychological Association.” He then does what should be unthinkable for an ethicist, former President of the APA, and current APA Board Member. He attempts to undermine the validity of Dr. Arrigo’s conclusions by asserting bias due to a troubled past. Dr. Koocher’s letter contains distortions and in some cases outright fabrications, such as the following:

1. “Dr. Arrigo stated that she, ‘was one of the three civilian members of the 2005 PENS Task Force.’ That statement is patently false… Six of the ten task force members and both members of the APA Board of Directors who participated in the meetings were civilians.”

In point of fact, Dr. Arrigo made no such statement; the quote is from Ms. Goodman.

What Dr. Arrigo did say was, “A third matter is an unbalanced task force. Six of the ten members were highly placed in the Department of Defense, as contractors and military officers.” There is no disputing Dr. Arrigo’s statement. Drs. Banks, James, and Lefever were all active in the military at the time 5. Dr. Gelles worked for the Naval Criminal Intelligence Service. Dr. Shumate was chief psychologist for Department of Defense Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA), and Dr. Fein was a consultant to CIFA on “effective” interrogation methods, responsible to Dr. Shumate. Although it is true that the latter three were civilians, this is irrelevant to Dr. Arrigo’s point, which had to do with conflict of interest due to DoD involvement. All three were involved in military or intelligence interrogations or interrogation effectiveness research, and could suffer career harm, including loss of security clearance, if they were to reject DoD policies. Although Dr. Arrigo said nothing about the Board liaisons’ connections with the military, it is worth pointing out that although Dr. Barry Anton, the other Board liaison mentioned by Dr. Koocher, was a civilian at the time of the meeting, he had been a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Army Reserve for 22 years. Dr. Koocher not only misquotes Dr. Arrigo, he does so in the interest of obscuring an issue that is valid and relevant: the fact of the DoD employment and/or affiliation of six of the nine voting Task Force members.

2. Dr. Koocher goes on to state that “Dr. Arrigo also conveniently ignores the fact that the task force’s report was reviewed, edited and approved by the completely independent APA Ethics Committee.”

Dr. Koocher is making the claim that whatever conflicts of interest might be evident in the PENS Task Force are somehow overridden by review of the “completely independent APA Ethics Committee.” But, in fact, the Chair of the PENS Task Force, Dr. Moorehead-Slaughter, was then Vice-chair of the Ethics Committee, and the PENS Task Force Report was actually written by Stephen Behnke, the Director of the APA Ethics Office. Dr. Behnke was designated one of two spokespeople for the Report. (The other was APA public relations director Rhea Farberman.) Other members were discouraged from speaking. As Dr. Moorehead-Slaughter wrote to the PENS listserv on July 7, 2005:

“[W]e agreed to let our Report speak for us, and that we would not share the substance of our discussions further than what the Report contains, I ask that we all refer any questions from the media concerning the Task Force to Steve and Rhea, even if we’re asked to speak off the record or “on background.“

Further, as Dr. Moorehead-Slaughter wrote on the listserv on June 25, 2007, the Ethics Committee, in reviewing the document, had an extremely narrow mandate:

“The Ethics Committee is reviewing the Report this afternoon, for the purpose of determining whether our twelve statements are “appropriate interpretations and applications” of the APA Ethics Code.”

3. Dr. Koocher asserts that “Because Dr. Levant could not attend the meeting, I (as 2006 President) represented him at the start of the meeting to help the group understand its charge and I was present for only the first six hours of the two day meeting… Such was the nature of my alleged ’strong controlling’ behavior.”

A reading of the PENS Listserv documentation shows, on the contrary, that Dr. Koocher was a dominant member of the PENS process from the very start of email communication, two months before the meeting, and he continued in this role to the very end. Here are examples of Dr. Koocher’s comments on the PENS listserv, one from six weeks before the meeting, and one from six weeks after:

May 6, 2005: “In many of the circumstances we will discuss when we meet the psychologist’s role may bear on people who are not ‘clients’ in the traditional sense. Example, the psychologist employed by the CIA, Secret Service, FBI, etc., who helps formulate profiles for risk prevention, negotiation strategy, destabilization, etc., or the psychologist asked to assist interrogators in eliciting data or detecting dissimulation with the intent of preventing harm to many other people. In this case the client is the agency, government, and ultimately the people of the nation (at risk). The goal of such psychologists’ work will ultimately be the protection of others (i.e., innocents) by contributing to the incarceration, debilitation, or even death of the potential perpetrator, who will often remain unaware of the psychologists’ involvement.”

