In October 2014, the PHR cited the latest book by Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter James Risen “Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War”. The book reveals the relationship between the CIA and the American Psychological Association (APA).
Specifically, Risen gives damaging evidence that the APA not only worked secretly with US government officials and the CIA, but also the White House in developing its ethics policy. According to the PHR, the book chapter “War on Decency” details how the focus of the collusion was to justify the involvement of psychologists during interrogations from an ethical argument. In addition, the psychologist would assist in “implementing and legitimizing the Bush-era torture program”. (1)
Donna McKay, PHR’s executive director stated, “Risen presents credible evidence that the American Psychological Association colluded with the Bush administration so that health professionals’ skills and knowledge could be used to justify the torture and ill-treatment of detainees.”
PHR uses science and medicine to stop mass atrocities and severe human rights violations and McKay said that the Department of Justice (DOJ) “must immediately initiate an investigation into whether the APA and CIA engaged in any unlawful conduct related to this brutal torture program”.
Rationale for CIA Torture Program
Risen claims that the APA’s involvement of the enhanced interrogation methods included monitoring and was crucial to support the Bush Administration’s legal rationale for the CIA torture program. It’s also pointed out that the APA was the “only health organization willing to provide the government with legal cover”. Risen states that had the APA not gone along with the Bush Administration that he doubts any other health organization or professionals would have stepped in their place.
The PHR has spent the last 10 years seeking accountability for those responsible for the development and implementation of the US torture program. Armed with the proof given in Risen’s book, Steven Reisner, advisor on psychology and ethics for PHR believes that a “full federal investigation” can finally happen. Reisner states:
“Risen has provided evidence that the American Psychological Association secretly colluded with the CIA to change APA policy to keep psychologists at the center of these operations…”
The PHR has worked diligently over the past 11 years documenting how the US has held “national security detainees” and systematically tortured physically and psychologically. The organization has published six reports on these types of tortures conducted by the CIA.
James Risen’s New Book
One of the tactics used by the Behavioral Science Consultation Teams (BSCT) was Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape (SERE). All US military branches train combat personnel in SERE techniques. (2) According to the 2006 Human Rights Frist report Command’s Responsibility (Detainee Deaths in US Custody in Iraq and Afghanistan), it was the SERE interrogation techniques that led to the 2003 death of Iraqi Major General Abed Hamed Mowhoush. (3)
Scott Horton’s Harper’s Blog (of Harper’s Magazine) post of 10/18/14 discusses the CIA’s torture and black sites program conducted between 2002 and 2006 and the roles of psychologists and conduct of the APA. (4)
The blog states that in his book Risen uses a “cache of secret email communications between key players in the torture program and senior officers of the APA”. It’s from these emails that Risen discloses that the APA quickly changed its ethics rules so members could become a part of the torture program.
In an interview with war-crimes investigator Nathaniel Raymond, Horton asked if Raymond is the unnamed human rights investigator mentioned in Risen’s book. Raymond acknowledged that he is and discussed how the APA members were able to work with the CIA.
According to Raymond, a CIA contractor, Scott Gerwehr professor of psychology based in Chicago confided in him about the work he’d done as a contractor for the CIA. Gerwehr’s role was to detect deception in detainees during the interrogation processes at a secret CIA facility at Guantánamo (Penny Lane). (5)
Is Risen’s new book set to blow the lid off of years of APA denials that it and some of its members were secretly working with the CIA in the torture interrogations of suspected terrorists?
In the Harper’s interview, Raymond stated that he believed history would regard the APA’s collaboration with the CIA as, “one of the greatest scandals in the history of American medical ethics.”
References & Image Credits:
(1) Physicians for Human Rights
(3) Humans Rights First
(5) TSW: Torturing Democracy Guantanamo Bay and Crimes Against Humanity
(6) The Djudju Beast via photopin cc