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Lead the Way Out of the Interrogation Room: Will American Psychological Assoc. End Role in Torture?

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We broadcast from Toronto, Canada, where the largest group of psychologists in the world, the American Psychological Association, is holding its first meeting since the release of a stunning report confirming the APA leadership actively colluded with the Pentagon and the CIA, manipulating the organization’s policies, meetings and members in order to endorse the torture programs. For the past decade, a group of dissident psychologists have protested the use of psychologists to conduct interrogations at CIA black sites and Guantánamo. For years they were ignored and ridiculed. But that changed with the recent release of the “Hoffman Report,” a 542-page independent review commissioned by the APA’s board of directors. The study undermined the APA’s repeated denials that some of its 130,000 members were complicit in torture. Following the release, four top APA officials resigned or announced early retirements. Today the APA’s Council of Representatives is scheduled to vote on a resolution to bar psychologists from participating in interrogations. It is unclear if the measure will pass. Ahead of the vote, Psychologists for Social Responsibility hosted a town hall meeting here in Toronto last night. Speakers included New York-based psychologist Steven Reisner, a leading critic of the APA’s policies and founder of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology. “We have to make sure the APA goes from leading us into the dark side, leading us into the torture room … to leading the way out of the interrogation room,” Reisner says.

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

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, and we are broadcasting from Toronto, Canada, the site of the annual convention of the largest group of psychologists in the world, the American Psychological Association. It’s the first meeting of the APA since the release of a stunning report confirming that the American Psychological Association leadership actively colluded with the Pentagon and the CIA, manipulating the APA’s policies, meetings and members in order to endorse torture programs.

For the past decade, a group of dissident psychologists have protested the use of psychologists to conduct interrogations at CIA black sites and Guantánamo. For years they were ignored and ridiculed. But that changed with the recent release of the Hoffman Report, a 542-page independent review commissioned by the APA’s board of directors. The study undermined the APA’s repeated denials that some of its 130,000 members were complicit in torture. Following the release, four top APA officials resigned or announced early retirements or were forced out.

Today the APA’s Council of Representatives is scheduled to vote on a resolution to bar psychologists from participating in interrogations. It’s unclear if the measure will pass. Ahead of the vote, Psychologists for Social Responsibility hosted a town hall meeting here in Toronto last night. Speakers included New York-based psychologist Steven Reisner, a leading critic of the APA’s policies and founder of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology.

STEVEN REISNER: Right now, there are psychologists at Guantánamo Bay, and they’re not only doing therapy. Psychologists are involved in the force-feeding of detainees who are on hunger strikes. The force-feeding of detainees who are on voluntary hunger strikes is a violation of international law. Nobody has called out those psychologists or any of the other health professionals to say, “You are in violation of international law. You are participating in causing or perpetuating harm.” So we have to make sure that APA goes from leading us into the dark side, leading us into the torture room, leading us into the use of psychology for abuse—we have to turn APA to leading the way out of the interrogation room, out of the violation of international human rights. Psychologists have got to be the leaders now in transforming the role of health professionals away from standing by or perpetuating human rights violations into holding a standard that says, “No, we will not be present at places where this happens. If we are, we will protest it and leave.”

It has to be a clear policy, which we’ve written. Dan Aalbers, Scott Churchill, Jean Maria Arrigo, with my help, have written a very comprehensive policy. This policy prohibits psychologists from being present at sites that violate international law, from participating in national security interrogations, from overseeing national security detention sites when they exist to promote intelligence gathering or interrogations. This is a good policy. But tomorrow, the American Psychological Association Council of Representatives has to vote on this policy. And I can tell you, its passage is by no means assured.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Steven Reisner, a founding member of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology, speaking last night at a town hall meeting here in Toronto, where the American Psychological Association is holding its annual convention.

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