Throughout the month of October, PHR’s Campaign Against Torture is sponsoring screenings all over the nation of Academy-Award winning filmmaker Errol Morris’s documentary Standard Operating Procedure on the evidence of torture by US personnel. In conjunction with Participant Media, PHR is pleased
to bring this important film to the public in advance of its release on DVD, October 14.
We invite you to take this opportunity to engage friends, family, colleagues and neighbors in critical dialogue on torture by US forces, and discuss how
we can all work together to restore America’s commitment to human rights and the rule of law.
To host a house party to screen the film, RSVP here.
The Boston Globe also covered Saturday’s Psychologists for an Ethical APA Rally.
Holding signs that read, “Do no harm” and “Abolish torture,” about 100 people attended a rally outside the American Psychological Association’s annual convention yesterday, urging the organizations to ban its members from being involved in military interrogations and torture as part of the war on terrorism.
A resolution to that effect is being weighed by the organization’s 148,000 members, and debate on the topic has permeated the discussion at this year’s meeting, held at the Boston Exhibition and Convention Center. Members are sending in their votes on the issue this month.
The actions of psychologists have been called into question lately as their role in the Bush administration’s interrogation policies in detention centers around the globe increasingly has been made public.
“We need to make policy changes to ensure that this never happens again,” said Steven Reisner, a New York psychologist who spoke at the rally and is running for president of the association.
He noted that psychologists’ involvement in interrogations that include prolonged isolation, sleep deprivation, or sensory overload violates the primary responsibility of all medical personnel to do no harm.
“These are standard operating procedures,” Reisner said….
“Psychologists are very directly engaged,” … said [PHR President Len Rubenstein]. “Behavioral science teams make sure everything a detainee sees or hears enhances the interrogation process . . . they are involved in the whole effort to break detainees down.”
Psychologists have helped define lines of questioning for detainees, suggested techniques to get them to divulge information, and advised military personnel on when a person has had enough or when they should push harder in a confrontation. Some say such practices are tantamount to torture.
“They are really at the heart of it,” Rubenstein said. “It’s not enough to say that you can’t participate in torture, it’s the interrogations.”
USA Today reported on Saturday’s Psychologists for an Ethical APA rally, which PHR co-sponsored.
BOSTON — About 200 demonstrators rallied Saturday outside the convention hall where some 14,000 are attending the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association to protest the role of psychologists in military interrogations.
Psychologists have traditionally played a part in questioning of U.S. captives done by the military or intelligence agencies. Some psychologists have criticized such work during the Bush administration’s anti-terrorism effort as a code of ethics violation, while others say eliminating the psychologists’ participation would make the interrogations more harmful for detainees.
At the two-hour rally, groups of psychologists, including Psychologists for an Ethical APA and Psychologists for Social Responsibility, as well as human rights organizations, including representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union and Amnesty International, blasted those psychologists for their part in the Bush administration’s practices. And they say they’re outraged over the APA’s acceptance of psychologists’ participation because of what they say are human rights violations by the government.
“Who would have thought that the APA — whose code of ethics mandates a respect for basic principles of human rights and holds psychologists ‘to a higher standard of conduct than is required by the law’ — would be so reluctant to prohibit psychologists from participating in interrogations from Guantánamo to Abu-Ghraib,” Nancy Murray of the American Civil Liberties Union in Massachusetts told the crowd. “The APA has justified this ‘policy of engagement’ by stating its involvement is intended to stop unethical interrogations.”…
Intermingled in the crowd were protestors carrying signs with slogans such as “Do No Harm” and “No Torture/No Collaboration.”
Nathaniel Raymond of Physicians for Human Rights, a health professional organization that has been outspoken about abuse of detainees in U.S. custody, told the rally, “It’s about restoration of the values that define us. It’s not just about interrogations. It’s about who were are in the world.”
The rally was all the more poignant following Thursday’s revelation in the Daily Kos that a licensed psychologist, US Army Lieutenant Colonel Diane M. Zierhoffer, ordered the torture of a juvenile detainee at Guantanamo Bay.
The Daily Kos was quickly followed by reports in the New York Sun and the New York Times.
From the Sun:
It is the first time a military psychologist belonging to a biscuit team is publicly known to have been asked to give testimony in a Guantanamo court proceeding. The woman’s response suggests that military psychologists are concerned about either their professional licenses or criminal liability.
Court papers filed on behalf of the detainee, Mohammad Jawad, say the psychologist had, in 2003, advised an interrogator to put Mr. Jawad in isolation in an effort to facilitate interrogation, a person familiar with the detainee’s case and who has seen the unclassified legal papers said. The interrogator had sought out the psychologist’s advice because of a concern that Mr. Jawad’s mental state was deteriorating, the person said, adding that Mr. Jawad had been observed speaking to posters on his wall. The psychologist apparently rejected that layman’s diagnosis and believed Mr. Jawad was faking and recommended isolation, the person said.
Nine weeks after Mr. Jawad was removed from a month of isolation, he tried unsuccessfully to commit suicide by either hanging himself or repeatedly banging his head, the source said.
“What is so disturbing about the Jawad case,” the source said, is that the psychologist “is calibrating the level of harm.”
The Times quotes Steven Reisner, who is the front runner in the upcoming election for the new APA president.
“This is what it’s come to,” said Steven Reisner, an assistant clinical professor at the New York University School of Medicine and a leading candidate for the presidency of the psychological association. “We have psychologists taking the Fifth.”
Dr. Reisner has based his candidacy on “a principled stance against our nation’s policy of using psychologists to oversee abusive and coercive interrogations” at Guantánamo and the so-called black sites operated by the Central Intelligence Agency.
