Aletho News


Ethics Director Among Top Psychologists Who Aided CIA Torture and Cover-Up

By Claire Bernish | ANTIMEDIA | July 13, 2015

An alarming recent report revealed not only that prominent psychologists colluded with the Department of Defense and CIA to create a framework of justification for appalling and inexcusable torture, but the person heading that partnership was none other than Stephen Behnke, the Ethics Director of the American Psychological Association.

The APA’s collusion with the national security apparatus is one of the greatest scandals in U.S. medical history,” declared a statement by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) following the report’s release. That statement called for a full investigation by the Department of Justice over the APA’s actions—and inactions—that gave the Bush administration the greenlight for cruel and inhumane torture of the highest order.

“The corruption of a health professional organization at this level is an extraordinary betrayal of both ethics and the law and demands an investigation and appropriate prosecutions,” implored PHR’s executive director, Donna McKay. “Rather than uphold the principle of ‘do no harm,’ APA leadership subverted its own ethics policies and sabotaged all efforts at enforcement.”

Acting in concert with DoD officials, the APA became the de facto “PR strategy” [read: propaganda campaign] that sanitized gross human rights abuses in order to “curry favor” with the DoD. Sleep deprivation, waterboarding, stress positions, and other forms of torture were both spuriously justified and allowed to continue through the creative editing and generalization of the very ethics standards that should have prevented any torture from taking place. According to the report:

[K]ey APA officials were operating in close, confidential coordination with key Defense Department officials to set up a task force and produce an outcome that would please DoD, and to produce ethical guidelines that were the same as, or not more restrictive than, the DoD guidelines for interrogation activities.”

The 542-page report, first obtained by the New York Times, resulted from seven months of investigation by a team headed by David Hoffman of the law firm Sidley Austin, at the request of the APA’s board.

Physicians for Human Rights summarized the “overwhelming evidence of criminal activity by APA staff and officials”—whose involvement is evidenced in the report by the following four key conclusions:

  1. “Colluding with the U.S. Department of Defense, the CIA, and other elements of the Bush administration to enable psychologists to design, implement, and defend the post-9/11 torture program”
  2. “Allowing military and intelligence personnel to write APA ethics policies regulating their own conduct to ensure they were ‘covered’ in their roles for the torture program”
  3. “Engaging in a coordinated campaign to cover up the collusion and blocking attempts to oppose these policies within the APA” and
  4. “Obstructing and manipulating ethics investigations into psychologists involved in the torture program”

Hoffman’s report posits several motives—all with “organizational conflict[s] of interest”—that the APA had for its rather astonishing partnership:

“[The] DoD is one of the largest employers of psychologists and provides many millions of dollars in grants or contracts for psychologists around the country. The history of the DoD providing critical assistance to the advancement and growth of psychology as a profession is well documented . . .”

Further, the group of DoD and APA officials who crafted the laughable ethics policy actively dodged international law of the Geneva Convention, where its strictures were tighter than U.S. law. [I] cannot take a stand opposed to the U.S. government,” said one. Even the APA’s president-elect called it a ‘distraction’ to draw international law into APA’s ethics guidance.” This falls in line with President Bush’s outright rejection of the conventions following 9/11 as a deplorably whimsical way to land al-Qaeda and Taliban detainees in a “legal black hole,” as human rights groups and U.S. allies described it.

In a press release, former APA president Dr. Nadine Kaslow stated, “The actions, policies, and lack of independence from government influence described in the Hoffman report represented a failure to live up to our core values. We profoundly regret, and apologize for, the behavior and consequences that ensued.” Listing adopted and proposed strategies to prevent the possibility of a recurrence of such abhorrent ethics violations, Kaslow also admitted, “This bleak chapter in our history occurred over a period of years and will not be resolved in a matter of months.”

Resolved? For whom, exactly? PHR has called for the APA to change its policies for a full decade now—and has pleaded for a federal investigation for at least as long.

Despite the execrable abuses in the CIA torture report—the entirety of which hasn’t even been fully disclosed—one simple, and utterly indefensible, fact overshadows every new revelation.

Something that appears to be a minutiae from the torture report is, in actuality, a glaringly tragic prediction. One interrogator told a detainee that he would never go to court because, he explained, “we can never let the world know what I have done to you.”

But we do know. The entire planet knows.

And all those who suffered or died, enduring unspeakably heinous crimes at the behest of the U.S. government—know.

Yet no onenot a single personhas ever even been charged for their crimes.

July 13, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , | 2 Comments

Psychologists colluded with CIA to keep ethics code in line with post 9/11 torture needs – damning report

RT | July 11, 2015

The US’s leading professional psychologists’ organization helped justify CIA and Pentagon torture programs, a new 542-page report shows. The psychologists involved later profited from torture-related contracts.

The report, concluded this month, examined the involvement of the American Psychological Association (APA) in the validation of the so-called program of enhanced interrogation, under which terror suspects were subjected to torture at CIA black cites and at the Pentagon’s Guantanamo Bay prison facility.

The document prepared by a former assistant US attorney, David Hoffman, says some of the APA’s senior figures, including its ethics director, pushed to keep the association’s ethics code in line with DoD’s interrogation policies. Other prominent external psychologists took actions that aided the CIA’s torture practices, defending it from growing dissent among its own psychologists.

“The evidence supports the conclusion that APA officials colluded with DoD officials to, at the least, adopt and maintain APA ethics policies that were not more restrictive than the guidelines that key DOD officials wanted,” the report published on Friday by the New York Times said. “APA chose its ethics policy based on its goals of helping DoD, managing its PR, and maximizing the growth of the profession.”

