Saturday, June 16, 2007

Physicians for Human Rights Takes on American Psychological Association over Interrogations Issue

(Tip of the hat to Stephen Soldz over at Psyche, Science, and Society for this)

Executive Director Leonard Rubenstein of Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) has written a letter to Sharon Stephens Brehm, PhD, President of the American Psychological Association (APA), asking her to respond affirmatively to the recent revelations in a Pentagon Office of Inspector General report on detainee abuse. These revelations directly implicated military psychologists from the Pentagon's SERE program in "reverse engineering" POW resistance techniques from its schools for use as abusive interrogation guides and torture at Guantanamo Naval Base prison, and elsewhere.

Mr. Rubenstein's letter further lists a number of abusive practices, asking the APA to abjure 19 different unethical interrogation practices. (At least two of these practices, the use of drugs in interrogation, and the use of sensory bombardment or overload to "overwhelm the senses", have been studied by the APA, in conjunction with the CIA, in only the past three years. See my article on this from a few weeks back.)

In addition, beyond asking for APA to support the currently proposed moratorium on psychologist participation in interrogations, put forth by internal opponents to the current APA policy, PHR is suggesting the following ethical position to guide psychologists in the murky waters of interrogation:

Psychologists do not participate directly in the interrogation of an individual prisoner or detainee. Direct participation includes being present in the interrogation room; asking questions; suggesting questions; providing any advice, consultation, or assistance regarding the use of interrogation techniques with a specific interrogation subject; or monitoring an interrogation for the purpose of offering advice, consultation, evaluation or assistance in the use of techniques with a particular subject.

Psychologists do not offer general advice or training, research, experimentation, facilitation, or any other general assistance, outside the context of an interrogation of a specific subject, regarding use of interrogation methods that are intended to, or that the psychologist has reason to believe will, result in increased levels of psychological distress or harm to the subject.

Many kudos to PHR and its Executive Director, Leonard Rubenstein, for taking on the issue of torture and bringing it to the doorstep of those who participate, and in certain instances, cover or alibi the use of torture and other cruel and inhumane treatment by U.S. military and spy personnel.

Link to original PHR letter in PDF format.

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