The independent report was commissioned last fall by APA’s
Board of Directors, which retained former federal prosecutor
David Hoffman of Sidley Austin LLP of Chicago, and his
colleagues, to conduct a thorough review of the association
between APA and Bush administration policies on abusive
interrogation techniques during the war on terror. The board
decided an independent investigation was necessary because
of ongoing concerns by members, as well as allegations in New
York Times reporter James Risen’s book “Pay Any Price: Greed,
Power and Endless War” that APA had colluded with the Bush
administration to support torture during the war on terror.
Hoffman, who says he received APA’s “complete cooperation”
in the investigation, was told that he was free to go wherever the
facts led him. Hoffman and his team conducted more than 200
interviews of 148 people during an eight-month investigation
that produced a 542-page report. The APA Board of Directors
received the report on June 27.
APA’s council discussed the report at its Aug. 5 and 7
meetings. (A roll call vote of the resolution to prohibit
psychologists’ involvement in national security interrogations
can be found at www.apa.org/independent-review/index.aspx.)
The resolution clarifies that psychologists may be present
at detention settings deemed by the United Nations to be in
violation of international law (such as the U.N. Convention
Against Torture and Geneva Conventions) only if they are
working directly for detainees or for an independent third
party working to protect human rights, or they are providing
treatment to military personnel.
The resolution also redefines the term “cruel, inhuman or
degrading treatment or punishment” in the 2006 and 2013
council resolutions in accordance with the U.N. Convention
Against Torture to ensure that it provides protections to
everyone, everywhere, including foreign detainees held outside
of the United States.
In addition, the measure calls on the association to inform
federal officials of this expanded APA human rights policy, while
stipulating prohibited detention settings and requesting that
psychologists at these sites be offered deployment elsewhere.
In a separate action to address the ethical problems cited
in the independent report, the council voted to establish a
blue-ribbon panel to evaluate and recommend changes to
the APA Ethics Office and ethics processes. These include,
but are not limited to, establishing a chief ethics officer,
studying the relationship between ethics education and the
ethics adjudication function, and exploring potential conflicts
between human rights and other considerations. The panel
will be appointed collaboratively by APA’s board and Council
Leadership Team and will include psychologist members and
non-members of APA and experts from other fields. The panel
will report back to the council next August.
“These actions by APA’s council represent significant
concrete steps toward rectifying our past organizational
shortcomings,” said Kaslow. “We are now moving forward in a
spirit of reconciliation and reform.”
McDaniel, APA’s 2016 president, said much work is ahead to
change APA’s culture to be more transparent and more focused
on human rights. “In addition, we will institute clearer conflict-
of-interest policies going forward, all of which are aimed at
ensuring that APA regains the trust of its members and the
public,” she said.
Meanwhile, before the council meeting, APA’s Board of
Directors* voted to approve the following actions under its
• The board will establish a mechanism for immediate
oversight in the processing of filed ethics complaints, including
review of current adjudication and investigative procedures,
and transparency and accuracy in the disclosure of current
ethics office practices.
• The board will ensure that on the APA website where the
Responses of the APA Ethics Committee to Questions, Comments,
and Vignettes Regarding APA Policy on the Role of Psychologists
in National Security-Related Activities is located, a disclaimer
• The board will evaluate and modify, as needed, conflict-of-interest policies regarding financial, policy or relationship-based conflicts, and other associated processes to ensure that
the policies are understood and followed. A mechanism will
be developed to educate, enhance awareness and provide
ongoing updates to members of governing bodies and
advisory groups of APA regarding those conflict-of-interest
• The board will create clear procedures for appointing and
making public the members of task forces, commissions, etc.
Procedures for appointment will include a standard and robust
conflict-of-interest assessment and a procedure for assuring needed
content expertise and diversities.
• The board will create specific criteria and procedures for
emergency action by the board in keeping with the authority
established in the bylaws.
• The board will direct the CEO to ensure an appropriate
balance of autonomy and oversight in the supervisory process
• To read the full report, go to www.apa.org/
• To learn more about the actions APA’s Council of
Representatives has taken since this article went to press,
go to www.apa.org/independent-review/index.aspx.
• To make comments about the report or suggestions
for APA moving forward, go to www.apa.org/independent-review/ index.aspx, or email APA at IRfeedback@apa.org.
• To read comments from some of those named in the
report, go to www.apa.org/independent-review/responses.