Saturday, July 11, 2015

Soldz & Reisner's "Comments" to APA on Hoffman Report, with My Initial Thoughts on the Report

As can be seen from the introductory material below, the following material has been granted wide release by its authors. I am reproducing it here with general formatting from the original. A few typos have been quietly corrected.

The "Comments" by Stephen Soldz and Steven Reisner concern the July 10 release of the APA-initiated Hoffman report, "Independent Review Relating to APA Ethics Guidelines, National Security Interrogations, and Torture," conducted by David H. Hoffman of the law firm Sidley Austin LLP. A PDF of the lengthy report can be found here. APA's own press release and their own recommended actions related to the report's release is linked here. An index to the exhibits in the report and five binders of supplementary materials used in the report are posted at APA's website.

Previously, I cited what I believed to be serious questions regarding conflict of interest issues regarding Hoffman and CIA and the RAND Corporation (see here and here). I still believe those were relevant questions to ask, and until I absorb the full report, I cannot say for certain what effect any relationship in particular between Hoffman and the CIA or RAND had in the final version of the report.

In this report, Hoffman stated that he could not get the full story on how the APA interacted with CIA, primarily due to classification issues. Regarding the issue, for instance, of participation of past APA presidents with the CIA, Hoffman had this to say in a key paragraph:
As to the actions and knowledge of the former APA officials listed above (Fox, Gravitz, Matarazzo, and Seligman), some of them were clearly brought closer to the circle of knowledge through important interactions with Hubbard and Mitchell, as described further below. But we did not find evidence that there was a significant link between APA and their interactions or communications with the CIA. It is a fair question whether important interactions between these very prominent former APA officials also entailed, led to, or were connected to important interactions between APA and CIA. Except for very limited instances, we did not see any evidence of this in our examination of APA emails and other documents, and in our interviews, despite having found a very substantial amount of email and documentary evidence establishing important interactions between APA and government officials in other contexts, as set out above and below. On the one hand, this makes sense, since prominent psychologists who are former APA Presidents and Board members would not necessarily think that their interactions with the CIA about these issues would call for them to contact the APA, unless the CIA had specifically requested something from APA. On the other hand, we keenly recognize that in investigating activities involving the CIA, an agency that trains people to keep things secret for a living, we are especially limited in our ability to determine definitively what occurred, and therefore we are aware that our conclusions can only be based on the evidence available to us. This is especially true when the interactions are between CIA officials and individuals who were not APA officials or employees at the time, since their emails would not necessarily have been within APA’s system. [pg. 46 of report]
Furthermore, there are various points were evaluations of the evidence seems unwarranted, or based on interviews and evaluations of credibility that cannot be independently assessed, as in the assertion that "APA did not have the same close and longstanding relationship with the CIA as it did with DoD..." I also believe that Hoffman's dismissal of the import of the 2003 APA-CIA-RAND meeting, and the roles of Kirk Hubbard, Charles "Andy" Morgan, Kirk Kennedy, Susan Brandon, Philip Zimbardo, Martin Seligman, and others, may not be accurate. But I hesitate to say more until I have more fully examined the evidence, particular what has been posted in the over 600 MB of binder material at APA's Hoffman-related webpage.

There is also the significant problem that the entire issue of the controversy over the use of Behavioral Science Consultants in interrogations is posed as something in the past. In fact, as I've made clear recently, the passing of the Feinstein-McCain amendment to the National Authorization Act, which made use of the Army Field Manual a lawful requirement by government interrogators, including the CIA, means that use of BSCs have now the force of law. Much worse, and related, is the fact that the Army Field Manual on interrogations itself contains many abusive and torture-like "techniques" like isolation, sleep and sensory deprivation, use of fear and inducing "hopelessness and helplessness" in detainees, such that it has been condemned by the UN and various human rights organizations. The Hoffman report never references anything in relation to this.

Despite these concerns, and any others I may yet find, the report has provided a wealth of material that is useful to those who oppose unethical use of medical professionals in interrogations, as well as those who oppose torture in general and are trying to unwind the entire story of U.S. involvement in torture. For that I am grateful. The report helps fill in many gaps in our knowledge of how APA interacted with the Department of Defense, both in sidestepping and sabotaging critics, and in managing how APA ethics practice could be made congruent with DoD (and CIA) needs. I agree, however, with Hoffman, that evidence shows that changes to the APA ethics code itself, made in 2002, were not in response to the need to alibi torture, at least not in their inception.