Dr. Levant, on the other hand, contributed only one post to the listserv, on January 16, 2006, six months after the Report was published, and three months after his visit to Guantánamo at the invitation of the Department of Defense. In this sole communication he asked Task Force member Mike Wessells to reconsider his resignation from the Task Force.

4. Dr. Koocher included in his letter the following allegation:

“During the introductions Dr. Arrigo disclosed that her father served as a military officer during the Korean War, he interrogated and tortured people, and he committed suicide. She has therefore made it her life’s mission to campaign against torture and interrogation.”

Here we will allow Dr. Arrigo to speak for herself (personal communication, September 7, 2007):

“Dr. Gerald Koocher’s assertions about my background and motivations do not connect with reality. My father is not a suicide but alive, at 93 years of age, in San Francisco, where I visited him during the APA Convention. He is proud of his military service, not ashamed. My research and peace work focus on moral voices and moral reasoning within the military and intelligence community, not, as he asserted, on torture victims.”

Further, the fact that Dr. Arrigo has attended and even organized a number of conferences in collaboration with military and intelligence professionals, as well as with professional interrogators demonstrates the falseness of the claim that she “campaign[s]... against interrogation.”

5. Last, Dr. Koocher stated that, “Until now, I had remained respectfully silent in public regarding Dr. Arrigo’s biases, history of personal trauma, and lack of boundaries, but will no longer do so.”

Alas, it is not true that Dr. Koocher remained “respectfully silent” in public about this matter. When a reporter from the Washington Monthly, Art Levine, was investigating the alleged biases of the PENS Task Force in September 2006, and asked Dr. Koocher about Dr. Arrigo’s report, Dr. Koocher told this same story about her father. Mr. Levine emailed Dr. Arrigo to investigate Dr. Koocher’s allegation. Dr. Arrigo easily demonstrated its inaccuracy. When Mr. Levine was then interested in reporting the fact that the then-President of the APA had tried to plant a smear against a critic in the press, Dr. Arrigo asked him not to do so, and the matter was dropped.

Assessment of Dr. Moorehead-Slaughter’s Remarks

[Dr. Moorehead-Slaughter’s letter is available here.]

Like Dr. Koocher, Dr. Moorehead-Slaughter sidesteps Dr. Arrigo’s evidence of conflicts of interest in the PENS process and focuses on innuendos that are falsely attributed to Dr. Arrigo. Dr. Moorehead-Slaughter begins her letter with a 300 word defense against allegations she claims came from Dr. Arrigo, but that in fact were never made.

Thus, Dr. Moorehead-Slaughter states that she did not work “in any capacity for the CIA,” was not paid “monies or compensation” for her time, was not covertly “providing information to the military,” and that any implication to the contrary is “an insult to my integrity.” But not a single one of these charges can be found in Dr. Arrigo’s remarks (nor in Ms. Goodman’s, for that matter). Dr. Moorehead-Slaughter’s insinuation that such charges were made presents a false picture of Dr. Arrigo’s argument and serves the purpose of impugning her veracity, while sidestepping the conclusion that Dr. Arrigo did draw from the proceedings: that there was conflict of interest among certain members of and observers to the PENS Task Force.

Dr. Moorehead-Slaughter in her letter quotes an email Dr. Arrigo sent to the PENS listserv in which Dr. Arrigo expresses polite praise for the PENS report:

“The depth, scope, and wisdom of this document are indeed impressive, and I approve it as a Task Force member. Also, I appreciate its literary grace (owing to Steve). As mentioned previously, I have felt uneasy with some elements, primarily omissions. Fulfillment of the Task Force recommendations would relieve my concerns, and I hope for an opportunity for further participation. Thanks to the APA ethics committee, board, and staff members who have mobilized for swift review and dissemination of the PENS report.”

Dr. Arrigo provided us an explanation of her thinking:

“Dr. Olivia Moorehead-Slaughter’s interpretation of my approving comment on the penultimate draft of the PENS report is misleading. First, I spoke well of it in polite prelude to three serious objections—all of which were overruled by Dr. Koocher. Second, in June 2005 I did have positive feelings about the full PENS Report. Following its statement of twelve ethical principles. the PENS Report stated nine recommendations for action. I had initiated three of these, including the call for a PENS casebook, and was led to expect these recommendations would be implemented expeditiously. Fulfillment of the recommendations would have compensated, in a diplomatic manner, for gaps in the principles. Two years later there is still no casebook.”

(For a more detailed critique of the PENS process, see Drs. Arrigo’s and Dr. Wessells letters to Council, February 2006,in an appendix to this letter.)

