Dismantling the Master’s House: Psychologists and Torture January 29, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Human Rights, Torture.
Tags: apa, bsct, ethics, Guantanamo, human rights, military psychologists, pens, psychologists, psychology ethics, roger hollander, roy eidelson, torture
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Roger’s note: The US military has extended its corrupt tentacles into high schools, universities, reasearch institutions, and — now we learn — into the major governing organization of professional psychology. The APA’s official stamp of approval of the CIA torture regime is a scandalous blight on its independence and integrity. Please sign the petition.
Amid disturbing reports that psychologists were involved in the abuse and torture of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere, the American Psychological Association (APA) Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security (PENS) met in the summer of 2005. Over two days they considered whether the Bush Administration’s no-holds-barred “enhanced interrogation” policies crossed ethical boundaries for military psychologists. Six of the nine voting Task Force members were on the payroll of the military/intelligence establishment, and several of them worked in the chains of command when and where instances of abuse and torture had reportedly occurred. So we should not be surprised by the Task Force’s conclusion that psychologists play an important role in keeping detainee interrogations “safe, legal, ethical, and effective.” This assessment affirmed, nearly verbatim, the military’s own description of Behavioral Science Consultation Team (BSCT) psychologists — a description that had been provided to the Task Force in writing before their deliberations even began.
The Coalition for an Ethical Psychology is dedicated to putting psychology on a firm ethical foundation in support of social justice and human rights. The Coalition has been in the lead of efforts to remove psychologists from torture and abusive interrogations.
Professional psychology has made valuable contributions to national security through collaborative efforts with government agencies — and it will undoubtedly continue to do so. But does anyone truly believe that crucial determinations about psychological ethics should ever be guided by the views and agenda of the Secretary of Defense or the Director of the CIA? The many glaring flaws associated with the PENS Report are especially revealing since the APA is, after all, an organization of psychologists. It’s therefore very unlikely that the Task Force organizers were somehow unaware of the potent psychological influences of power differentials on group dynamics; of authority structures and conformity pressures on independent decision-making; and of self-interest on objective, unbiased analysis. It’s far more likely the organizers knew exactly how to create the conditions that would reliably produce the outcome they sought.
Today, a grassroots campaign is underway calling on the APA to annul the PENS Report. This call for annulment is ultimately inseparable from important issues of accountability and transparency. Audre Lorde’s reminder that “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house” is helpful in describing the challenge. The key leadership of the APA today includes several high-level staff members who were central figures in the PENS Task Force fiasco. Similarly, two current Board members were also on the Board in 2005 when it approved the PENS Report in an emergency session. At a time when the destructive and corrupting consequences of too much power in too few hands have never been more apparent in corporate boardrooms on Wall Street (and elsewhere), how much different is the situation at APA headquarters?
In the six years since the PENS Report was issued, APA leadership has never encouraged a thorough reconsideration of the Task Force’s deliberations or the Report’s conclusions. And they have never, even in hindsight, expressed regret for any decisions made — despite the fact that the passage of time has repeatedly brought to light further evidence that psychologists acted as planners, consultants, researchers, and overseers to abusive and torturous detainee interrogations. Sadly, APA instead has relied on stonewalling and obfuscation. Why was the PENS Report put to an “emergency” vote of the Board alone, rather than bringing it before the Council of Representatives which, according to the APA, “has sole authority to set policy”? Why was the head of the Practice Directorate given a lead role in the PENS proceedings even though his spouse had been one of the psychologists at the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center? Were representatives of the military/intelligence sector involved in the actual selection of members for the APA Task Force? Why were the identities of Task Force members not included in the Report itself and not made readily available to the press or to APA’s membership? And so on. Even at this late date, official answers to these and other longstanding questions would be welcome.
It’s crucial to recognize that the PENS Report remains a highly influential and authoritative policy document today. The Report is used by the Department of Defense as guidance for BSCT psychologists; by military psychologists seeking to advance “operational psychology” as an area of specialization that includes aggressive counterintelligence and counterterrorism operations; and by the APA Ethics Committee as a guide to ethical behavior in national security settings. The importance and urgency of annulment are made even clearer by current moves in Congress to restore and legalize the use of torturous interrogation techniques. If these efforts succeed, in all likelihood psychologists will be called upon again to oversee and implement morally repugnant practices.
