BFP Exclusive Report: Coalition Stands against American Psychological Association’s Endorsement of Torture & Abusive Interrogation

Group Calls for Annulment of the APA’s Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics & National Security (PENS) Report

PENSLeading scholars and human rights groups from a range of fields – including psychology, medicine, law, military, and intelligence – have joined together in spearheading a broad-based effort to annul and delegitimize the American Psychological Association’s deeply flawed 2005 Report of the Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security (the PENS Report). In a joint declaration the coalition states:

Despite evidence that psychologists were involved in abusive interrogations, the PENS Task Force concluded that psychologists play a critical role in keeping interrogations “safe, legal, ethical and effective.” With this stance, the APA, the largest association of psychologists worldwide, became the sole major professional healthcare organization to support practices contrary to the international human rights standards that ought to be the benchmark against which professional codes of ethics are judged- the “do no Harm” standard.

Further, the coalition points out the inherent bias in the Presidential Task Force membership, where six of the nine voting members were on the payroll of the U.S. military and/or intelligence agencies, and five having served in chains of command accused of prisoner abuses. The group cites other significant conflicts of interest by the Task Force’s unacknowledged participants, such as the spouse of a Guantánamo intelligence psychologist and several high-level lobbyists for the Department of Defense, and direct funding for psychologists by the CIA.

SoldzProfessor Stephen Soldz, clinical psychologist and one of the coalition’s active leaders, had the following statement in an exclusive interview with Boiling Frogs Post:

“We now know that psychologists played a central role in design and implementation of the US torture program and the PENS Report was the crucial document that protected this involvement. Without the involvement of psychologists the torture program as we know it could not have gone forward. The PENS Report was a black mark for the profession of psychology and a devastating blow against human rights worldwide. We are calling on people from around the world – psychologists, other professionals, and ordinary citizens concerned with human rights – to join us in calling for the Report to be annulled as a step to ending torture everywhere.”

Professor Soldz is also one of the contributing authors in the recently released book -The CIA on Campus: Essays on Academic Freedom and the National Security State, edited by Dr. Philip Zwerling.

The Coalition has launched a petition calling for the annulment of the APA’s PENS Report as part of their joint effort to remove psychologists from torture and abusive interrogations. So far the list of prominent signatories includes more than 300 scholars, intelligence experts and activists. Here are a few names from the petition’s signatory list:

Philip Zimbardo, President, American Psychological Association (2002); Professor Emeritus, Department of Psychology, Stanford University

Leonard Rubenstein, Senior Scholar, Center for Public Health and Human Rights, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health

Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor (ret.), Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Michael Wessells, PhD, APA PENS Task Force Member, Professor of Clinical Population and Family Health, Columbia University

Steven Reisner, PhD, Candidate for APA President; Clinical Assistant Professor, NYU Medical School; Faculty and Supervisor, International Trauma Studies Program, New York City

David DeBatto, former US Army Counterintelligence Special Agent and Iraq war veteran

Michael Ratner, President Emeritus, Center for Constitutional Rights

Manfred Nowak, Professor for International Law and Human Rights, University of Vienna; Director, Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights

David Remes, Appeal for Justice; Guantánamo habeas attorney since 2004

Nora Sveaass, UN Committee Against Torture; Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Oslo, Norway

Sibel Edmonds, Founder & Director, National Security Whistleblowers Coalition

Coleen Rowley, retired FBI agent and former Minneapolis FBI Legal Counsel

The petition is now open to the public. People are encouraged to visit the coalition’s website for more information and background, and sign the petition here.

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*We just recorded an in depth interview with Professor Soldz. The interview will be published in two weeks as part of our new series on ‘CIA on Campus,’ based on a recently released book -The CIA on Campus: Essays on Academic Freedom and the National Security State, edited by Dr. Philip Zwerling. Here is a brief preview of our interview:

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