In her letter, Dr. Moorehead-Slaughter disputes Dr. Arrigo’s assertion that there were “significant conflicts of interest” in the PENS Task Force membership. We have already addressed the fact that the PENS listserv reveals that the majority of Task Force members were in the employ of the Department of Defense. At this point, however, it is important to add further evidence of conflict of interest: that the process appears to have been vetted by the DoD itself. One military/intelligence member wrote on the PENS TF listserv on January 23, 2006:

As with all publicly released information, DoD and other Governmental officials have to have their work reviewed by various elements within the Government, and in this case specifically by the Department.

On January 31, 2006, Dr. Moorehead-Slaughter acknowledged without objection this “process of approval and clearance.”

Dr. Moorehead-Slaughter states in her letter, “The notion that either the names of Task Force members or their biographical descriptions were not publicly available until a year after the Task Force met is completely false.”

But this point is flatly contradicted by the fact that the PENS Report is the only Presidential Task Force Report, to our knowledge, to be released to the public without the names of the members or the observers listed. Although it is true that the names and bios of the members, after being made available to Council representatives, were posted on the Division 48 listserv, this was not acknowledged by the APA leadership, Dr. Moorehead-Slaughter, or Dr. Behnke until after the names were released in the press. Attempts were made by members of the APA and the press to obtain the Task Force membership. After the report was published, all requests were turned down.

Evidence for this comes not only from APA members and reporters, but also from the PENS listserv. This post is from August 22, 2005 by a military/intelligence member of the Task Force:

“I wanted to leave a short note regarding the Ethics in National Security Panel presentation at the APA Conference on Friday. While this was not related to the Task Force, there were many questions and comments regarding the Task Force report posed to Dr. Steve Behnke who chaired the panel. I was once again impressed with how Dr. Behnke eloquently represented our work and insured the confidentiality of the panel, despite pressure to reveal the identities of the task force members and the process that unfolded during the Task Force meetings. Steve was respectful, gracious and polite in response to some very direct and provocative questions and comments.”

Dr. Moorehead-Slaughter responded to the above email by stating, also on August 22, 2005, “I have no doubts that Steve [Behnke] was respectful and masterful in preserving the integrity of our Task Force process.”

Finally, Dr. Moorehead-Slaughter asserts that there could be no conflict of interest given that the military/intelligence members of the Task Force have been “described in publicly available documents as taking central roles in fighting detainee abuse.”

First, this point is irrelevant to the question of conflict of interest. The task facing the PENS Task Force was to investigate the APA’s response to psychologists’ roles in detainee abuses, as well as the question of whether ethical issues were raised by psychologists’ participation in detainee interrogations. The fact that the majority of PENS members (six of the nine voting members) were already directly or indirectly involved in such interrogations and their careers were dependent on such interrogations, constitutes the very definition of conflict of interest. This conflict is only exacerbated by the fact that at least three PENS members were in the direct chains of command when and where the Department of Defense 3, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) 2, and the Behavioral Analysis Unit of the FBI, all reported that these abuses had occurred. While considerable new evidence on the nature and extent of psychologist involvement in abusive interrogations has recently come to light, many of these reports were already in the public domain at the time of the PENS Task Force formation. In fact, as we have already noted, it was ICRC reports of abuse at Guantánamo that precipitated the formation of the PENS task Force in the first place. To put those in the Guantánamo interrogation chain of command on PENS after these reports were available is, by definition, a conflict of interest.

The public record is quite explicit that abuses were observed during the time when at least three PENS Task Force members were a part of the implicated chains of command. For example, there are documented reports of abuses by the CIA Counterterrorism Center taking place over an extended period while one PENS member was its chief operational psychologist. While that PENS member is reported by Vanity Fair5 (as Dr. Moorehead-Slaughter correctly notes) to have stated that he had been “disgusted” by the abuse he witnessed and to have left the scene of the abuse, the article goes on to note that the abuse became more extreme after he left, and there is no report that he made an attempt to stop it, much less that his engagement (or disengagement for that matter) led to an end to abuse.

One military Task Force member’s statement on the PENS Listserv (May 23, 2005) that “since Jan 2003, where ever we have had psychologists no abuses have been reported” has been flatly contradicted by independent bodies with thorough access to Guantánamo detainee conditions. Multiple reports, for example, from FBI agents at Guantánamo document abusive interrogations during this period:

“In late 2002 and continuing into mid-2003, the Behavioral Analysis Unit raised concerns over interrogation tactics being employed by the U.S. Military. As a result, an EC dated 5/30/03, was generated summarizing the FBI’s continued objections to the use of SERE (Search, Escape, Resistance, and Evasion) techniques to interrogate prisoners.” 8

In a June, 2004 report, the Red Cross (ICRC) noted, according to the New York Times, that,

“investigators had found a system devised to break the will of the prisoners at Guantánamo… and make them wholly dependent on their interrogators through “humiliating acts, solitary confinement, temperature extremes, use of forced positions… Investigators said that the methods used were increasingly “more refined and repressive” than learned about on previous visits” 2.