Additionally, it has not passed my notice that the report has important new details on certain stories I covered earlier, including the interrogation and abuse meted out by NCIS to Daniel King, and Stephen Behnke's work helping train the BSCTs.

Also, Hoffman examined changes made to the "Common Rule" governing government-linked human subjects research changes made by Paul Wolfowitz to DoD's own directive on such research, and stated, "it seems likely that the exceptions in the Common Rule and the definitional changes in the Wolfowitz Directive broadened opportunities for DoD to conduct research on detainees subjected to interrogations."  He added, "However, there is no evidence that APA acted to facilitate psychologists’ participation in such research, if it occurred."

Hoffman evidently drew in part upon a lengthy examination of the Wolfowitz Directive and other ethics changes which Jason Leopold and I wrote in October 2010, as he footnoted that article in a section that commented on the weakening of informed consent protections by DoD (pg. 281 of the report).

As regards the rehabilitation of the APA, I am dubious. In my Jan. 2008 public resignation from the APA, I wrote, "I view APA's shifting position on interrogations to spring from a decades-long commitment to serve uncritically the national security apparatus of the United States. Recent publications and both public and closed professional events sponsored by APA have made it clear that this organization is dedicated to serving the national security interests of the American government and military, to the extent of ignoring basic human rights practice and law. The influence of the Pentagon and the CIA in APA activities is overt and pervasive, if often hidden."

Ongoing revelations, including the material in the Hoffman report, strengthens this conclusion from seven years ago. I do not believe that, recent events otherwise, this is going to change.

Now, the U.S. is gearing up for new Cold War with Russia and China, and the use of psychologists and other medical professionals by the military and intelligence services is likely to continue. It would be utopian to believe that APA or any significant organization involved in government contracts and activities would be able to separate itself from such actions. Instead, we might see that a rejuvenated APA, supposedly made clean by a purging of elements, like Behnke, APA's former Ethics chief who was recently fired based on the Hoffman revelations, still working on many elements of strengthening imperialist armed forces aimed at war and conquest, much as medical professionals and their organizations have in the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.

It has not passed my attention, for instance, that the American Psychiatric Association and American Medical Association, both of which have stated policies against the use of their members in interrogations, have never once censored or made charges against any CIA or DoD medical professional for their actions in relation to renditions and torture. As APA proposes to make a similar ban, it is worth considering the worthlessness of how such bans have been implemented, or rather not implemented, at those organizations.

The following are the thoughts and recommendations of key opponents of APA policy on interrogations. I have not evaluated these in any depth, and present them here for public examination and as a key part of the evolving discussion around the APA torture scandal, noting that the authors note their comments are preliminary, and that they, too, have not had time to absorb the full content or import of the Hoffman report.

I thank Stephen Soldz and Steven Reisner for their willingness and dedication to transparency to make these "Opening Comments" to APA a part of the public record. (Update: Dr. Soldz has now added a link to his own posting of the "Comments.")

As you know, Steven Reisner and I met with the APA board on July 2. We agreed to confidentiality until the report was public, which happened today. We, therefore, are distributing the Opening Comments that Steven and I made at that meetings. We believe that they provide a guide with which to judge APA’s actions in the coming weeks. Feel free to distribute. [Apologies for cross-posting.] {Ed. note: square brackets in original}

Opening Comments of Stephen Soldz and Steven Reisner to the American Psychological Association Board, July 2, 2015

Last October, James Risen published allegations of American Psychological Association (APA) complicity in the Bush era torture program in his book Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War. In the wake of these allegations, the APA Board in November 2014 commissioned an independent investigation of these allegations. This allegation was conducted by Chicago attorney David Hoffman of Sidley Austin LLC and his colleagues.

In late June, 2015, as they prepared to receive the Hoffman Report, the APA Board asked to meet with us (Steven Reisner and Stephen Soldz). We presume we were asked because over the last nine years we have been leaders of the movement to remove psychologists from abusive and sometimes torturous national security interrogations. Further, we have researched and published extensively on these issues and extensively shared the results of our research with Hoffman and his team. Most recently, we were the psychologist coauthors of the report All the President’s Psychologists: The American Psychological Association’s Secret Complicity with the White House and US Intelligence Community in Support of the CIA’s ”Enhanced” Interrogation Program, which was featured in a May 1, 2015 New York Times article.

The Board requested and we agreed to keep the substance of our discussions confidential until the report became public. However, with the public release of the report, we are now free to speak. Below are our opening comments to the Board.

