Friday, August 17, 2007

News Brief from APA Convention

There was a great turnout for the rally against APA collaboration with the CIA and Department of Defense on interrogations today in San Francisco's Yerba Buena Gardens. The rally, put on by Psychologists for an Ethical APA, capped a day of workshops at the APA's "mini-convention" examining the role of psychologists in national security interrogations. About 250 psychologists and anti-torture activists listened to speakers from around the country denounce APA's pro-military interrogation policy, and speak for a moratorium against psychologists collaboration with military interrogations and camps where indefinite detention and other abusive practices of detention take place.

The rally was covered by Democracy Now! Amy Goodman also interviewed Stephen Soldz and Steven Reisner, two prominent APA activists who have been working to change APA policy. The interview can be watched or read in transcript here.

Readers of this blog will have to wait for any substantive analysis by myself, as events are unfolding at a dizzying, rapid pace, e.g., there is talk of another new "compromise" resolution between anti-torture forces, the division of military psychology, and the APA Board. In the meantime, I can report that the interrogation workshops were filled, standing room only, with about 300-350 participants per workshop, many of them speaking out against the history and practice of psychologist collaboration with the U.S. torture practice.

The highlight thus far of the event was the presentation by psychologist Jean Marie Arrigo, who detailed the behind-the-scenes shenanigans that made the APA's 2005 Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security (PENS) a made-in-the-Pentagon farce. Arrigo quoted a statement by David DeBatto, a counterintelligence professional, retired from the U.S. Army, who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom:

My interpretations of the PENS task force and DoD members being in on meetings and representing positions of high level government decision makers is very clear. They were there, in my opinion, basically to observe, to spy, if you will, and to report back to the DoD. This goes way, way up in the Department of Defense in my professional opinion. Probably as high as a deputy secretary, and beyond that, it definitely has the ear of the Secretary of Defense.

That's only one revelation from the convention. There's much more to report in the days to come. Meanwhile, the political tide flows towards the Sunday morning meeting of the APA Council of Representatives, which will consider potentially competing resolutions on psychologist participation in national security interrogations. Will psychologists join their sister organizations in medicine and psychiatry and forbid their members to participate in Bush's lawless interrogations and barbaric sensory deprivation-organized torture camps? Stay tuned.

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