Sunday, July 12, 2009

Former PENS Participant Exposes APA on Interrogations Issue

On June 18, the American Psychological Association released an open letter from the regarding psychologists' involvement in abusive national security interrogations. While APA openly admitted for the first time that psychologists had been involved in the torture interrogations scandal, a number of human rights activists and groups released a statement criticizing APA for "minimizing the extent of psychologists’ involvement in state-sanctioned abuse as well as APA’s own defense of such involvement."

Now, Stephen Soldz has posted at his blog a letter from Dr. Jean Maria Arrigo, a member of the APA's 2005 Psychological Ethics and National Security (PENS) Task Force, responding to the June 18 APA Open Letter:
APA Board of Directors:

I was troubled to see the primary Board Liaison [1] to the June 2005 PENS Task Force among the signatories to your June 17, 2009, Open Letter. As a member of the PENS task force, I sat next to the primary Board Liaison throughout the three-day meeting. Your representative contributed to the flawed process of the PENS report and failed to reveal the severe conflicts of interest that shaped the process and the outcome of the meeting. As part of any statement to the membership, I therefore believe the Board should accept responsibility for the flawed PENS process and annul the PENS Report.

Prior to the PENS meeting, as documented in the PENS listserv, the primary Board Liaison proposed that Dr. Russell Newman, then Director of the Practice Directorate, attend the PENS meeting as an “observer.” In fact, Dr. Newman dominated the agenda with his arguments that our fundamental task was to put out the fires of controversy at APA, that we must act in great haste, introduce no context-specific ethics principles, project unanimity, and speak to the membership only through the voice of appointed representatives.

Dr. Newman is married to BSCT psychologist Debra Dunivin, who had served at Guantanamo. We now know she conferred with Army Surgeon General Kevin Kiley (author of the BSCT instructions) immediately after our completion of the PENS report, as documented in the PENS listserv. Given his wife’s close personal interest in the matter, Dr. Newman’s major role in setting the agenda of the PENS meeting constituted a severe conflict of interest. The primary Board Liaison was an accessory to this arrangement. Similarly, the CEO, an ex officio member of the Board who was Dr. Newman’s immediate supervisor, presumably knew of this significant conflict and violated his fiduciary responsibility to the membership to protect them from such conflicts.

Other undisclosed guests at the PENS meeting also had conflicts of interest. Former and current high-level APA staff members Drs. Susan Brandon, James Breckenridge, Heather Kelly, and Geoff Mumford all had lead roles in the funding of psychology through national security agencies. Two had even sought funding for psychology through task force member Dr. Scott Shumate, director of the Behavioral Sciences Directorate, Department of Defense Counterintelligence Field Activity, as announced in the October 2004 APA Science Policy Insider News.

It was your primary Board Liaison who suggested, early on the first day of the PENS meeting, that the entire proceeding be kept secret from the APA membership. At that time there were no sensitive matters under discussion, and no sensitive information in regard to national security emerged as the meeting continued. The confidentiality served both to conceal severe conflicts of interest in production of the PENS Report and to reduce the likelihood of informed dialogue throughout the APA concerning the PENS Report.

Finally, as is now well known, six of the ten psychologists the Board appointed to the task force worked for the very government security organizations whose behavior was in question. As representatives of their employers in formulating the PENS Report, the six members subordinated psychological ethics and international human rights law to Bush Administration interrogation law. The primary Board Liaison was witness to this development during the three-day meeting.

Although not currently on the Board, the secondary Board Liaison to the PENS Task Force took a much stronger role than the primary Liaison in subordinating international human rights law to U.S. law and in corrupting the PENS process. Examples of his inappropriate interference in task force business, far exceeding the role of Liaison, appear throughout the PENS listserv.

The Board of Directors cannot reasonably disclaim responsibility for the PENS Report, which it accepted without even waiting for approval of Council. The recent Open Letter does not reflect the knowledge held by the two Board Liaisons and several other APA staff members and officers. Annulment of the 2005 PENS Report is crucial to the credibility of the 2009 Board.

Jean Maria Arrigo, Ph.D.
Member of the 2005 APA PENS Task Force
Footnote 1: This footnote is not from Dr. Arrigo, but I am adding here for clarification. Dr. Arrigo speaks of two Board Liaisons at the PENS meetings. The two Board Liaisons were Dr. Barry Anton and Dr. Gerald Koocher. The latter was also APA President in 2006. I believe Dr. Anton, a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Army Reserve for 22 years (although a civilian at the time of the PENS meetings), was the "Primary Liaison" to which Dr. Arrigo refers, making Dr. Koocher the "Secondary Liaison." See link for more information.

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