Pay Any Price
October 22, 2014 10:12 AM   Subscribe

The fact that the APA secretly allowed the CIA to assist in revising its ethics policies on whether psychologists could participate in interrogation is much more than the fox simply guarding the hen house. It is like the fox being given a white coat and becoming a fully licensed USDA poultry inspector.

God, I love a spot-on metaphor.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 10:39 AM on October 22, 2014 [13 favorites]

The OLC memos state that a good-faith defense against torture charges could be made if experts, in this case psychologists, claimed that the application of the torture tactics did not cause “severe, long lasting mental pain and suffering.”

How is that not begging the question? How do they know there won't be any long lasting mental pain and suffering? They're psychologists not fucking psychics. edited for vulgarity -cb
posted by carsonb at 11:05 AM on October 22, 2014

The strange part in all this is that psychologists really have nothing scientific to offer on torture. They merely offer white labcoats and scientism.
posted by srboisvert at 11:14 AM on October 22, 2014 [5 favorites]

APA has couches, APS has lab coats.
posted by a snickering nuthatch at 11:19 AM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Actually, I think the point is they did know there would be long lasting mental pain and suffering. PTSD is fairly-well studied.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 11:20 AM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

APA has couches, APS has lab coats.

You are incorrect. The APS is a splinter society, formed mostly for the purpose of having research focused conferences (in reaction to the heavy the number of clinicians in the APA and the clinical heavy massive conferences), but most of the APS members are also APA members and it is the APA that accredits research universities and published the majority of the top scientific journals in psychology.

APS has no couches. APA has both couches and lab coats.
posted by srboisvert at 11:30 AM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't know if it's worth mentioning but the APA sent out an email to members that reiterates the points brought up in the OP's fourth link.

Not a whole lot of meat in it besides what I, hesitatingly, call their party line but some subtle wording differences.* Text cut and pasted below, please notice that the "As you will note in the attached statement..." section links to a pdf of the official statement which, as far as I can tell, mentions the email correspondence between the author and the APA but does not detail or enumerate it further. I'd like to see those emails but, to be honest, I'm leery of the APA's behavior in all this to say the least.

*The one that I noticed was inaccuracies and assumptions based on innuendo vs. “are largely based on innuendo and one-sided reporting.”.

Anyway, the email from APA high council to the affiliates of the same:

From: Council Representatives List [mailto:COR@LISTS.APA.ORG] On Behalf Of Kaslow, Nadine
Sent: Thursday, October 16, 2014 5:35 PM
Subject: [COR] APA's Response to Risen's New Book

Dear Council Members:

As some of you may be aware, James Risen’s new book : Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War was released this week. Risen is a New York Times reporter. He has covered the war on terror for over a decade. His book is getting a fair amount of media attention including a review in the Times Book Review section to be published this coming Sunday.

One chapter of the nine chapter book includes reporting on APA’s actions and motivations concerning national security detainees and the use of torture. The chapter is full of inaccuracies and assumptions based on innuendo.

As you will note in the attached statement, Mr. Risen contacted APA when he began work on his book and was offered an opportunity to have whatever questions he had answered by staff. Unfortunately he never provided questions so his later reporting was one-sided and inaccurate.

Our statement provides important context to the issue and corrects many false assumptions Risen made in his writing. The Board of Directors wanted you to have this information and we encourage you to share it with your constituent groups and other psychology colleagues.

If you have any questions or concerns please let us know.


Nadine J Kaslow, PhD, ABPP
Professor, Vice Chair, Chief Psychologist (Grady)
President, American Psychological Association
Editor, Journal of Family Psychology
Emory Dept of Psychiatry

posted by RolandOfEld at 11:34 AM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I remember reading accusations that Martin Seligman, president of the American Psychological Association, colluded with the CIA on the torture program, which is a particularly grim thing, because Seligman was one of the guys who studied the destructive effect of "Learned Helplessness" on the psyche through some very unpleasant experiments with dogs back in the '60s. He now writes books about Positive Psychology like Learned Optimism.

I didn't realize how vital this stuff was for policy though, not just advice on techniques. So the APA became the way the Bush admin justified torture because they said it wasn't harmful, even after the AMA and American Psychiatric Association backed off and said FUCK NO?
posted by edheil at 11:45 AM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

The OLC memos state that a good-faith defense against torture charges could be made if experts, in this case psychologists, claimed that the application of the torture tactics did not cause “severe, long lasting mental pain and suffering.”

Isn't the entire point of torture to cause severe mental pain and suffering? And wouldn't one expect these shitbags to know what PTSD is and how it's caused?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:52 AM on October 22, 2014

The American Conservative article is devastating from start to end.

The American Medical Association (AMA) explicitly condemned torture in 1999, stating that “Physicians must oppose and must not participate in torture for any reason. Participation in torture includes, but is not limited to, providing or withholding any services, substances, or knowledge to facilitate the practice of torture. Physicians must not be present when torture is used or threatened. Physicians may treat prisoners or detainees if doing so is in their best interest, but physicians should not treat individuals to verify their health so that torture can begin or continue.”

This prohibition was violated by the doctors working for the CIA’s Office of Medical Services who participated in the “enhanced interrogation” program, but no one has ever been expelled by the AMA or lost his license to practice as a result, suggesting that the guideline is actually toothless.

posted by bukvich at 12:07 PM on October 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

Yeah, the APA lost members when this happened. Torture apologists, legal advisors, torturers, leaders...America lost its shit during the Bush years and, IMO, we will never recover because the American public seems to be OK with nobody being held accountable for it. As adamant as I am about rejecting torture, I am in the minority, it appears.

One thing I remember thinking about this while it was unfolding was that America has always had a "secret" torture regime (Central America, Philippines, Vietnam...). Bush/Cheney just exposed it and nobody blinked.
posted by Chuffy at 1:00 PM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

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