According to a new report, the American Psychological Association collaborated in secret with the C.I.A. and the Bush administration to establish legal and ethical justifications for the torture program. The report focuses on the emails, newly disclosed, of a recently deceased researcher at the RAND Corporation who was later a defense contractor.
The report—available here—is authored by three long-standing critics of the APA: Stephen Soldz, Steven Reisner, and Nathaniel Raymond. “The A.P.A. secretly coordinated with officials from the C.I.A., White House and the Department of Defense to create an A.P.A. ethics policy on national security interrogations which comported with then-classified legal guidance authorizing the C.I.A. torture program,” they conclude.
According to the New York Times, the report examines closely the email archives of Scott Gerwehr, a researcher “who had close ties to behavioral scientists at both the psychological association and in the national security agencies.”
In 2004, George Tenet suspended the torture program in order to make sure that the Bush administration still supported it. (The APA ordered an independent review in November of its actions during this period, the Times reports.) At this point, the report’s authors contend, the APA stepped in. From the Times:
In early June 2004, a senior official with the association, the nation’s largest professional organization for psychologists, issued an invitation to a carefully selected group of psychologists and behavioral scientists inside the government to a private meeting to discuss the crisis and the role of psychologists in the interrogation program.
Psychologists from the C.I.A. and other agencies met with association officials in July, and by the next year the association issued guidelines that reaffirmed that it was acceptable for its members to be involved in the interrogation program.
To emphasize their argument that the association grew too close to the interrogation program, the critics’ new report cites a 2003 email from a senior psychologist at the C.I.A. to a senior official at the psychological association. In the email, the C.I.A. psychologist appears to be confiding in the association official about the work of James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, the private contractors who developed and helped run the enhanced interrogation program at the C.I.A.’s secret prisons around the world.
In the email, written years before the involvement of the two contractors in the interrogation program was made public, the C.I.A. psychologist explains to the association official that the contractors “are doing special things to special people in special places.”