This describes Guantánamo interrogations during and immediately following the period Dr. Moorehead-Slaughter refers to as “Task Force members…taking central roles in fighting detainee abuse,” and during the period where those members asserted that the abuses stopped.

Apparently, the psychologists on the PENS task force hold very different definitions of what constitutes abuse from the ICRC, the FBI and the DOD Inspector General (OIG). The OIG report states that in August 2003 interrogators from Guantánamo attempted to teach these abusive techniques to interrogators in Iraq:

“In August 2003, the Joint Chiefs of Staff J3 requested the U.S. Southern Command to send experts in detention and interrogation operations from Guantánamo to Iraq to assess the Iraq Survey Group’s interrogation operations…Based on interviews with cognizant personnel, the JTF-Guantánamo assessment team reportedly discussed the use of harsher counterresistance techniques with Iraq Survey Group personnel” 3.

This history supports Dr. Arrigo’s contention that the PENS Task Force psychologists who were involved in interrogations could not be expected to offer an independent assessment of the ethics of psychologists’ involvement in detainee interrogations.

Dr. Brehm, you have disseminated Dr. Moorehead-Slaughter’s letter widely, giving the Presidential imprimatur to its contents. We request, in the interest of scholarly integrity, honesty, and fairness, that you send this letter to the same distribution networks. Our position is (a) that it is necessary to attend to the evidence that psychologists have been implicated in detainee abuse; (b) that the APA must do all it can do to condemn the psychologist-led abuses that have taken place and the use of psychological knowledge for the purposes of abuse; and (c) that the APA’s history of addressing this issue has been tainted by conflicts of interest that have compromised the ethical integrity of our commitment to end these practices.

The recent resolution passed by the Council of Representatives last month , Substitute Motion 35, is a step forward in bringing the APA in line with international standards of human rights and medical ethics, but loopholes exist in the language of the resolution that can be interpreted as permitting psychologists to continue participation in ‘enhanced’ and abusive interrogations; language that has been condemned by the ACLU 9, Physicians for Human Rights 10, and the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims 11. We would like to work with you and the Board to close those loopholes to prevent any implication that the APA might condone abuses, enhanced interrogations, or ‘torture lite.’ We hope that you will distribute this letter to the APA membership, and that you will ask the Board to establish a working group dedicated to aligning APA policy with the highest standards of medical ethics and human rights.


Steven Reisner
Stephen Soldz
Brad Olson
For the Coalition for an Ethical APA

Works Cited
1. Arrigo JM, Goodman A. APA Interrogation Task Force Member Dr. Jean Maria Arrigo Exposes Group’s Ties to Military: Democracy Now!, August 20, 2007. Available from:

2. Lewis NA. Red Cross Finds Detainee Abuse in Guantánamo: New York Times, November 30, 2004. . Available from:

3. Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Defense. Review of DoD-Directed Investigations of Detainee Abuse, 2006. Available from:

4. American Psychological Association Public Policy Office. Science Policy Staff meet with Psychologists in Counterintelligence. SPIN, October, 2004. Available from:

5. American Psychological Association. American Psychological Association Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security: 2003 Members’ Biographical Statements: Society for the Study of Peace, Conflict, and Violence, Peace Psychology Division 48 of APA, 2005. Available from:

6. Eban, Katherine. Rorschach and Awe. Vanity Fair Online, 2007. Available from:¤tPage=all

7. American Psychological Association. Reaffirmation of the American Psychological Association Position Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and Its Application to Individuals Defined in the United States Code as “Enemy Combatants”: American Psychological Association, 2007. Available from:

8. Testimonies of FBI Agents. (Documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union under the Freedom of Information Act.) Available from:

9. Romero A, Goodman A. The Fight for Civil Liberties in the Age of Terror: ACLU Head Anthony Romero on Civilian Killings in Iraq, Domestic Spying, Torture, John Walker Lindh and More: Democracy Now!`, 2007. Available from:

10. Rubenstein L. Report from the APA meeting: Physicians for Human Rights, 2007. Available from:

11. Quiroga J. APA resolution: a step forward in preventing torture and ill-treatment: International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims, 2007. Available from:


February 12, 2006
Dear Olivia,

Please attach to your February 1, 2006, letter to Drs. Koocher and Levant, Mike Wessells’ letter of resignation from the Task Force and my letter below, for a representation of the minority voices on the original Task Force. Mike withdrew on January 15, 2006, “because continuing work with the Task Force tacitly legitimates the wider silence and inaction of the APA on the crucial issues at hand.” Below, I outline my disagreement with the majority opinion in your letter.