Meanwhile, the annulment campaign is drawing broad support. To date, 29 psychology and human rights organizations have officially endorsed the call, and almost 1,500 individuals have stepped forward to sign the annulment petition online (www.ethicalpsychology.org/pens). Among the organizational endorsers are Physicians for Human Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, the National Lawyers Guild, Psychologists for Social Responsibility, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, and the Center for Constitutional Rights. Among the petition signers are psychiatrists such as Robert Jay Lifton (author of The Nazi Doctors) and Stephen Xenakis (retired Brigadier General, U.S. Army), scholar-activists such as Noam Chomsky and Daniel Ellsberg, attorneys who have represented Guantanamo detainees, former members of the intelligence community, and other psychologists, military members, and human rights advocates.
Interested psychologists and non-psychologists alike can join this effort by signing the online annulment petition at www.ethicalpsychology.org/pens. Please consider doing so.
Roy Eidelson is a clinical psychologist and the president of Eidelson Consulting, where he studies, writes about, and consults on the role of psychological issues in political, organizational, and group conflict settings. He is past president of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, associate director of the Solomon Asch Center for Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict at Bryn Mawr College, and a member of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology. Roy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Psychologists’ Collusion in Ongoing Illegal Detentions January 12, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Human Rights, Torture.
Tags: apa, bagram, brad olson, detainees, ethics, geneva conventions, Guantanamo, habeas corpus, human rights, International law, medical ethics, parwan, psychological association, psychological ethics, psychologists, roger hollander, roy eidelson, stephen soldz, torture, trudy bond
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As we commemorate the 10th anniversary of the arrival of the first prisoners at Guantánamo Detention Center, several thousand miles away sits another United States detention facility, less well-known but with a history perhaps even more gruesome. Obscured throughout the decade-long “global war on terror,” the detention center at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan is where two detainees died in December 2002. Initial autopsies at the time ruled both deaths homicides, according to a 2,000-page confidential Army file obtained by the New York Times. Autopsies of the two dead detainees found severe trauma to both prisoners’ legs. The coroner for one of the dead noted, “I’ve seen similar injuries in an individual run over by a bus.”
Detainees pray before dawn near a fence of razor-wire inside Camp 4 detention facility at the Guantanamo (Photo: Cryptome)
In January 2009, to much fanfare, newly-elected President Barack Obama signed a directive authorizing the closing of Guantánamo Detention Center. But a month later the new administration discreetly told a federal judge that military detainees at Bagram had no habeas corpus rights to challenge their imprisonment. At the same time, the Pentagon was moving forward on plans to build a new prison in Bagram, renamed the “Detention Facility in Parwan” (DFIP). This facility was designed to accommodate 600 prisoners under normal conditions and as many as 1,100 during a “surge.”
Today, President Obama has abandoned his inaugural pledge to close Guantánamo and there are more than 3,000 detainees at Bagram — five times the number of prisoners when the president took office — with a scheduled expansion of the facility by the end of 2012 to house up to 5,500 detainees. One troubling constant across the developments at Bagram is the presence and involvement of psychologists at these facilities, which clearly violate international legal standards for the treatment of detainees. Among the military psychologists present during the early years of the Bagram prison were Colonel Morgan Banks, Captain Bryce Lefever, and Colonel Larry James, notable for their key roles in formulating the American Psychological Association’s (APA) much criticized ethics policy on psychologist-assisted interrogations.
According to Banks’ biographical statement, he “spent four months over the winter of 2001/2002 at Bagram Airfield.” More broadly, Banks provided technical, consultation, and interrogation support to all Army psychologists. He also assisted in establishing the Army’s first permanent SERE training program. As for Lefever’s biosketch, it notes that he also served at the detention center at Bagram Air Base. He “was deployed as the Joint Special Forces Task Force psychologist to Afghanistan in 2002, where he lectured to interrogators and was consulted on various interrogation techniques.”
The third military psychologist, James, was the Chief Psychologist for the Joint Intelligence Group at Guantánamo when, according to his book, Fixing Hell, he flew to Afghanistan to transfer three juveniles who had been forcibly and arbitrarily detained at Bagram. James described these boys as “the most fragile . . . children [he] had ever met,” yet he oversaw their being loaded onto a cargo plane at Bagram Air Force Base, “bound [and] blindfolded,” for a flight that typically lasted over 20 hours. Others who appear to have been transferred from Bagram to Guantánamo that same day reported being chained around the waist, wrists, back and ankles and the intense pain of being unable to speak, see, hear, move, or even stretch or breathe properly.The boys were essentially kidnapped, and were returned home a year later, having never had access to legal counsel and having never been charged with a crime.
Public information about exactly what transpires at Bagram today is scarce. The BBC was allowed a rare, one-hour visit to the new Parwan/Bagram prison in 2010. The report noted that “Prisoners are kept in 56 cells, which the prisoners refer to as ‘cages’. The front of the cells are made of mesh, the ceiling is clear, and the other three walls are solid. Guards can see down into the cells from above.” These detainees were moved around in wheelchairs, wearing goggles and headphones to block sight and sound.
