The CIA letter states that there are no responsive documents relating to my request for more information on PSAC. What's newsworthy about this particular FOIA episode concerns the individuals involved with PSAC and the role of PSAC itself in relation to the construction of the CIA's torture program and the involvement of top APA figures and others with that program.
The Hoffman report, released in July 2015, indicted the APA for collaboration with Defense Department officials to enable psychologists to work on interrogation matters, though no specific link was made to torture. But since it was known that DoD was involved in torture, the nature of the collaboration was murky, and certainly seemed to facilitate psychologists involvement in torture.
But the Hoffman report also alibied known links to CIA officials, including those directly associated with James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, two DoD, and later CIA-linked psychologists who have been widely credited with helping construct (if indeed they were not the leading forces, which I actually doubt) the CIA "enhanced interrogation" torture program. I was not entirely suprised about this "limited hangout" aspect of the report, as I earlier had linked Hoffman to working, and possibly friendly, relations with former CIA chief George Tenet. The interested reader can peruse my analysis of these issues here.
From my standpoint, the Hoffman inquiry and supporting documentation provided those seeking the full truth about the government's torture program with some new "dots," even if Hoffman himself either ignored linking such "dots," or even engaged in some misdirection.
One of the more interesting pieces of information about the CIA's torture program that surfaced in the Hoffman report concerned the PSAC. The PSAC was described in the report as consisting of three leading outside psychologists—former APA Presidents Ron Fox
and Joe Matarazzo, and former APA Division 30 (Hypnosis) President and security-cleared CIA contractor Mel Gravitz. The Committee itself was allegedly formed by CIA official Kirk Hubbard, who was closely linked with James Mitchell, and who has described himself as the "Chief of the Research & Analysis Branch, Operational Assessment Division, Special Activities Group, CIA," and occasionally as "Chief of the Behavioral Sciences Staff at the Central Intelligence Agency."
According to the Hoffman report, "Hubbard says when he returned to CIA headquarters in 2000 from a covert assignment in London to lead a new behavioral science research unit, he believed the CIA needed to be less insular and he therefore formed the PSAC with Matarazzo, Gravitz, and Fox to enhance the access of Hubbard’s unit to experts in the area of psychological assessment and related issues. Contemporaneous emails from [Susan] Brandon confirm that this was his approach. Matarazzo, Gravitz, and Fox were apparently paid a small amount. Hubbard, Matarazzo, and Fox told us the meetings focused almost exclusively on understanding and applying psychological assessment models in various contexts, but that none of the contexts related to interrogations."
Joe Matarazzo, a former President of the APA, was also Mitchell and Jessen linked, as he was a governing, that is, corporate member of Mitchell, Jessen and Associates, the entity M&J used to contract their services to the CIA's covert rendition, detention and torture program. Though Hoffman said he found some indications Matarazzo was helping the CIA on its torture program, he pointedly did not pursue further the Matarazzo connection.
But he did release a copy of the minutes to a PSAC meeting for January 25, 2002, a period of time when the torture programs at both DoD and the CIA were ramping up. The first detainees at Guantanamo had arrived there only two weeks before.
Present at this meeting were APA "senior scientist" Susan Brandon, and CIA contract psychologist James Mitchell. Brandon is today a top interrogation research official in the Obama administration, being in charge of research for the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, or HIG. Earlier, Brandon was instrumental in the formulation of the APA's ethics policy explicitly endorsing the participation of psychologist in torture. She was formerly Chief of Research for the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), Defense Counterintelligence and Human Intelligence Center (DCHC) Behavioral Sciences Program. Prior to that, Brandon served in the Bush, Jr. White House as assistant director of Social, Behavioral, and Educational Sciences for the Office of Science and Technology Policy.
Mitchell is famous as the presumed architect, or at least leading proponent and practitioner, of the CIA's torture program. The fact a major Obama administration official is linked to Mitchell and the CIA has gone practically unnoted by the U.S. press, or indeed by even the various critics of the CIA and the APA.
In a January 15, 2002 letter to Kurt Salzinger, the Executive Director of the APA's Science Directorate, Brandon and Geoff Mumford, Associate Executive Director of Science Policy for the Science Directorate, detailed some of their recent interactions with CIA's Hubbard. They warned that while "interactions between APA members and the CIA can be general knowledge (we put a note about Bob Sternberg's visit there in SPIN and PSA), the specifics of the people working there --their interests and roles -- might best be kept among those of us mentioned in and addressed by this note." (See "Binder 3" to the Hoffman report, which also has the copy of the PSAC minutes discussed in this article.)
