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APA Interrogation Task Force Member Dr. Jean Maria Arrigo Exposes Group's Ties to Military

August 20, 2007


Jean Maria Arrigo

former member of APA task force on interrogation.

Dr. Jean Maria Arrigo was one of three civilian members of an APA task force that concluded psychologists were playing a "valuable and ethical role" in assisting the military. It was later revealed that that six of nine voting members were from the military and intelligence agencies with direct connections to interrogations at Guantanamo and elsewhere. At this weekend’s annual convention, Dr. Arrigo exposed the inner workings of the group in an extraordinary speech. [includes rush transcript]


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: After a string of reports in the media exposed that psychologists helped develop abusive interrogation methods, American Psychological Association leaders in 2005 convened a presidential task force to examine the issue. After just two-and-a-half days of deliberations, the task force concluded psychologists were playing a "valuable and ethical role" in assisting the military. When the report was released, however, it did not include a list of its members. It wasn’t until a year later that the membership was finally published by Mark Benjamin, It revealed that six of the nine voting members were from the military and intelligence agencies with direct connections to interrogations at Guantanamo and elsewhere.

Dr. Jean Maria Arrigo was one of the three civilian members of the 2005 PENS Task Force. At this weekend’s annual APA convention, she exposed the inner workings of the group and has turned over all of her notes to the Senate Armed Services Committee, which has promised to hold a hearing.

The APA made it very difficult for us to record this weekend’s sessions. As our microphone was discreetly placed, you will hear a lot of page turnings and other rustlings. Please excuse those sounds and just listen carefully. This is Jean Maria Arrigo.

DR. JEAN MARIA ARRIGO: When appointed to the task force in April 2005, I looked forward to a fruitful collaboration with six members employed by the Department of Defense.

Although perplexed and disturbed by our PENS report in June 2005, I did not take any public action for months. Gerald Koocher’s President’s Column in the February 2006 issue of the APA Monitor first alerted me to my responsibility. Koocher represented the task force — the PENS report as the product of an independent 10-member task force. I knew it was not independent.

In early August 2006, I made a commitment to the historical truth by depositing task force materials, including the PENS listserv, at Hoover Institution Archives, Stanford University, with a restriction against public reading or use until 2010. As an oral historian, I am accustomed to collecting and archiving historical records. Then some human rights investigators approached me. Through them, I made some materials available to an independent content analyst and to investigative journalist Katherine Eban. In April 2006 I passed the entire collection to the Senate Armed Services Committee. At three stages of disclosure, I notified task force members.

And I want to say, I stand before you a very miserable person. I wish I weren’t here, because many of the people on the task force I actually liked better than some of my close friends, OK, and people I agree with. But, you know, here’s how it [inaudible].

Anyway, so, some irregularities, a small sample of irregularities in the task force. On consultation with some senior APA insiders in 2006, I discovered many irregularities in the task force process. In presenting a sample of these irregularities, I name individuals who were never publicly announced as contributors to the PENS report, but I refer to official participants only by their roles, as courtesy.

So the first irregularity was APA board liaisons who interfered in task force business. As I learned from these other insiders, APA task forces typically have only one liaison from the APA board. The liaison’s role is to coordinate with the task force, but not to make decisions or to intervene in task force business. For us, a second board liaison was added: President-elect Gerald Koocher. He exerted strong control over task force decisions, as evidenced in the PENS listserv, printed matter, and he censured dissidents.

For example, the last item in the task force mandate from the APA board was the question, "Has APA responded strongly enough to media accounts of activities that have occurred at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo?" Nothing in the mandate precluded our recommending an investigation. But Koocher emphatically denied this possibility and castigated the person who raised the issue. He also personally took a very strong stand against the APA adopting strict international law, rather than permissive U.S. law, in defining torture.

The second irregularity were observers who intervened or who had conflicts of interest. Task force meetings typically have no observers or only expert consultants invited in briefly. The following people sat in on our task force meeting: Russ Newman, director of the APA Practice Directorate; four members from Science Policy or Science Directorate, Susan Brandon, Steven Breckler, Heather Kelly, Geoff Mumford; the APA Office of Public Affairs publicist Rhea Farberman; Mel Gravitz, a former director of the Navy Internship Program; and an APA intern, whose name I didn’t catch.

Russ Newman, who is the head of the Practice Directorate, took a lead role and prevailed with these principles: that the task force mission was to put out the fires of controversy right away, that we would keep the proceedings confidential so as not to feed the fire, that the PENS report must express unity, and that only a couple of people would speak for the task force.

The commitment to haste, which was [inaudible], had several consequences. The PENS report had to be derived entirely from the principles of the current APA Ethics Code, he said, because any new ethical principles would require a yearlong delay for APA review. The director of the APA Ethics Office inscribed the entire PENS report, through five drafts, so as to produce a final version a mere 48 hours after our three-day meeting closed. So, much of our time was just spent correcting the language. There was no time to add practical examples to the PENS report, Newman argued, so we agreed on a delayed casebook, which was later assigned to the Ethics Committee and never produced. The casebook was supposed to have begun by the Ethics Committee in February 2006.

The other observers spoke very little. Numerous announcements at the APA’s online Science Insider Policy News, or SPIN, show the four observers associated with APA Science Policy to be very high-level lobbyists for DOD funding, people who would meet with very high-level DOD people and congressional leaders and so on. For example, in October 2004, Geoff Mumford and Heather Kelly met with the DOD Counterintelligence Field Activity Agency — that’s CIFA — which allocates resources. At that time, one of the DOD task force members headed CIFA’s Behavioral Sciences Directorate, where he supervised "20 psychologists and a multi-million dollar budget," There were many such reports on SPIN. Now, this is not to criticize at all the APA for lobbying DOD funders, OK? The criticism I’m making is that these observers had a very highly vested interest in a PENS report which was compatible with DOD policy, because they’re seeking DOD funding. And also I’m criticizing their financial entanglements with DOD task force members, none of which was made clear [inaudible].

