Friday, July 10, 2015

Psychologists Shielded U.S. Torture Program, Report Finds

By JAMES RISEN, NYT
JULY 10, 2015

WASHINGTON — The Central Intelligence Agency’s health professionals repeatedly criticized the agency’s post-Sept. 11 interrogation program, but their protests were rebuffed by prominent outside psychologists who lent credibility to the program, according to a sweeping new report.

The 542-page report, which examines the involvement of the nation’s psychologists and their largest professional organization, the American Psychological Association, with the harsh interrogation programs of the Bush era, raises repeated questions about the collaboration between psychologists and officials at both the C.I.A. and the Pentagon.

The report, completed this month, concludes that some of the association’s top officials, including its ethics director, sought to curry favor with Pentagon officials by seeking to keep the association’s ethics policies in line with the interrogation policies of the Defense Department, while several prominent outside psychologists took actions that aided the C.I.A.’s interrogation program and helped protect it from growing dissent inside the agency.

The association’s ethics office, the report found, “prioritized the protection of psychologists — even those who might have engaged in unethical behavior — above the protection of the public.”

Two former presidents of the psychological association were members of a C.I.A. advisory committee, the report found. One of them provided the agency with an opinion that sleep deprivation did not constitute torture, and later held a small ownership stake in a consulting company founded by two men who oversaw the agency’s interrogation program, it said.

The association’s ethics director, Stephen Behnke, coordinated the group’s public policy statements on interrogations with a top military psychologist, the report said, and then received a Pentagon contract to help train interrogators while he was still working at the association, without the knowledge of the association’s board. Mr. Behnke did not respond to a request for comment.

(More here.)

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