Sunday, August 7, 2016

Psychologist Association Ethics Chief Paid $10,000s for Training Advisers to Guantanamo Interrogations

Back in May 2015, I broke the story that the American Psychological Association's "long-time Ethics Director Stephen Behnke worked directly with Department of Defense officials in creating a training curriculum for psychologists working with interrogators at Guantanamo and elsewhere." The issue was later taken up in the July 2015 "independent review" on APA collaboration with the Department of Defense, CIA, and FBI on national security interrogations released by David Hoffman and co-workers at the law firm Sidley Austin (see PDF for full report).

The Hoffman report did a decent job looking at Behnke's work with the Department of Defense on the establishment and training of psychologists and other behavioral health specialists, including sometimes psychiatrists, to work for DoD's Behavioral Science Consultation Teams, or BSCTs. (For alternate view, see note below.) The BSCTs were formed to offer advice and guidance to interrogators at Guantanamo and other DoD interrogation sites, and to the guard and detention force at Guantanamo as well.

Today, BSCTs help facilitate Army Field Manual Appendix M interrogations, which use isolation, sleep and sensory deprivation, and environmental and dietary manipulations, as well as other AFM interrogation techniques, such as "Emotional-Futility," to purposely prolong the "shock of capture," and create a "sense of hopelessness and helplessness" and futility in prisoners being interrogated. (See PDF of AFM.)

Mentioned in passing in the Hoffman report was the amount of money Behnke received in what was a clear conflict of interest, as on one hand he presented himself to the public as an ethics expert working for a professional psychological association, offering his advice on the torture controversy to APA members and the public at large. On the other hand, he was paid a good deal of money to help train adjuncts to ethically problematic if not abusive interrogations.

Behnke has said he did not personally profit from the trainings. He told the Hoffman/Sidley investigators that any money he received was turned over to APA, minus any travel expenses, and that APA used the money for "educational purposes" or programs. Where exactly that money went within APA -- and Behnke said he handed it directly over to the Ethics Office -- has never been precisely enumerated. The issue in any case is not only the money (prior to 2011, Behnke said he was paid $1500 per workshop, and $5000 per workshop in later years), but the unethical method by which Behnke and others kept the association with the BSCTs hidden.

According to the Hoffman report (p. 360):
Shortly after Behnke’s first training in April 2006, he and [BSCT psychologist Col. Debra] Dunivin explicitly discussed not telling APA’s Board about his participation in the BSCT training program. And in fact, it appears that APA’s Board was never made aware of his participation, his status as a DoD contractor, or these payments from DoD to APA. On June 18, 2006, Dunivin emailed Behnke (copying [Special Forces psychologist, Morgan] Banks) and asked, “Did you report to APA Board about participating in training at Ft Huachuca? I know we talked about waiting to report it out... What do you think, Morgan?” Behnke replied that the Board did not know, and implied that keeping quiet about it might be the best strategy: “I’ve not mentioned it to the Board; after my last meeting with the Board, I expect that it would receive the Board’s full support. I have informed my APA supervisors, naturally, but given how hot things are at the moment discretion may be the better part of valor for the time being, at least in terms of the broader APA community.”

Behnke did in fact tell his supervisor, APA Deputy CEO Michael Honaker, that he was regularly giving a paid ethics lecture at an Army base as part of the interrogation training course for BSCT psychologists.1679 Honaker did not provide this information to CEO Norman Anderson or the Board. When Anderson learned from Sidley during the investigation that Behnke had been providing this training as a DoD contractor, he appeared stunned, and was visibly upset that the matter had not been discussed with the Board.

Guantanamo has been widely condemned as inhumane and a torture site, even under the Obama administration administration, where conditions of indefinite detention, violent forced cell extractions, drugging of prisoners for "chemical restraint," and multiple suicides have taken place. In addition, the Obama administration reliance on the current Army Field Manual (2-22.3) on interrogation is problematic, according to UN monitoring agencies, who said some of the techniques allowed in that manual's Appendix M amount to "ill treatment" and raise concerns of torture.