The ACLU’s human rights researcher, Jennifer Turner, is blogging at the Daily Kos, directly from Guantanamo, where she is covering the pre-trial hearings of Mohammed Jawad and two others. She elaborated:
[A]ccording to Jawad’s defense attorney Maj. Frakt, in September 2003, “when an interrogator observed Mohammad talking to posters on the wall of the interrogation room and was concerned about his mental health,” instead of calling a mental health professional to care for him, they summoned the BSCT team, whose psychologist made a “cruel and heartless assessment and recommendations.” Maj. Frakt called the BSCT psychologist’s report, which was classified secret and therefore not discussed in detail in the open court session, “the most chilling document of all.”
In an environment such as Guantanamo, health professional psychologists, who are healers and safeguarders against harm, have taken a back seat to behavioral scientists—whose job it is to callibrate pain and abuse.
Daily Kos dairist Metor Blades has broken an explosive story concerning US torture policy.
In a hearing Thursday to dismiss charges in the second war crimes trial at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp in Cuba, U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Diane M. Zierhoffer, a licensed psychologist who had ordered the torture of a juvenile detainee, refused to testify under Section 831, Article 31 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Article 31 prohibits compulsory self-incrimination as a right under the Fifth Amendment.
The detainee in question is Mohammed Jawad.
The Pakistani-born Jawad, who was 16 or 17 at the time of his capture, allegedly tossed a grenade at a U.S. convoy in December 2002….
Jawad had been tortured physically at Bagram, where his nose may have been broken, and by means of threats, linguistic and physical isolation, as well as sleep deprivation at Gitmo. Twice, Jawad was kept in extreme isolation for 30 days. Sleep deprivation and prolonged periods of isolation are widely recognized as torture by non-governmental organizations, human rights groups, governments, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the U.S. State Department, and federal courts as well as state courts.
The leadership of the American Psychlogical Association has frequently asserted that psychologists have an important role to play in interrogations.
A psychologist on scene can guard against the behavioral drift that is often seen when human beings are taxed to their emotional limits. In doing so, that psychologist is assisting these young people in uniform while also safeguarding the welfare of detainees.
This was not the function played by Zierhoffer during the interrogation of Mohammed Jawad. To the contrary, according to Blades’ sources:
[W]hen an interrogator came to Zierhoffer and said he thought the techniques being applied to Jawad should be temporarily halted because they were causing him to dissociate, to crack up without providing good information, she recommended that the torture continue.
The APA has said that “psychologists have a critical role in keeping interrogations safe, legal, ethical and effective.” In a letter to the APA yesterday, PHR countered that
It is past time for the APA to explicitly and categorically reject the use of psychologists and psychology to perpetrate a widespread, command-ordered program of torture and abuse. General statements opposing torture fail to fully address the reality of what psychologists have done.
PHR’s CEO Frank Donaghue elaborated:
The APA must hold psychologists who were involved in the abuse and torture of detainees in U.S. custody accountable. The APA should implement critical reforms to its ethics code. On the top the list is ensuring that psychologists be required to adhere to the highest ethical standards, rather than be allowed to descend to the lowest interpretations of the law.
The APA’s annual convention is now underway in Boston. On Saturday, PHR will speak at a rally of Psychologists for an Ethical APA (PDF flyer), from noon to 2 pm this Saturday at the Hynes Convention Center, 415 Summer Street, Boston. Please join us if you are in the area.
Our colleague, Stephen Soldz, has published a timely op-ed in the Boston Globe on the involvement of psychologists in torture and other abuses.
Ending the psychological mind games on detainees
When most people think of psychologists, they think of a professional helping them with life’s emotional difficulties, or of a researcher studying human or animal behavior. Since the Bush administration and the war on terrorism have transformed our country, however, a new, more ominous image of psychologists has slowly seeped into public consciousness
Psychologists have been identified as key figures in the design and conduct of abuses against detainees in US custody at Guantanamo Bay, the CIA’s secret “black sites,” and in Iraq and Afghanistan. Psychologists should not be taking part in such practices.
Yet a steady stream of revelations from government documents, journalistic reports, and congressional hearings has revealed that psychologists designed the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” techniques, which included locking prisoners in tiny cages in the fetal position, throwing them against the wall head first, prolonged nakedness, sexual humiliation, and waterboarding….
When reports of these abuses surfaced, we psychologists looked to our largest professional organization, the American Psychological Association, to take the lead in condemning them and taking measures to ensure that they would not recur. After all, these actions by psychologists violate the central principle of the APA’s ethics code: “Psychologists strive to benefit those with whom they work and take care to do no harm.”
The APA, however, failed to take clear action. While the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association quickly and unequivocally condemned any involvement by its membership in such activities, APA leaders quibbled over whether psychologists had been present at the interrogations and questioned the motives of internal critics….
This month, ballots went out for a first-ever referendum to call a halt to psychologist participation in sites where international law is violated. And dissident New York psychologist Steven Reisner, a founder of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology, is running for the APA presidency. His principal campaign platform is for psychologists to be banned from participating in interrogations at US military detention centers, like Guantanamo Bay, that violate human rights and function outside of the Geneva Conventions. In the nomination phase Reisner received the most votes of the five candidates.
At our annual convention in Boston this month, other APA members and I will rally against association policies encouraging participation in detainee interrogations. We will be joined by community activists, human rights groups, and civil libertarians to demand that APA return to its fundamental principle of “Do no harm.” Psychologists owe it to their profession and to the cause of human rights to oppose abuses, not participate in them.
(Read the whole article at the Boston Globe.)
If you are in Boston, please join PHR at the Psychologists for an Ethical APA rally (PDF flyer), from noon to 2 pm this Saturday at the Hynes Convention Center, 415 Summer Street, Boston, where the the APA is holding its national convention.