I appreciate your graciousness as moderator.

Jean Maria

Addendum to Dr. Morehead-Slaughter’s February 1, 2006, letter to Drs. Koocher and Levant on behalf of the PENS Task Force

I disagree with two major assertions in this letter: (1) that the “Ethics Committee is the most appropriate group” for writing the casebook/commentary, and (2) that the Task Force “has provided the American Psychological Association the best service it is able.” Also, I remark on two related concerns: (3) lack of independence of the Task Force and (4) lack of Task Force transparency.

1. Authorship of the casebook.

Creation of the casebook is more demanding of specialized knowledge concerning interrogations than is articulation of the general ethical principles, because of the legal and political ramifications. Task Force members whose defense department affiliations prevent them from participating in the casebook can defer to their colleagues and myself to provide realistic examples for the casebook and to assist the Ethics Committee in formulating realistic advice. Without the participation of the Task Force members with defense department affiliations, the ecological validity of the casebook is apt to be low or absurd. What psychologists know about culture, setting, organizational roles, social influence, and so on, points to the need for insiders to provide the sample cases from domains clouded in secrecy. In my view, a body of illustrative examples for the Final Report is a crucial contribution of Task Force members affiliated with the national security system and would justify their majority presence on the Task Force.

2. Task Force fulfillment of service

For best service to the APA, from the beginning I have urged that the Task Force expand the scope of its inquiry. The Final Report narrowly focuses on ethical decision making by morally autonomous military psychologists faced with interrogatees at a detention center under U.S. authority. This scenario captures only a fragment of psychological ethics related to interrogation of terrorist suspects. Central topics are missing: (a) interrogation outside of premises controlled by the U.S. military, where interrogators and consultants have to maneuver gingerly with foreign counterterrorist police and military units; (b) utilization of Behavior Specialists, mental health counselors, and other paraprofessionals trained in psychology, who may easily be substituted for psychologists; (c) career and financial pressures on psychologists, for instance, on recipients of national security scholarships, fellowships, and internships; and (d) other institutional arrangements that may support psychologists’ unethical participation in interrogation, for opportunities and procedures persist in large bureaucracies. I think that the model of the morally autonomous psychologist in the U.S. detention center, as put forth in the Final Report, will fade as soon as realistic cases are examined.

3. Independence of the Task Force as an advisory body

APA sources have consistently characterized the Final Report as the product of deliberations by the ten named members of the Task Force. Dr. Koocher voiced strong opinions on the Task Force listserv and during the final deliberations in Washington. There was a continuous presence of APA functionaries, as informational resources, at the other end of the conference table. I presume these circumstances accord with APA by-laws and traditions. Nevertheless, any implication that the Task Force served as an independent advisory body to the APA President is simply false.

In my view, the external social pressure prevented the Task Force from reviewing the ethical implications of its limited mandate, a mandate that excluded investigation of the participation of psychologists in coercive interrogation.

The present letter from the Task Force chair, addressed to Drs. Levant and Koocher, informs Dr. Koocher of a decision in which he substantially participated.

4. Transparency of the Task Force

Confidentiality of Task Force proceedings was advanced on two grounds: the members with national security affiliations could not sufficiently inform our deliberations except under a promise of confidentiality, and a united Task Force position would diffuse divisive and counterproductive criticism of the APA, both from within and without. I think the first reason was valid, but the second has worked against resolution of the question of psychologists’ involvement coercive interrogation. To many APA members, as evidenced by public letters from Divisions 48 and 51, the Task Force appears to be a tool of appeasement, created by the APA leadership to obscure members’ demands for an investigation. Honest discussion from Task Force members about the conflicted proceedings (preserving confidences related to national security) would have been much more fruitful than the gag rule. Such discussion would have been a valid step in addressing members’ concerns. We can still take that step.

Jean Maria Arrigo

From: Mike Wessells

Date: January 15, 2006 12:55:10 PM PST

Subject: PENS work

Reply-To: Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security

Dear Olivia,

I’ve been meaning to write you in regard to my participation in the continuation of the PENS work but my schedule has consistently interfered. Now, with the teleconference being scheduled for next week, I wanted to write at least a brief note.