The UN issued a report criticizing the Army Field Manual's Appendix M in late 2014, but as we shall see below, both APA and Behnke continued to work teaching "ethics" to those who used or consulted on use of Appendix M as recently as last year.

Dr. Behnke and his APA associates certainly knew of the controversies over interrogation, including by Appendix M methods, but chose to offer their services to DoD, while hiding them from APA rank-and-file and the public at large. Behnke was later fired by the Board. His supervisor, former Deputy CEO at APA, Michael Honaker, "retired."

The Contracts Released by Hoffman/APA

Below is a list of known contracts Behnke was involved in. The earliest available for perusal is from December 2010. The most recent available is from February 2015. Prior to 2012, Behnke was listed as the contractor; afterwards, APA itself is listed as contractor. According to Hoffman's narrative of events (pages 358-361 in his report), Behnke said he worked as a contractor doing training for and designing curriculum for training the BSCTs since 2006. Hence the list below is by no means complete, only what has been made thus far publicly available.

In the contract for Behnke's 2010 work for DoD, he is described as having "been associated with the BSCT course since its inception several years ago. He is viewed as an expert in this field." (All quoted material and data on Behnke's contracts are from Binder #3 of the material released by APA to accompany the Hoffman report. See PDF of this portion of the material, and this link for all associated materials to the Hoffman report.)

2/17/15 - Contractor: APA
Issuer: USA Medcom - HCAA
Amount: $10,000
“Provide Behavioral Science Consultation course”

1/22/14 - Contractor: APA
Issuer: USA Medcom - HCAA
Amount: $10,000 - BSCT SME Instuctor DSB

1/25/2013 - Contractor: APA Issuer: Great Plains Regional Contracting Office, USA Medcom -HCAA
Modify earlier contract, no $ amount specified - "CLIN 0001... Contractor will provide a Behavioral Science Consultation Team (BSCT) Course"

12/19/12 - Contractor: APA Issuer: USA Medcom –HCAA (Health Care Acquisition Activity) - Amount: $14,999
BSCT instructor – 3 1-day classes

12/20/11 - Contractor: Stephen Behnke Issuer: USA Medcom -HCAA - Amount: $15,000
BSCT Guest speaker providing course – 3 1-day classes

12/22/10 - Contractor: Stephen Behnke Issuer: Great Plains Regional Contracting Office, Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston - Amount: $7,497
Guest Speaker, consultant to, BSCT training, 3 (1) day trainings

Terms of Contracts

The classes were of 12-16 students per training, and conducted at the Army's Ft. Huachuca Intelligence Center and School.
The training will be conducted at Ft. Huachuca at the Intelligence Center and School. The target audience is composed of military psychologists (psychiatrists occasionally) and enlisted behavioral health specialists assigned in support of interrogation/detainee operations....
The services required to meet the agency's needs are to provide behavioral health personnel training in support of interrogation/detainee operations. Topics to be addressed and therapeutic materials:
* Ethics involved in performing duties as a BSCT
* American Psychological Association's view on torture
* American Psychiatric Association's view on torture
* MEDCOM/OTSG Policy on utilizing BSCTs
* FM2-22.3 Human Intelligence Operations
* How to remain Safe, Legal, Ethical and Effective as a BSCT
It is worth noting that the contract language in the latter contracts stated, "OTSG [Office of the Surgeon General]/MEDCOM policy Memo 09-053 (Behavioral Science Consultation Policy) requires that all active duty Psychologist, Forensic Psychiatrist, and Behavioral Science Technicians, serving in a BSCT role be trained in the core principles of interrogation and the psychology of persuasion."

The 2012 contract stated: "This contract will consist of training conducted on 'Ethical Decision Making' under guidance and direction. The trainer and facilitator will provide guidance, eduction and knowledge in learning and application of ethical principles within Behavioral Science Consultants Teams. Once trained, BSTC [sic] will provide safe, legal, ethical and effective consultative services to Interrogators, Detention Guards, Intelligence Commanders and Detention Commanders using the sound ethical principles."