The Hoffman report focuses on the APA’s close ties with the Pentagon and can be viewed as complimentary to last December’s Senate report that exposed the brutality of post 9/11 CIA tactics towards terror detainees, the NYT said. It also gives additional details about how the intelligence agency adopted the enhanced interrogation program and solicited outside advice to stem concerns among its own medical professionals.

The report also describes several instances in which senior figures involved in the program moved into the private sector to get lucrative contracts from the CIA and the Pentagon. For instance, Joseph Matarazzo, a former president of the psychological association and a member of the CIA advisory committee, was asked by Mr Kirk Hubbard (CIA psychologist who was chairman of the agency advisory committee), to provide an opinion about whether sleep deprivation constituted torture. The conclusion was that it did not.

Later, Matarazzo became a partner in Mitchell Jessen and Associates, a contracting company created by James Mitchel and Bruce Jessen to consult with the CIA on their interrogation program. They were instructors for the Air Force’s SERE (survival, evasion, rescue and escape) program, in which US troops are subjected to simulated torture to prepare them for possible capture. They adapted the program’s techniques for use against terror detainees, the report said.

After the Hoffman report was made public, the American Psychological Association issued an apology.

“The actions, policies and lack of independence from government influence described in the Hoffman report represented a failure to live up to our core values,” Nadine Kaslow, a former president of the organization, said in a statement. “We profoundly regret and apologize for the behavior and the consequences that ensued.”

One of the more immediate consequences of the report was the resignation of the APA’s ethics chief, Stephen Behnke, according to the Guardian. The psychologists coordinated the group’s public policy statements on interrogations with a top military psychologist, the report said. He later received a Pentagon contract for training interrogators, without notifying the American Psychological Association’s board.

Kaslow told the newspaper that Behnke’s last day at the APA was July 8, after the association received Hoffman’s report, and that further resignations were likely to follow.

A similarly damning report on the APA’s involvement in US government torture programs was published in April.

July 11, 2015 Posted by | Corruption, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

American Psychological Association Refuses to Charge Member Who Committed Torture at Guantánamo

By Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman | AllGov | January 25, 2014

a13de587-bb38-4810-9211-d60197d62061An American psychologist who took part in the torture of a Guantánamo detainee has avoided disciplinary action by an association of his peers.

The American Psychological Association (APA) wrote in a letter that John Leso, a former U.S. Army reserve major and psychologist, would not be rebuked for participating in the harsh interrogation of Mohammed al-Qahtani in November 2002.

Qahtani was suspected of helping plot the September 11, 2001, attacks.

The APA said in the letter to Trudy Bond, an APA member who filed the complaint against Leso, that it had “determined that we cannot proceed with formal charges in this matter. Consequently the complaint against Dr Leso has been closed.”

The association did not deny that Leso took part in the brutal interrogation of Qahtani, whose treatment was categorized as torture by a U.S. military commission.

A classified record of the interrogation, which surfaced in 2005, showed Leso (identified as “MAJ L”) was present while Qahtani was forcibly given liquids, denied use of bathrooms, resulting in him urinating on himself, subjected to loud music, and repeatedly kept awake while being “told he can go to sleep when he tells the truth.”

Leso’s role in the use of torture at Guantánamo was bolstered by documents that surfaced during a U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee torture inquiry which highlighted Leso’s involvement with a special team at the prison that crafted torture techniques. Leso’s name, rank and membership on the team were cited in minutes of a Guantánamo meeting that was published by the committee. That record quoted Leso, at the time, as pointing out that the detainees “are used to seeing much more barbaric treatment” and therefore the team’s use of “force” on them “may be ineffective.”

Leso also helped write a 2002 memorandum that detailed the use, at Guantánamo, of “stress positions,” sleep deprivation, dietary manipulation, isolation and exposure to extreme cold. The memo made its way through the Pentagon bureaucracy, leading U.S. forces to apply those same abusive techniques to detainees at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison in 2003.

The Senate’s torture report quoted Leso as telling them he had been uncomfortable with the memo he helped produce, preferring instead a “rapport-building approach” to interrogation. APA’s ethics office made note of this, and it has been speculated that it played a role in Leso’s exoneration by the group.

Bond and other APA members who wanted Leso punished were dismayed by the decision. They believe that APA gave more weight to the doubts that Leso expressed after the fact than to his actual participation in the torture program.

“With Leso, the evidence of his participation is so explicit and so incontrovertible, the APA had to go to great lengths to dismiss it,” Steven Reisner, a New York clinical psychologist who unsuccessfully ran for the APA presidency last year, told The Guardian. “The precedent is that APA is not going to hold any psychologist accountable in any circumstance.”

Bond said the organization had sent the message that “psychologists are free to violate our ethical code, perhaps, in certain situations.”

An APA spokesperson, Rhea Farberman, told The Guardian that its investigation could not meet the burden of finding “direct unethical conduct” by Leso, and said it was “utterly unfounded” to fear the organization has condoned professional impunity. Farberman added that the APA’s “standing policies will clearly demonstrate that APA will not tolerate psychologist participation in torture.”

To Learn More:

US Psychology Body Declines to Rebuke Member in Guantánamo Torture Case (by Spencer Ackerman, The Guardian)

American Psychological Association Letter on Dr John Leso: ‘We Cannot Proceed with Formal Charges’ (The Guardian)

Shrinks, Lies and Torture (by Trudy Bond, Counterpunch)

Is It Finally Time to Punish Pro-Torture Judge and Doctors? (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)

Psychologists Move against One of Their Own Who Helped Torture (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)

January 25, 2014 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture | , , , | Leave a comment