Psychologists acquainted with group dynamics, social influence, bystander effects, and conformity can estimate the impact of the board liaisons and so-called observers on the PENS report.

A third matter is an unbalanced task force. Six of the 10 members were highly placed in the Department of Defense, as contractors and military officers. For example, one was the commander of all military psychologists. Their positions on two key items of controversy in the PENS report were predetermined by their DOD employment, in spite of the apparent ambivalence of some. These key items were: (a) the permissive definition of torture in U.S. law versus the strict definition in international law, and, second, participation of military psychologists in interrogation settings versus nonparticipation. Those are the two principal issues. And because of their employment, they have to decide the way they do.

Two other task force members — so that was six — two others were long-term APA administrative insiders, which is to say it would have been known ahead of time what they would do. One had served on the 2002 APA Finance Committee under the chairmanship of Gerald Koocher. The other was vice chair of the APA Ethics Committee. And as evidenced by the PENS listserv, these two APA administrative insiders furthered what I call the "Koocher-Newman agenda." And that agenda would be haste, secrecy, U.S. legal definition of torture, and participation of military psychologists in interrogation settings.

There were also two APA outsiders, you know, finishing out the 10. One resigned in protest in February 2006, and I am here regrettably as a dissident member.

The last irregularity, among many, that I will mention is one-sided secrecy. The spirit of secrecy took many forms. The APA did not publish the names of the task force members until goaded by a journalist in August 2006. By majority vote — all but the two outsiders — the task force imposed confidentiality on the proceedings. There was also an informal ban on note taking at the meeting. On the first afternoon, a military psychologist sharply told me not to take notes, and no one gainsaid him. After that I took only brief notes, and nobody else appeared to take any notes, except for the director of the Ethics Office who prepared our report. Because of the severe conflicts of interest of the observers and the liaison with DOD members, I call this one-sided secrecy.

No task force member was permitted to speak about the PENS report. Two non-members of the task force were authorized to field all public inquiries: that is, the director of the APA Ethics Office and the APA publicist.

There were many other irregularities, but I’ll stop here.

Third, I want to go onto a counterintelligence perspective on APA PENS process. In trying to understand this a couple years afterwards, I finally consulted with two retired intelligence operatives. David DeBatto served in the Sunni Triangle of Iraq as a team leader of the Elite Tactical Human Intelligence team. He tracked Saddam Hussein and the "55 Playing Card" Iraq leaders, and so on. In the course of his investigation of national security crimes both by American soldiers and by Iraqi insurgents, he interviewed hundreds of military psychologists, physicians and other health professionals.

DeBatto interpreted the PENS task force process as a typical legitimization process for a decision made at a higher level in the Department of Defense. Because of the hierarchical structure of the DOD, he said, it was absolutely impossible that the six DOD members of the task force participated as individuals bringing their expertise and judgment to the policy issues at hand for [inaudible]. He said that they were certainly there as representatives of the decision maker. And because the decision maker’s decision had to be sustained, had to prevail, a quorum of DOD members was necessary, rather than just one or two to express DOD concerns.

The presence of the APA Science Policy observers, DeBatto said, was a standard intimidation tactic to insure the DOD task force members stayed in line. As funding lobbyists and recipients, they were strictly beholden to DOD interests. In effect, they outranked the DOD task force members because of their high-level connections.

The reason for the several task force observers, instead of just one intern in the corner with a notepad, DeBatto said, would be to represent the perspectives of various agencies to the decision maker, so as to broadly legitimize the prior decision — again, a very standard scenario that counterintelligence operatives know about.

DeBatto’s interpretation so startled me, I checked it out with a former counterintelligence officer whom I know well: Lawrence Rockwood. And he gave the same interpretation as a snap, as though it were entirely obvious. My interviews with these two people, hour-long telephone interviews, are in that binder, which I will put in the Division 48 PsySR Hospitality Suite in the Marriott, I believe.

And I’m going to conclude with excerpts from a two-minute address from David DeBatto to this audience. Some of you have a transcript. It’s the marked lines. And if you don’t, please look on somebody else’s. I hope this is intelligible.

DAVID DeBATTO: [recording] My name is David DeBatto, and I am a retired U.S. Army counterintelligence special agent. During my time in Iraq, I conducted and/or supervised literally hundreds, if not more than a thousand, interrogations with Iraqi detainees and prisoners of various sorts. During that time, I had the ability or the experience of interacting with various members of the Army medical community, including MDs, as well as psychologists and psychiatrists and ancillary healthcare professionals in lower enlisted ranks.

My interpretations of the PENS Task Force and DOD members being in on the meetings and representing positions of high-level government decision makers is very clear. They were there, in my opinion, basically to observe, to spy, if you will, and to report back to the DOD. This goes way, way up in the Department of Defense, in my professional opinion, probably as high as a deputy secretary, and beyond that it definitely has the ear of the secretary of defense. So anyone that would be sitting in on one of your meetings, whether or not they say that they are there in really any capacity representing the Department of Defense, are there really to listen in, to take notes, to observe and to report back to high-level staff at the Department of Defense. Make no mistake about it. That’s what’s going on.

DR. JEAN MARIA ARRIGO: OK. Thank you for your attention, and I want to say that probably many people have been pressured in all of this, and I’m sorry for all of that.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Dr. Jean Maria Arrigo in a stunning speech she gave before the American Psychological Association members in a special track around the issue of psychologist involvement in coercive interrogations. She was a former member of the PENS Task Force.

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