APA’s Council of Representatives voted almost unanimously to prohibit psychologists from participating in national security interrogations.
Its 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.”
The new policy does allow psychologists to be involved in
general policy consultation regarding humane interrogations.
The prohibition does not apply to domestic law enforcement
interrogations or domestic detention settings where detainees
are under the protection of the U.S. Constitution. The
resolution also aligns APA’s stance on cruel, inhuman or
degrading treatment or punishment with that of the U.N.
Convention Against Torture.
The policy, approved on Aug. 7 during APA’s Annual
Convention in Toronto, is among the first steps the association
has taken to address the findings of a report by the law firm
Sidley Austin LLP, which concluded that some APA officials,
principally APA’s then-ethics director, “colluded with important
DOD officials to have APA issue loose, high-level ethical
guidelines that did not constrain DOD in any greater fashion
than existing DOD interrogation guidelines.”
The report, which can be found at www.apa.org/
independent-review/ index.aspx, also found that when APA
members raised concerns about psychologists’ involvement
in interrogations, “APA officials engaged in a pattern of secret
collaboration with DOD officials to defeat efforts by the APA
Council of Representatives to introduce and pass resolutions
that would have definitively prohibited psychologists from
participating in interrogations at Guantanamo Bay and other
U.S. detention centers abroad.”
In addition, the report describes contact APA had with the
CIA, but concluded that the evidence does not support earlier
allegations by APA’s critics of collusion between the two.
While the report found no indication that APA officials
actually knew about any interrogation program using enhanced
interrogation techniques, it concluded that APA officials
“had strong reasons to suspect that abusive interrogations
had occurred” and that association leaders “intentionally
and strategically avoided taking steps to learn information to
confirm those suspicions.”
APA has apologized and is reviewing and strengthening its
relevant policies and procedures.
In a letter to members after the report’s release, APA
President-elect Susan McDaniel, PhD, and Past President
Nadine Kaslow, PhD — both of the association’s Special
Committee for the Independent Review — wrote that “what
happened should never have occurred.”
“On behalf of our organization, we apologize for what
has emerged in the report, including the secret coordination
between several APA leaders and the Department of Defense
that resulted in the lack of a clear and consistent anti-torture
stance, limited guidance for military psychologists in the field,
a failure to uphold an appropriate conflict of interest policy
with regard to the Presidential Task Force on Psychological
Ethics and National Security (PENS Task Force) on military
interrogation, and a lack of appropriate checks and balances
that could have revealed these significant problems,” they wrote.
“In addition, we deeply regret the fact that some APA members
and other critics were privately and publicly discounted for
They added: “Together we can, indeed we must, recommit
to psychology’s core values and emerge from this crisis as a
stronger association of which we can all be proud.”
Meanwhile, a number of APA members and others named in
the independent report have objected strongly to its findings or
have asserted that their actions or motives were misinterpreted.
APA has provided a Web page for those who were mentioned
or have personal knowledge about the events discussed in the
report to respond to the facts presented or provide their own
accounts of issues pertaining to them. Visit the Web page at
APA has also set up a Web page to enable people to voice
their opinions on the report at www.apa.org/independent-review/ index.aspx, just below the links to the report and report
There’s also an email box where members and others can
send suggestions for APA moving forward: IRfeedback@apa.org.
Comments received through all of these mechanisms are
being reviewed and cataloged and will continue to inform
decisions and actions.
APA takes strong action
in response to independent review
Action taken by APA’s Council of Representatives unrelated
to the independent review will be reported in the October