Ten days later, Brandon attended the PSAC meeting (pg. 165 of the report). This is the Hoffman Report's narrative of that event, drawing heavily on Brandon's account:
In January 2002, the CIA’s Professional Standards Advisory Committee invited Susan Brandon and James Mitchell to attend a Committee meeting.660 Brandon said that Mel Gravitz and Ron Fox were her contacts in the CIA, and they asked her to come and brief the Advisory Committee. At the meeting, held on January 25, the minutes reflect that Brandon was introduced to the other members and asked to sign a “secrecy agreement,” before being briefed on the function of the CIA’s Operational Assessment Division and the purpose of the Advisory Committee. Brandon then discussed her role at APA, including her involvement in planning the upcoming conference at an FBI Academy to remedy the FBI’s traditional disengagement from academics and scholars.661 Following Brandon’s presentation, the group discussed “collaborative efforts between OAD, PSAC, and APA,” and Mitchell presented “research findings in cross-cultural assessment of personality.”662 Brandon said she could not recall Mitchell’s presentation, but her general impression was that Hubbard was more interested in obtaining information from spies around the world than from detainees. She said that nobody at the meeting asked her about interviewing or interrogations, and it did not strike her that the others at the meeting were interested in that topic.663 After the meeting, Brandon and Hubbard communicated regarding ways that Brandon and APA could be useful to Hubbard’s group.I don't think there's much reason to take Brandon's account purely on face value. However,I think I've demonstrated that the PSAC both exists, and that knowledge of what other business was transacted by that group could be of importance to our understanding of both the CIA torture program and the collaboration of leading psychologists associated with the American Psychological Association with the CIA in that program.
But the CIA said, in a letter to me dated May 5, 2016 they could not find any records responsive to my request. Certainly this is obfuscation of some sort, and I have appealed their finding. Both the full CIA letter and my appeal letter are appended below.
June 7, 2016
Agency Release Panel, CIA
c/o Michael Lavergne
Information and Privacy Coordinator
Dear Sir or Madam,
This letter constitutes an administrative appeal under the Freedom of Information Act, 5. U.S.C. Sec.
I am writing to appeal the determination by the CIA with regard to my FOIA request filed on July 16, 2015, #F-2015-02180, for records concerning meetings of the CIA's Professional Standards Advisory Committee, hereafter "PSAC." By letter of May 5, 2016, I was informed that the CIA FOIA department "did not locate any records responsive to [my] request."
The lack of any responsive records seems untenable, as at least one copy of the minutes of a meeting of the Professionals Standards Advisory Committee is in the public domain, having been released as documentary material by the American Psychological Association (APA) as part of the release of a report by Mr. David H. Hoffman of Sidley Austin LLC (hereafter, "Hoffman Report").
The Hoffman Report, dated July 2, 2015, was posted online by the American Psychological Association, which had tasked the report from Mr. Hoffman as an "independent review" of APA's activities regarding national security interrogations. The URL for the full report is http://www.apa.org/independent-review/APA-FINAL-Report-7.2.15.pdf. The full title of the report is "Report to the Special Committee of the Board of Directors of the American Psychological Association - Independent Review relating to APA Ethics Guidelines, National Security Interrogations, and Torture." The PSAC is the subject of a subsection of this report, which can be found on pages 156-157 of the report.
The minutes of the one PSAC meeting noted above are dated January 25, 2002. They were published as part of a general distribution of documentary materials related to the Hoffman Report by APA, and can be found at page 353 of a PDF downloadable at APA’s website. The specific URL for that collection of material, known as “Binder 3”, which holds the PSAC minutes, is http://www.apa.org/independent-review/binder-3.pdf. The document can be found on page 353 of that PDF.
I would like to add, in order to assist any further search, that in the same PDF file, "Binder 3," on page 349, is a letter dated January 15, 2003, signed by Susan Brandon and Geoff Mumford, both then from APA (although Ms. Brandon also worked for the government), referenced the PSAC. They wrote that the unit had been created by Mr. Kirk Hubbard, then Chief of the Research & Analysis Branch in the CIA's Operational Assessment Division. They wrote: "They currently retain a 3-member paid advisory group consisting of 3 APA members: Joe Matarazzo, Ron Fox, and Mel Gravitz meeting on average once a month, now in their second year of service."
In the Hoffman Report (p. 185), it states, "Sidley spoke with several members of the Advisory Committee, including Kirk Hubbard, Joseph Matarazzo, Ronald Fox, and James Mitchell, and more than one member of the Committee explained that its purpose was to advise the CIA on the methodology for conducting operational assessments of
personnel." Hubbard and Mitchell both worked in the early 2000s for the CIA. None of these individuals stated there was no PSAC. Hence, I add this information to show that it is not tenable that no responsive documents exist for this entity.
I suggest that another search be done, including a search of CIA databases ARCINS and/or AIRRS, or whatever record system is used to reference activities of the CIA's " Operational Assessment Division."
To make matters simpler, in my original request I asked for all PSAC records "between the dates January 1, 1999 and the date of this FOIA request [7/16/2015]." I would like to reduce that time frame to all PSAC records between September 11, 2001 and December 31, 2005. At the same time, I reiterate from my original request that by "records" I am referring to "all written agendas, correspondence regarding its work or meetings, emails regarding its work of meetings, memoranda, meeting minutes, membership lists, dates of meetings, written reports that reference its work or are the product of its work, and presentation materials."
Thank you very much for your consideration of this appeal.