Out of ethical concerns, I have decided to step down from the PENS Task Force because continuing work with the Task Force tacitly legitimates the wider silence and inaction of the APA on the crucial issues at hand. At the highest levels, the APA has not made a strong, concerted, comprehensive, public and internal response of the kind warranted by the severe human rights violations at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay. The PENS Task Force had a very limited mandate and was not structured in a manner that would provide the kind of comprehensive response or representative process needed. In serving initially on the Task Force, I had hoped that the APA would treat PENS as one element in a strong, proactive, comprehensive response affirming our professional commitment to human well-being and sounding a ringing condemnation of psychologists’ participation not only in torture but in all forms of cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of detainees, including the use or support of tactics such as sleep deprivation. In the past six months, no such response has come from the Association, which has tended to treat the PENS Task Force as its primary response to the situation. Even the requirement by the APA Council for wide publicity of APA s 1986 resolution on human rights and torture has not been answered adequately. The quiet, timid approach the APA has taken on these issues is inappropriate to the situation, inconsistent with the Association s mission, and damaging to our profession. It has been encouraging to see a more robust statement recently from the President of the American Psychiatric Association. This is the kind of leadership warranted in the situation we face.

My concerns reflect no ill feelings toward the PENS group, which I felt honored to have worked with. Also, my concerns do not relate primarily to the PENS Task Force report. Although the report could have been stronger in many ways, I thought it made a contribution relative to the terms of reference given to the Task Force.


Mike Wessells

Amnesty International Exposes Widespread Taser Misuse

[Warning: videos show graphic scenes]

Following upon the widely reported tasering of University of Florida student Andrew Meyer the other day, it is important to note that this was not a random or unusual occurence. Many commentators have mentioned the taser attack by police on a student at UCLA who wouldn't show his I.D., back in November 2006.

Amnesty International has been documenting misuse of tasers for some time now, and has plenty of links to stories, videos, and audio programs documenting this problem. For instance, there's this, from an AI press release from March 2006:

Sixty-one people died in 2005 after being shocked by law enforcement agency TASERs, a 27 percent increase from 2004's tally of 48 deaths, finds an Amnesty International study released today. Including 10 TASER-related deaths through mid-February of this year, at least 152 people have died in the United States since June 2001 after being shocked with the weapons....

TASERs are powerful electro-shock weapons in use in more than 7,000 of the 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States. They are designed to incapacitate by conducting 50,000 volts of electricity into an individual's body. The electrical pulses induce skeletal muscle spasms that immobilize and incapacitate the individual, causing them to fall to the ground.

It's not just students who get tasered, by the way (although here's a link to another typical incident). AI has expressed its grave concern over police using tasers on vulnerable groups such as senior citizens, pregnant women and children. Here's a video of police at Los Angeles International AIrport repeatedly tasering an unarmed elderly man. Notice the fearful reaction of the girls in the background.

Just as disturbing, but with sound, is this YouTube video of a completely unprovoked tasering of a young woman at an antiwar demonstration:

A protester, who was tasered by police at a demonstration called by steelworkers against Jeb Bush in Pittsburg last year, described to Amy Goodman what it feels like to get "tasered":

AMY GOODMAN: When you say tasered, explain exactly what happened and what that means.

PROTESTER: Well, a taser is different than a stun gun. They keep saying it was a stun gun. But a taser, it's like a yellow or black gun-looking thing. It's plastic. It shoots out two wires that have barbs on the end that hook into your skin, and then it fires electrical charges into you. I didn't get hit with the full voltage [inaudible] dropped the full-voltage cartridge, but essentially when you get hit with a taser, every muscle in your body bunches up, and you can't control your movements at all. So when I got pulled back, the taser came out of my body, which allowed me to regain my balance and keep moving. But the effects of that are pretty long-lasting. You know, I was hazy and couldn't concentrate on anything for about a day and like my whole body hurts now, and things like that. It's a pretty vicious weapon. People have died because of it.

Meanwhile, even today, CNN reports on the spread of taser use to the U.S. Forestry Service:

TASER International, Inc. (Nasdaq:TASR), a market leader in advanced electronic control devices, today announced that it received an order from the United States Forest Service for 700 TASER(r) X26 electronic control devices and related accessories.

"We are excited about this new additional federal agency purchasing TASER technology to protect life," said Tom Smith, Chairman and Founder of TASER international. "Traditionally, we have focused law enforcement sales at the local and state level, but we are now seeing acceptance of TASER technology at various federal law enforcement agencies."