In 2011, Daphne Eviatar, an attorney for Human Rights First, interviewed 18 former detainees from the main facility in Parwan and was permitted to observe seven detainee hearings there. In her detailed report she noted:
After many years of completely denying detainees in Afghanistan the opportunity to defend themselves against arbitrary detention, the United States government has finally implemented a hearing process that allows detainees to hear the charges against them and to make a statement in their own defense. Although a significant improvement, these new hearings fall short of minimum standards of due process required by international law.” [Emphasis added.]
In a subsequent interview with CBS News, Eviatar stated:
[Parwan] is worse than Guantánamo because there are fewer rights…There was no evidence presented, there was no questioning of the government’s evidence, whether this person had done anything wrong, whether he deserved to be in prison. So that’s a real problem — you have a complete lack of due process.
And in 2010 the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) confirmed the existence of a separate, second detention facility at Parwan. Many former prisoners have referred to it as the Tor Jail, translated as “Black Jail.” Nine former prisoners interviewed separately by the BBC spoke of almost identical treatment there: distressingly cold cells, perpetual loud noise, constant light, and, violating any sense of privacy, camera surveillance. One former prisoner said American soldiers made him dance to music to obtain permission to use the toilet.
Today, there are clear indications that psychologists continue to be involved in the detention and interrogation of detainees at Parwan/Bagram. Such activities stand in direct contravention of APA policy based on a 2008 petition resolution. Approved through a member-led referendum, this resolution prohibits psychologists from working in settings where “persons are held outside of, or in violation of, either International Law (e.g., the UN Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions) or the US Constitution (where appropriate), unless they are working directly for the persons being detained or for an independent third party working to protect human rights” (or if they are providing treatment for military personnel).
Significant evidence that psychologists are working at Bagram/Parwan in violation of APA policy comes in part from a symposium on “Operational Problems in Behavioral Sciences” sponsored by the United States Air Force Medical Service in August 2011. The first slide of the partially redacted powerpoint presentation on the “BSCT Mission” describes the role of the Behavioral Science Consultation Team (BSCT) as providing: “…psychological expertise and consultation in order to assist the command in conducting safe, legal, ethical, and effective detention facility operations, intelligence interrogations, and detainee debriefing operations” (OTSG/MEDCOM Policy Memo 09-053).
A later slide reveals that the current BSCTs at the Parwan Detention Facility are composed of a psychologist or forensic psychiatrist, who must be licensed for independent practice, and a “behavioral science technician.” Further confirming the presence of psychologists, a June 2010 newspaper article about Parwan by the military editor of the Fayettville Observer notes: “Air Force Maj. Colin Burchfield, 34, a clinical psychologist, observes the behavior of both detainees and guards on TV monitors.”
Disturbingly, and contrary to the APA’s 2008 referendum policy, one of the key documents still used to support the ongoing involvement of psychologists at the Parwan facility is an earlier 2005 report from the APA’s “Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security” (the PENS Report). The PENS Report, cited in the Operational Problems powerpoint presentation described above, endorsed psychologists’ engagement in detainee interrogations — despite evidence that psychologists were involved in abusive interrogations and practices that violate international law.
Six of the nine voting members of the PENS Task Force were on the payroll of the U.S. military and/or intelligence agencies. Five of these six served in chains of command that had been accused of the kinds of abuses that led to the creation of the Task Force, including the three psychologists linked to the early Bagram prison: Dr. Morgan Banks, Dr. Bryce Lefever, and Dr. Larry James. The PENS Task Force concluded that psychologists have an important role to play in keeping interrogations “safe, legal, ethical, and effective,” and the APA Board approved the PENS Report in a highly unusual emergency vote.
The APA’s claims that it stands strongly against torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment are belied by the organization’s repeated failure to take assertive and meaningful action. There is no clearer example than the continuing participation of psychologists in detention and interrogation activities at the Parwan/Bagram prison — a site where international law itself is seemingly confined indefinitely to a small, dark cell.
But health professionals, human rights advocates, and intelligence professionals of conscience worldwide have refused to accept this status quo. One noteworthy and promising effort is an online petition campaign calling for the annulment of APA’s PENS Report. The initiative has been supported by many distinguished members of APA, as well as non-psychologists such as psychiatrists Robert Jay Lifton and bioethicist Dr. Steven Miles; scholar-activists such as Daniel Ellsberg and Noam Chomsky; attorneys who have represented Guantanamo detainees; eminent veterans of the intelligence community; and many other psychologists and human rights advocates. Please consider joining this call and signing the petition at www.ethicalpsychology.org/pens.