Stephen Soldz Comments:

Thank you for having us here. I wish it was under less disturbing circumstances. We have come to discuss with you what we believe needs to be done by the American Psychological Association (APA) in the wake of the imminent release of the Hoffman Report. The conditions of confidentiality requested by the Board and agreed to by us have precluded our being able to discuss our ideas with our colleagues who have joined us for the last decade in our attempts to unveil the web of collusion beneath APA’s policies and actions regarding psychologist participation in sometimes abusive national security interrogations. However, our ideas have benefited from hundreds of hours of discussion with colleagues regarding the steps necessary to put APA on an ethical course. We believe that these ideas reflect those of many others besides ourselves, though we also consider it vital that the voices of those many others be actively heard as we proceed.

I would like to make some opening comments, following which Steven Reisner will describe our ideas for the initial steps needed for APA to right itself and weather the storm that is just over the horizon. We would like to emphasize that these comments and ideas were put down less than 48 hours after we obtained access to the 500+ page Report. Neither of us has even read the entire report, much less absorbed it. Thus, these ideas are preliminary and may well be supplemented by others as we fully absorb the report and discuss with colleagues what should be done.

I would like to begin with a very brief summary of what we take to be the gist of this report. The report documents in exhaustive detail the existence of a years long conspiracy to engage in collusion between senior leadership in the APA and the intelligence community, including the CIA and, most notably, the Department of Defense (DOD). This collusion involves a two-pronged strategy by the APA: First, there was a concerted attempt to generate so-called “ethical” policies on psychologist involvement in interrogations that would provide no constraints whatsoever on psychologists in the military working for DOD and other agencies. The second prong consisted of an elaborate deceptive and dishonest public relations strategy to falsely portray APA policy as concerned with the protection of detainee welfare and human rights.

This collusion included the development of apparently fine-sounding policy statements that were, as the report documents, virtually always vetted directly by DOD officials; manipulation of critics of APA policy to ensure that attempts to change that policy were toothless and did not in fact challenge DOD policies or practices; a strategic decision to turn heads away from increasing evidence on torture and other detainee abuse, including homicides, and on psychologist involvement in that abuse; and the dismissal and/or failure to investigate in any serious way ethical complaints against psychologists alleged to have participated in abusive interrogations, accompanied by repeated assurances from APA officials that all complaints would be comprehensively investigated. This collusion was accompanied by systematic manipulation of APA governance procedures, the active solicitation of opposition to critics by APA staff, and even the recording, in at least two known instances, of falsely claimed “unanimous” votes.

This years-long collusion was accompanied by false statements from every Board and every elected President over the last decade denying the existence of the collusion described in such detail by Mr. Hoffman. The collusion was also accompanied by squelching of critics and, sometimes, by personal attacks upon them in the face of overwhelming evidence in the public record, including media reports and the results of multiple government investigations by Congress and other agencies. Most notable, are the vicious personal attacks upon PENS task force member and national hero Jean Maria Arrigo, who first revealed the collusion, attacks that in one case was distributed widely by the president of the Association; responses to those attacks went unanswered by that President or any other Association official. Other critics have been banned from state psychological association listservs; been attacked by an APA president in the official Monitor on Psychology as “opportunistic commentators masquerading as scholars;” been threatened with possible libel suits and ethics complaints; been disinvited from speaking to and writing for state psychological associations; been surreptitiously recorded by APA staff when having a private conversation with reporters; had venues where they were speaking criticized and even implicitly threatened with loss of accreditation; and called “clowns” in a national psychological newspaper by an individual given numerous awards by APA and its divisions and who is often in APA governance. This, sadly, is only a partial list of the attacks on critics. In none of these instances did people in APA leadership positions stand up to defend the right of critics to speak. These actions were all undertaken against those who sought to uncover the collusion that was denied by Association leadership, including this Board and the current CEO only a few months ago.

That is the background to our meeting today to discuss how the APA should respond to the crisis facing the Association, the profession, and the country. I suspect that some of you have not yet fully grasped the magnitude of this crisis. As the result of its collusion, the APA is likely to become the public face of torture. The press storm will be fierce. Editorials will condemn the Association’s actions. Congress members will weigh in. Human rights groups, frustrated with the lack of accountability for torture, will be lining up to raise money off of suing the APA. There may be a decade of lawsuits, draining the budget and staff and elected officials’ time. Members will flee and young psychologists will be even more reluctant to join. And the Association’s 501©(3) nonprofit status may be threatened.