"We have seen a continual marked increase in TASER technology purchases at the federal level following our initial U.S. military approval of a five-year indefinite delivery indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contract. We are proud that law enforcement within the Departments of Defense, Justice, Homeland Security, Interior, and Agriculture are now relying on TASER devices to protect life."

The Department of Agriculture now arms its police -- who knew they even had police?? -- with tasers!

What's maybe most disturbing is the support for police state tactics by many in this country. Blogs and YouTube comments are filled with invective aimed at UF student Andrew Meyer, and with words of support for the police. It's quite clear from the videos of the event with Meyer that he was NOT being disruptive -- unless you believe that speaking truth to power, or talking about uncomfortable subjects like black voter disenfranchisement when only "questions" are allowed, constitutes "disruption". Meyer spoke for about a minute and a half, his microphone was cut off, and he was arrested, pleading for help and asking for outrage from an American student audience that sat on its hands. Tellingly, John Kerry did little or nothing to stop the atrocity.

Please support Amnesty International in their campaign to have a rigorous, independent, impartial study of the taser's use and its effects. Up to now, most of the touted "independent" studies demonstrating the "safety" of this lethal device have been scandalously linked to the manufacturer.

Outrageous Taser Attack on Florida Student

A journalism student at the University of Florida was "tasered" by campus police after having the temerity to speak for almost one-and-one-half minutes about black disenfranchisement and voter fraud at a "town hall" meeting with John Kerry. Videos of the arrest and assault upon senior UF student Andrew Meyer is all over the web.

On Deadline at USA Today has a good number of links. The Independent Florida Alligator's editorial states:

"UPD's actions are inexcusable and out of line. It owes an apology not just to Andrew Meyer, but also to all of UF. We must be able to trust those who are supposed to protect us. We should not have to fear them."

Meanwhile, there are plenty of lies out there, beginning with the statement from the UF administration, about how Meyer deserved his treatment, was "out of control", was "crazy", "uncooperative", etc.

Below are a few videos you can watch that vividly portray what happened, and demonstrate a violent police intrusion upon free speech, and all under the blase eye of a major Democratic party politician/former presidential candidate.

Shockingly, Senator Kerry's spokesperson claims that the senator was unaware what was going on, the auditorium was so "huge", etc. I think the videos speak the lie to this. Also, disturbingly, there are many commenters online who feel Mr. Meyer deserved his treatment: because he didn't respect the time limits, because he talked "too long", because he wasn't asking a question, etc.

Let's be clear: he spoke for one minute and 34 seconds before he was arrested. He asked three questions. Most of his time was spent highlighting the disenfranchisement of voters in the 2004 election -- especially black voters -- and questioning why Kerry conceded the election so quickly, when ample evidence for doubt appeared even on election day.

In America, dissent must be done "properly", with the right "tone", and not step on the toes of big name politicians, or speak the truth about how democracy in this country is a sham. My suggestion is this: when someone speaks piously about the tone of a political opponent, or the breaking of rules meant to curtail free speech (like making "statements" instead of asking questions), this is almost always an excuse to deep-six the political content of the person's speech, and to delegitimize his or her rights.

For the record, a poll over at the Washington Post has over one-third of the respondents endorsing the statement that this attack on free speech is evidence we have become a police state. As the Bush administration lurches towards war with Iran, and continues its illegal and brutal occupation of Iraq, the police will be used to restrain and imprison opposition to the status quo. The arrest and electrical shock attack by police upon Andrew Meyer -- no matter what one thinks about his "personality" or whether he was perpetuating a "stunt" or not -- is a small taste of the barbarity this government serves up to those who would oppose its untrammeled rule.

If Meyer had been rambling for a minute or two about how we don't give enough resources to "our troops", he wouldn't have had his mic cut off. But he was speaking about black disenfranchisement and stolen elections: verboten!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Australian Psychologists Protest U.S. Torture -- Sign Their Petition!

Spurned in their attempt to get the Australian Psychological Society (APS) to cancel ex-American Psychological Association (APA) President Gerald Koocher as keynote speaker at the 42nd Annual APS Conference, held in Brisbane this year, psychologists at the University of Queensland are circulating a petition that asks APS to

establish an APS policy on torture and its members' involvement in any activity that could be classified as supporting torture in line with the United Nations policy on Human Rights.

Gerald Koocher has a long history supporting the practice of psychologist participation in national security interrogation settings, including such sites as Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, and CIA "black sites".

Recently, Dr. Koocher attacked in print another psychologist who spoke about her experience as a member of a blue ribbon APA presidential panel studying APA policy on psychologists and interrogations. This psychologist blew the whistle on a process that was overwhelmingly stacked by pro-Department of Defense personnel. Koocher ridiculed her in public as having a "lack of boundaries" and a "troubled upbringing".

