Monitoring the American Psychological Association

In November 2014, the American Psychological Association authorized the engagement of David Hoffman of the law firm Sidley Austin to conduct an independent review of whether there is any factual support for the assertion that APA engaged in activity that would constitute collusion with the Bush administration to promote, support or facilitate the use of enhanced interrogation techniques by the United States in the war on terror.

This is an astonishing accusation to be leveled against a professional organization that is charged with establishing and enforcing an ethical code for its members and, furthermore, representing the public face of that profession in America. Nonetheless there is considerable evidence to suggest that the accusation is true. American Psychological Association Sees No Evil by Ghislaine Boulanger, ACLU Blog of Rights, June 16, 2009.

Eight years ago, when the APA’s Director of Ethics announced that psychologists helping military interrogators made a “valuable contribution,” APA members began withholding their dues and ultimately resigning from the organization. During these eight years, and particularly between 2002 and 2008, as psychologists with the APA’s full knowledge and consent, advised, implemented, and sometimes initiated programs that created a climate in Guantanamo that the International Committee on the Red Cross deemed tantamount to torture, evidence of the collaboration between the CIA and the APA mounted. Nonetheless the appointment of the independent reviewer was made not in response to the members’ protest and resignations, but in response to the publication of James Risen’s book, Pay Any Price: Greed, Power and Endless War. Risen’s book offers proof of secret, close relationships among some of the nation’s leading psychologists and officials at the CIA and Pentagon. The special investigator’s findings are due in the spring of 2014. They will be made available to the membership of the APA and to the public after they have been reviewed by the board of the APA.