More importantly, if not handled correctly, torture collusion will become the public face of the profession we love. There is little doubt that the APA’s actions will go down in history books next to the chapter on the Tuskegee and Guatemalan syphilis experiments. The actions we take in the coming weeks, months, and years will determine how that chapter ends.

I would like to end by outlining what I believe are the fundamental principles that should guide the APA’s actions forward. These are: contrition, accountability, transparency, inclusiveness, and genuine change. Notice that I did not list “healing” or “reconciliation.” Healing and reconciliation are needed, certainly, but this is not the time to talk of them. Before healing can start, we need painful surgery to remove the tumor that our work and the Hoffman Report demonstrate have been at the heart of the APA for the last decade.

Now Steven will describe the preliminary steps necessary to start removing this tumor.

Steven Reisner Comments:

Following on Stephen's comments I want to reiterate: There is a cancer on the APA. You here will have to decide whether to do the necessary surgery or whether you will preside over the death of the association:

There are four issues here:

1. The APA sacrificed its reputation and independence – perhaps its 501c3 tax exempt status – to align its policies with those of the CIA and the DOD. This was an active campaign, with constant behind the scenes consultation, in order to do the bidding of these agencies, first the CIA, then the DOD.

2. There was an active campaign to undermine the will of the membership and of the council when they attempted to institute ethical restrictions on such activity. Simultaneously efforts were made to prop up and expand opposing efforts in support of such activity. Sometimes efforts were made to create opposing efforts to such activity. Thus APA ceased being a member-driven or democratic organization. The letter and spirit of the organizations by-laws were thwarted in favor of this secret agenda pushed by a staff that is supposed to be neutral and facilitative of the will of membership and governance. Instead staff manipulated the council and the membership.

3. There was a public relations campaign directed to deceive the public and to manipulate governance. To the public the PR campaign made the false claims that APA was acting independently for human rights at the behest of its membership, while in fact it was doing the opposite. Within the organization there was a campaign to influence and manipulate those who opposed the policy or were uninformed and to bully those who would not be manipulated.

4. All of this was done to advance a program of torture and abuse. It continued long after that program and the psychologists’ role in that program were public knowledge. If this level of manipulation and deception were done solely to secretly promote a government agenda, it would be a scandal; the fact that it was done to support torture and abusive monitoring of and research on detainees, is more than a scandal – it reaches the level of support for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The numbers of APA staff and members of governance involved actively in this disgrace is staggering. It began with a few and rapidly incorporated increasing numbers from top to bottom.

Before I lay out what we believe APA must do, I want to make clear what you are dealing with. If the report is released on July 20th, there will be front-page articles in every major newspaper in this country and around the world on July 21st.

The headlines will read: Report Finds APA Leadership Colluded With Bush Administration in Support of Torture.

What will the subheading read?
“Many named remain in leadership positions”
“APA removes tainted leadership in response to investigation”

This is not a PR problem. This is a survival of the association problem. And there is no good way to get through this. You will face numerous lawsuits and secondary investigations. You will face a hemorrhage of membership and the loss of public trust. And APA is going to lose its central leadership of the past decade and a half.
I will now follow on Stephen’s list of five essential categories of steps that must be taken if the association has a chance of surviving:

Genuine Change


· Let’s be clear that contrition is not a PR maneuver. Contrition requires thoroughgoing acknowledgement, remorse and change. APA must publicly acknowledge the depth and scope of this failure.

· Apology to all affected – to the people harmed (detainees), it includes the public and the congress (for not upholding public trust and deceiving them), to the profession, members, former member and non-members for undermining our ethical foundations, opening us up to ridicule and scorn, and damaging our reputation. And to Jean Maria Arrigo.

· I would like to see an op-ed written by APA leadership in the Times expressing this contrition.

Accountability and Housecleaning

· Staff involved must be fired
· Members involved must be banned from governance
· Bring ethics charges where appropriate.
· More importantly, APA must publicly recommend state ethics charges where appropriate.
· Make sure there is no hint of conflicts of interest in any part of governance or staff
· Those found to be part of the collusion should be stripped of association awards, standing and honors.
· And then you can give a special award to Jean Maria for being willing to stand up to an onslaught of power and manipulation that no one in this room was willing to stand up to.

I will start with staff. I see that some of the people who need to go are in this room. That in itself tells me that you don’t really yet understand the seriousness of your situation. I want to say that this list is possibly incomplete, because I haven’t yet read every page of the report.