Wollongong contra Koocher

In a letter to the Australian publication InPsych, and published earlier this month, a number of lecturers and students at the Psychology Department, University of Queensland, including the clinical director, described the situation (thanks to Stephen Soldz for the link):

In an earlier ABC [Australian Broadcasting Company] program, Lateline, on March 26, [2007] the US bioethicist Stephen Miles made the point that since psychiatrists (and other bodies representing health professionals in the USA) have come out against involvement in ‘interrogations’ like those carried out at Guantanamo, the US Defense Department now approves only of psychologists to participate in the organisation or management of interrogation teams. This is because the APA took the position that it’s OK to participate in such interrogations - something that has put it in opposition to other health professions, even if it recommends it to the US defence establishment.

The APA was at that time under the presidency of Dr Koocher, and he was actively involved in organising the APA’s response to the criticism in the media and by some psychologists that the involvement was contrary to the ‘do no harm’ principle underlying its professional code. Dr Koocher used his APA presidency to defuse criticism of the APA’s soft stance on psychologists’ involvement in interrogations that many rightly see as torture. Dr Koocher is criticised by a number of APA members, and also the wider media, because he refused to condemn the involvement, is seen as having helped the APA to exculpate psychologists involved in torture, and to prevent it from endorsing clear and unequivocal rejection of this involvement.

As an example of the possible shenanigans over at Australian Psychological Society (APS), Arthur Veno, who is a scheduled speaker at the APS conference, and was supposed to also receive an award at same conference, found himself and a colleague left off the printed conference program. An error or dirty tricks? We can't be sure, but Dr. Veno is a noted critic of APA's policy. But to me, it certainly sounds familiar. Meanwhile, Dr. Veno has requested that APS allow circulation of the petition to all APS members.

For those interested, the text of the petitition is as follows. Please sign (I saw about 70 signatories last count, but growing rapidly):

In light of a letter... from our colleagues at the University of Wollongong, Australia, appearing in "Letters to the Editor" of InPsych, dated 10 September 2007 and subsequent investigation regarding the standpoint of past president of the APA, G. P. Koocher - invited as keynote speaker to the Australian Psychologists Society's Conference in Brisbane, this petition is made.

There appears to be neither an APS policy with respect to torture nor APS members' involvement in government sanctioned torture.

Hence, no formal organisational response to the APA is possible, even if the APS wished to do so.

Therefore, we ask other APS Members, and sympathising colleagues internationally, to join with us in petitioning the APS Board to take urgent action to:

establish an APS policy on torture and its members' involvement in any activity that could be classified as supporting torture in line with the United Nations policy on Human Rights and

resolve how the APS should respond to the APA with respect to its policy regarding its members' involvement with torture.

To get to the petition ---

Over on the right hand side of the screen, go to ORF – Online Research Facility. Then use this password: apsconf

Australian Politics: Innocent Naivete or Cynical Bush Alliance?

Amanda Gordon, APS President, has supposedly assured opponents of current APA policy that the Australian society has much less to worry about with its own government vis-a-vis the interrogation issue than their U.S. colleagues. That sounds dubious to me. For instance, The Sydney Morning Herald reported on claims that an Australian official was present during the torture of Mamdouh Habib, an Australian national that the U.S. sent via secret rendition to Egypt to be tortured. He was later released from Guantanamo Bay.

Then there are the amendments to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) Act of 1979 (also known as the ASIO Terrorist Act), passed by the John Howard government:

The amendments have given ASIO the power to detain anybody over the age of 16 who may be able to provide information relating to a terrorism offence, regardless of whether they are themselves suspected of being linked with terrorism. Detention can last up to 7 days, with questioning for a maximum of 48 hours.

Critics have objected to the inclusion of children in the legislation, as well as the length of detention and the focus on non-suspects....

Those detained are obligated to answer all questions and produce 'any record or thing' requested by ASIO, or face a penalty of 5 years imprisonment, the only exception being if they do not have the information, where the onus of proof is on the subject of the warrant. This means that those detained under these laws are denied the common law 'right to silence' - that is the right not to produce information which may incriminate them, as well as the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

These facts, and more, point to a state apparatus in Australia that is subservient to U.S. policies, and more than likely not uninterested in what takes place in Australian psychology politics, even in places as far afield as Wollongong.

I've long insisted that the seeming playpen politics of state and national psychology associations are in reality crucial battlefronts in the fight for human rights and civil liberties in this era of the so-called "war on terror". All interested parties should support the APS petitioners in their protest.

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