Report: Psych Group Helped Bush Justify Torture

APA propped up Bush administration's interrogation program, critics say
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 30, 2015 1:55 PM CDT
Report: Psych Group Helped Bush Justify Torture
This 2003 file image shows an unidentified detainee standing on a box with a bag on his head and wires attached to him in late 2003 at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, Iraq.   (AP Photo, File)

(Newser) – The Senate Intelligence Committee's report on CIA prisoner torture caused a massive stir in December, and now that pot is boiling over once more. A report by a group of what the New York Times calls "dissident health professionals and human rights activists" claims that the American Psychological Association was in cahoots with the Bush administration behind the scenes to justify the controversial, now-defunct interrogation program. "The APA secretly coordinated with officials from the CIA, White House, and the Department of Defense to create an APA ethics policy on national security interrogations which comported with then-classified legal guidance authorizing the CIA torture program," the authors of the report write, per the Times. So what's the big deal about APA involvement? Mainly that the Justice Department could claim the program's techniques were on the up-and-up because they were being overseen by heath experts, the newspaper notes.

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An APA spokeswoman denies the allegations, saying her group never coordinated with the government in taking action. This despite the claim by the report's authors—cited by the Times as "outspoken critics" of the APA—that when the program was in trouble in 2004 and 2005, it was the APA that swooped in to help the administration deal with legal issues. One group that apparently managed to stay out of the fray: the American Psychiatric Association. Per the Times, a then-senior Pentagon official told reporters in 2006 that the program leaned on psychologists instead of psychiatrists because the American Psychological Association "clearly supports the role of psychologists in a way our behavioral science consultants operate," while the American Psychiatric Association "had a great deal of debate about that, and there were some who were less comfortable with that." (Some torture tactics reportedly took inspiration from a famous dog experiment.)

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