Staff to be fired
Anderson, Honaker, Gilfoyle, Farberman, Garrison, Kelly, Mumford, Behnke.

Governance prohibition effective immediately
Levant, Koocher, Banks, Dunivin, Moorehead-Slaughter, James, Deleon, Gelles, Newman, Gravitz, Shumate, Breckler, Strassberger, Sternberg, Matarrazo, and Anton

Recusal for conflict of interest and investigation of role required

APA needs to recommend to Division and State Association that they do the same.

But housecleaning is a small piece of what is necessary for full accountability.
How do we hold leadership and governance itself accountable?
How do we answer the question, how did this happen and what must we do to insure it doesn’t happen again?

We must have a thoroughgoing and independent institutional review. We need to appoint a blue ribbon panel to evaluate the organizational processes, structures, procedures and culture that allowed this to happen.

The panel must recommend changes in processes, structures and procedures geared to preventing this kind of power manipulation from happening again. It must review APA’s overly close ties to military, intelligence agencies and government; it must in particular look at the potential for corruption in the directorates, in particular the ethics office, the ethics committee and the science directorate. It must investigate the APA voting processes and investigate the opaque entity that counts our votes: Intelliscan

It must further address:

· The power of staff and how it oversteps its institutional bounds
· The progressive minimization of the oversight role and authority of Council and restore its authority and responsibility
· Investigate how staff managed to impede the will of Council and prevent it from happening again (e.g., 1.02, statue of limitations).

We need a committee of ethicists to redesign APA ethics policy and procedures. It may be true that 1.02 was not changed with torture in mind – the fact that it and other standards were weakened under the influence of APAIT is a second scandal unto itself that must be investigated. We also need to reopen ethics cases closed as part of this conspiracy. And if those to be investigated are no longer members, we must recommend state board investigation.

There must be a financial accounting, including DOD, CIA and government money, awards, fellowships and quid pro quos.

We must refer this report and its findings to the FBI and we must cooperate fully in any ensuing investigation.

We must also refer the report to the appropriate Congressional committees, as per Senator Feinstein’s request. These committees include Senate Select CI, SASC, Senate Judiciary, and Senate Committee Health and human services and their counterparts in the House of Representatives. (Like the PENS report)

Policy change

All policies regarding APA and national security must be annulled, including the approval of operational psychology as a subspecialty.

Review of the ethics of national security and operational psychology:

Blue ribbon panel #2 to do a thoroughgoing independent ethical review of the role of psychologists in national security operations. JMA should be a part of such a panel, along with internationally recognized medical ethicists and human rights advocates.

Moratorium on participation in national security interrogation and detention operations during the review process.

No statute of limitation on TCID ethics charges, automatic ethics committee investigation for TCID charges when these arise in the context of national security operations, detention or interrogation activities.

We need to develop guidelines for undertaking such investigations.

For Non-members, APA has to recommend full investigation from the state boards in national security sites and offer them guidelines.


Let this be the last time that APA discussions of such import are held in secret. We need to make all such discussions transparent and easily accessible. We also need to report in plain language:
· The salaries and perks of staff
· The lobbying APA does
· Who gets to represent APA to congress and government and how such people are chosen.
· Anything else members of council, the membership, or the public wants to know or should be informed of.

We need to make all our deliberations and actions transparent, including these discussions.

We should have APA books publish the Hoffman report; The American Psychologist and the Monitor should publish the Executive Summary.

We should deposit the entire record of the Hoffman investigation deposited into the APA PENS Debate Collection at the archive of the University of Colorado at Boulder.

And we should call for a Congressional investigation into the role of health professionals and health professional organizations roles in support of the torture program and invite the other health professional organizations to do the same.


All stakeholders must be represented in these discussions. These include the broader psychological community, including those who opposed now-tainted APA actions when they occurred and the hundreds or thousands who quit the APA because they recognized this complicity while the elected leadership and staff denied it. In addition, equally important stakeholders are the medical ethics community, human rights advocates, Congress (as seen by the expressed desire of Sen. Feinstein to review the report), and the broader public, as attested to by the extensive press interest in our April report. All of these have a stake in the decisions and initiatives you and we undertake today and in the coming weeks.

Ultimately, and importantly, we must set aside a time in August for a lengthy Town Hall Meeting at the convention where we give the membership a chance to discuss these revelations

Genuine Change - ???

Stephen Soldz
Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis

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