Psychology Association Bans Members From Participating In Interrogations

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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The American Psychological Association officially banned its members from participating in national security interrogations, according to an almost unanimous vote which occurred Friday.

At the APA’s 123rd annual meeting in Toronto, the measure passed easily by 156-1. The only member on the Council of Representatives registering dissent was retired Col. Larry James, although 7 others abstained.

James is known for serving as an intelligence psychologist for the Army at Guantanamo Bay.

The resolution states that psychologists “shall not conduct, supervise, be in the presence of, or otherwise assist any national security interrogations for any military or intelligence entities, including private contractors working on their behalf, nor advise on conditions of confinement insofar as these might facilitate such an interrogation.”

This means that psychologists can no longer work at Guantanamo Bay, or any other site the United Nations has declared to be a violation of international law. The one exception to the rule is if these psychologists are conducting assessments or treatment.

Psychologists who refuse to comply with the new resolution will find themselves in violation of APA policy. But some don’t consider the resolution significant, as it lacks an enforcement mechanism. Jeffrey Kaye, an APA member who resigned in 2008 over allegations that APA was complicit in torture, told Al Jazeera that “it suffers the same problem … No enforcement.”

“To this day, despite the policy of the AMA and the psychiatric association, no torture doctor has ever lost his license or met any consequences at all for participation in either CIA or Department of Defense torture,” he added.

If a member of the APA does violate the new policy, observers could forward a proposal recommending a full investigation.

Earlier this year, an independent investigative report indicated that psychologists belonging to the APA advised CIA interrogators on how to more efficiently conduct enhanced interrogation during the Bush administration. Additionally, the report found that officials from the association worked closely with the Pentagon to modify policies, such that psychologists could engage in harsher forms of interrogation without being accused of ethics violations.

When the report broke, the APA immediately apologized for what it termed organizational failures.

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