There's a lot to ponder in the full information on Behnke's contract. The reason to publish this particular post is to bring more of the full story of unethical behavior at APA into the open.

But it is not only APA's actions that are notable. One thing I found interesting is how long, even really to the present day, the training of the BSCTs to help interrogators remains something contracted through DoD's health services. What is that about? Perhaps it has something to do with drawing BSCT personnel often out of current medical military personnel. In any case, the blurring between medicine and the world of interrogation and torture remains a feature of DoD's ongoing interrogation concept. Additionally, the full story of the ongoing role of the Office of the Surgeon General, or the Army Medical Services in working with military intelligence and detention officials remains somewhat obscure.

There's plenty to still investigate on the torture scandal, but the appetite to do so remains vanishingly small, particularly in Congress. Indeed, there is nothing in the supposedly "progressive" platform of the Democratic Party about any kind of accountability for past torture, nor any indication that the abusive Army Field Manual should be changed or withdrawn. I don't expect to see any change in a Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump administration either.

-- Added Note (8/7/16): After this posting was published, I had some feedback on Twitter to the effect that my conclusions were unfair to the military psychologists involved, that they were not involved in any torture or were ever found to be, and that in essence, I didn't know what I was talking about. In previous postings I've given links to a website where these psychologists, including Debra Dunivin and Morgan Banks, mentioned above, have posted letters, relevant documents, etc. I do recommend the interested reader peruse their site at www.hoffmanreportapa.

While I disagree with their point of view, the psychologists who put together have done a service in posting links to many valuable documents. See their "references" page.

The most recent statement by the group is dated August 2, 2016 and is signed by Colonel (Ret.) L. Morgan Banks, Colonel (Ret.) Debra L. Dunivin, Colonel (Ret.) Larry C. James, and Dr. Russ Newman. In the format of a reply to a recent posting by anti-torture activist, psychologist Stephen Soldz, the reply document states that the Hoffman report’s conclusions are incorrect, "especially the claim that APA and DoD officials colluded to ensure the PENS Guidelines would not constrain abusive interrogations."

Banks, et al. believe that DoD documents in place already made clear that torture was unacceptable. They say that Hoffman characterized the "normal organizational process of creating policy as 'collusion,'" and misread certain sections of the APA's PENS report on ethics and national security. Even more, they maintain that military psychologists in national security settings "can be a strong bulwark against abuses." They say that "DoD psychologists became a primary force for trying to end abusive interrogations." This is certainly a key argument by any who would feel Stephen Behnke was in fact trying to prevent torture by lecturing to BSCTs, and that there is nothing untoward about his contracting to do so.

I was particularly interested in Banks, et al. claim that a June 9, 2015 press release by "seven human rights and civil liberties organizations, including the ACLU and Physicians for Human Rights, [which] supported the McCain-Feinstein Amendment to the Detainee Treatment Act." Banks et al. note, "The release does not criticize Appendix M, which specifies the stringent restrictions placed on the use of separation (the military’s term) or isolation (the critics’ preferred term). It is worth noting that the APA likewise gave strong support to the McCain-Feinstein Amendment both before and following the release of the Hoffman report."

Banks, et al. are correct about this press release, and I was sharply critical of this press release by ACLU and others in a June 13, 2015 article I posted at this site.

But Banks, et al. must ignore the many writings by human rights organizations that have been very critical of Appendix M. Indeed, in a March 11, 2016 article by Deb Reichmann at Associated Press, Raha Wala, senior counsel for defense and intelligence at Human Rights First is quoted as saying, "We have been asking for changes to the Army Field Manual and Appendix M in particular for years now... There hasn't been momentum. I now sense that in the first time in years, there is a real interest in looking at it."

In the same article, Mark Fallon, who leads the research committee of the Obama administration's multiple agency High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, said, "I don't think there's much validity to Appendix M... I think it can open the door to the types of abuses we have seen before."

Hence, there is a gulf of difference in opinion between myself and other APA and U.S. government critics and the people at Interested readers should pursue the relevant documents and decide for themselves who makes the stronger case.

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