Trudy Bond is an independent psychologist, steering committe member of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, and a member of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology. For questions, responses or media contact, please contact her at email@example.com.
Roy Eidelson is a clinical psychologist and the president of Eidelson Consulting, where he studies, writes about, and consults on the role of psychological issues in political, organizational, and group conflict settings. He is a past president of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, associate director of the Solomon Asch Center for Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict at Bryn Mawr College, and a member of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology. Roy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brad Olson is an assistant professor and co-director of the Community Psychology Ph.D. Program in downtown Chicago. He is President-Elect of Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR) and co-founder of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology.
Stephen Soldz is a psychoanalyst, psychologist, public health researcher, and faculty member at the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis. He edits the Psyche, Science, and Society blog. Soldz is a founder of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology and served as a psychological consultant on several Guantánamo trials. Currently Soldz is Past-President of Psychologists for Social Responsibility. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
Please Help Clarence Thomas Resign June 22, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Uncategorized.
Tags: citizens united, clarence thomas, corruption, ethics, ginny thomas, harlan crowe, heritage foundation, liberty cental, pinpoint museum, roger hollander, supreme court, ujala sehgal, virginia thomas
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Why is this man laughing?
So many people want to get rid of the ethically challenged Justice Thomas that CREDO has upped its petition goal, for the third time, to 150,000 signatures. To see why you should sign it, go here, here and here.
A Brief History of Clarence Thomas’ Ethical Entanglements
The New York Times published a major report Saturday delving into the ethical questions posed by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his relationship with real estate magnate Harlan Crowe. These recent insinuations on Thomas’ ethics are only the latest in a long list that have been leveled at him. It’s not unusual for judges to have conflicts of interest, but, as Talking Points Memo put it, “when it comes to ethical complications on the nation’s highest court, Clarence Thomas takes the cake.” It’s worth it to review recent events.
Citizens United and the Koch Brothers. In January of 2008, Thomas and Justice Antonin Scalia attended a political retreat run by the Koch brothers. Their subsequent ruling in the Citizens United campaign finance case reportedly benefited the Koch brothers’ political activities. In early 2011, the advocacy group Common Cause asked the Justice Department to open an investigation into the propriety of the justices’ participation in the case, according to the Times.
Liberty Central and Mrs. Thomas. In January of 2010, Thomas’ wife, Virginia Thomas, founded a Tea Party-affiliated group called Liberty Central, the Los Angeles Times reports. The group opposes various progressive causes, including President Obama’s health care overhaul, which is an issue that many believe is certain to come before her husband’s court. Moreover, as part of her position, she would accept donations from various sources — including corporations — as allowed under campaign finance rules loosened by the Supreme Court. Virginia Thomas has since stepped down as head of the organization to take more of a back seat role.
The Missing Years of Financial Disclosure. In January of 2011, the Los Angeles Times reported that Common Cause found that Virginia Thomas earned over $680,000 from conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation over five years, but the justice did not include it on financial disclosure forms, consistently checking no spousal income. Once the news came out, Thomas amended 13 years’ worth of disclosure reports to include details of his wife’s income, Politico reports. He wrote it was a “misunderstanding of the filing instructions.” Common Cause remained unconvinced.
Harlan Crowe and the Pinpoint Museum. In the most recent case, the Times reports that Harlan Crowe, a close friend of Thomas who once gave his wife $500,000 for Liberty Central, is now financing a multimillion-dollar restoration of an old Georgia cannery where Thomas’ mother once worked, at the Thomas’ behest. The problem here is that the ethics code that binds federal judges says judges “should not personally participate” in raising money for charitable endeavors, out of concern that donors might feel pressured to give or entitled to receive favorable treatment from the judge. In addition, judges are not even supposed to know who donates to projects honoring them. Supreme Court justices are not subject to the federal code of ethics, but other justices have said they adhere to it.
- Friendship of Justice and Magnate Puts Focus on Ethics, Mike McIntire, New York Times
- Benefactor’s Activities Raise New Ethical Concerns About Justice Thomas, Aaron Wiener, Talking Points Memo
- Justice’s wife launches ‘tea party’ group, Kathleen Hennessey, Los Angeles Times
- Common Cause Asks Court About Thomas Speech, Eric Lichtblau, New York Times
- Clarence Thomas failed to report wife’s income, watchdog says, Kim Geiger, Los Angeles Times
- Clarence Thomas revises disclosure forms, Jennifer Epstein, Politico