CIA's Torture Drew on Famed Dog Experiment

More on 'learned helplessness'
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 11, 2014 7:54 AM CST
Updated Dec 11, 2014 8:00 AM CST
CIA's Torture Drew on Famed Dog Experiment
This is a copy of the cover of the CIA torture report released by Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein D-Calif., Dec. 9, 2014.   (AP Photo)

As earlier reported, a pair of retired Air Force psychologists who had never interrogated anybody before were paid $81 million to devise the CIA's "enhanced interrogation" program and, much to Martin Seligman's displeasure, they devised their techniques by drawing on Seligman's "learned helplessness" theory. The New York Times today digs into that more, reporting that James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen's work with the CIA has resurfaced what it terms "one of the most classic experiments in modern psychology." Seligman's 1960s experiment involved dogs that had been administered electric shocks, with no method for getting those shocks to stop. They were then placed in a scenario where they could stop them if they jumped over a low barrier—but they didn't. More torture report details:

  • Legal experts tell the Times that Americans who factor into the report could be prosecuted by foreign bodies such as the International Criminal Court—though those experts frame the chances of that happening as slim to none and any decision to do so as politically fraught. The US hasn't signed the treaty that formed the ICC, but torture reportedly occurred in countries that did sign. "If I am someone implicated in the torture report, I am thinking twice about traveling to Europe anytime soon," says an American University law professor.
  • The torture report is proving to be a best-seller, at least in Amazon's view. CNN reports the $2.99 Kindle version is the No. 1 seller in the "intelligence & espionage" category—even though free versions are available online. As of this writing, it's the 2,740th Kindle book overall.
  • Dick Cheney didn't mince words in a Fox News interview about the report yesterday. Direct quote: "The report's full of crap, excuse me. I said 'hooey' yesterday and let me use the real word."
(More torture stories.)

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