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APA, Guantánamo and the taint of torture. A Call for U.S. Psychologists to put Conscience Above Career. ( 0) Printer friendly page Print This
By Amy Goodman. Axis of Logic Editorial Board.
The Guardian. Axis of Logic
Friday, Apr 8, 2011

Axis of Logic Editorial

Amy Goodman's report (below) on the participation of the American Psychological Association (APA) in government interrogation of prisoners of war and/or in programs that cause physical and/or psychological harm is revealing. It reveals the underbelly of this organization that ostensibly exists and works for research development and provision of sound mental health counseling through universities and treatment facilities in the United States. On the APA website we read:

"Based in Washington, D.C., the American Psychological Association (APA) is a scientific and professional organization that represents psychology in the United States. With more than 154,000 members, APA is the largest association of psychologists worldwide ... The mission of the APA is to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people’s lives."

Message to APA Members: We call upon all member psychologists to reconsider continuance of their membership in the American Psychological Association (APA), stripping it of their research in behavioral science, their publications in APA and affiliated journals and their funding through membership dues and to form an organization of U.S. psychologists with a conscience, based on responsible treatment and universal values:

  • If the New York court does not force "an investigation and appropriate disciplinary action by New York Office of Professional Discipline (OPD)"

  • and if the American Psychological Association, (APA) continues to refuse "to implement a resolution passed by its membership barring APA members from participating in interrogations at sites where international law or the Geneva conventions are being violated,"

U.S. psychologists are under tremendous financial pressure to maintain their APA membership for income, research funding, university teaching positions, private clinical practices, mental health clinics, industrial psychology, educational facilities, forensics, prisons, family counseling centers and other employments. Clients in need of counseling for mental health issues must question the quality of treatment they receive from any psychologist who actively or passively supports an organization that refuses to discipline its members for any professional abuse including those who participate in government interrogation of prisoners or any form of physical and psychological torture.

Most psychologists and mental health professionals have made their career choices out of a desire to help their fellow human beings. Their skills, hard work and compassion for others is truly exemplary. It is time for all psychologists and mental health professionals to put responsible treatment and universal values above career, to organize and abandon the institutional, political and corporate agenda of the APA.

Message to the U.S. Electorate: The claim made in a quote from Amy Goodman's report - that the Obama Administration "all but admitted political failure as it announced it would try the 9/11 defendants before the deeply flawed military commission system rather than in Article III civilian courts as originally planned," is an obfuscation. The Obama Administration has not failed to fulfill its agenda in the least. For too long we have heard the 'disappointment' party members and voters have had in the Democratic Party and the Obama regime. For too long we have heard that the Democrats are "weak" and "spineless". Voters in the Democratic Party must understand that their political party is as great a force for injustice, torture and war as the Republicans, arguably even moreso because of the grand deception they have carried out. Barack Obama's promise to end torture, close Guantanamo and withdraw the troops from Iraq was a ploy to deceive his constituency. Whether you are a registered Democrat or Republican, if you want real change - Abstinence from voting for a corrupt two-party system is the most powerful vote available to the U.S. electorate.

Vote on your feet. Vote on the street!

- Axis of Logic Editorial Board


Guantánamo and the taint of torture.
by Amy Goodman
The Guardian (UK)
April 6, 2011

The decision to try 9/11 suspects in military commissions only highlights how the US has yet to reckon with detainee abuse.

US Attorney General Eric Holder this week blamed US Congress for blocking federal court trials on the US mainland for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other 9/11 suspects. Photograph: Alex Brandon/AP

On the same day President Barack Obama formally launched his re-election campaign, his attorney general, Eric Holder, announced that key suspects in the 9/11 attacks would be tried not in federal court, but through controversial military commissions at Guantánamo. Holder blamed members of Congress, who, he said, "have intervened and imposed restrictions blocking the administration from bringing any Guantánamo detainees to trial in the United States."

Nevertheless, one Guantánamo case will be tried in New York. No, not the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed or any of his alleged co-conspirators. This week, the New York state supreme court will hear the case against Dr John Leso, a psychologist who is accused of participating in torture at the Gitmo prison camp that Obama pledged, and failed, to close.

The case was brought by the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Centre for Justice and Accountability (CJA) on behalf of Dr Steven Reisner. Reisner, a New York psychologist and adviser to Physicians for Human Rights, is at the centre of a growing group of psychologists campaigning against the participation of psychologists in the US government's interrogation programmes, which they say amounts to torture.

Unlike the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the largest association of psychologists in the world, has refused to implement a resolution passed by its membership barring APA members from participating in interrogations at sites where international law or the Geneva conventions are being violated. Reisner, a child of Holocaust survivors, is running for president of the APA, in part to force it to comply with the resolution.

John Francis Leso is a US Army major, formerly chief of the clinical psychology service at Walter Reed Army Medical Centre in Washington, DC. According to CJA, Dr Leso "led the first Behavioural Science Consultation Team (BSCT) at … Guantánamo from June 2002 to January 2003", where he "co-authored an interrogation policy memorandum that incorporated illegal techniques adapted from methods used by the Chinese and North Korean governments against US prisoners of war."

Reisner filed a complaint with the New York state agency that governs licences of psychologists, the New York Office of Professional Discipline (OPD), asking for an investigation and appropriate disciplinary action. He took this route, Reisner told me, because:

"health professionals are privy to private information, to weaknesses, to psychological and physical compromises, and they are privy to that information because they take an oath not to abuse that information to cause harm. So when health professionals use that very information … to cause harm, we want to make sure that those people are held accountable and have their licenses revoked, if necessary."

The OPD declined to investigate, so Reisner is seeking a court order to force the agency to do so.

Maj Leso recommended three categories of interrogation severity at Guantánamo, depending on the prisoners' ability to resist. "Category III" included "daily use of 20-hour interrogations; the use of strict isolation without the right of visitation by treating medical professionals or the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC); the use of food restriction for 24 hours once a week; the use of scenarios designed to convince the detainee he might experience a painful or fatal outcome; non-injurious physical consequences; removal of clothing; and exposure to cold weather or water until such time as the detainee began to shiver."

Leso is alleged to have participated in the interrogation of Mohammed al-Qahtani, a young man captured in Afghanistan and referred to as the "20th hijacker". Al-Qahtani's interrogation was so harsh that his charges were dropped. He is represented by the Centre for Constitutional Rights, which said in response to Holder's announcement:

"The Obama administration all but admitted political failure today, as it announced it would try the 9/11 defendants before the deeply flawed military commission system rather than in Article III civilian courts as originally planned. […] In the same breath that the US is calling for the rule of law in the Middle East, it is subverting it at home."

The roll call of US officials implicated in torture is long, yet not one of them has been held accountable: George W Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, John Yoo, Alberto Gonzales, psychologists Col Larry James and John Leso, among others. As an Arab Spring is celebrated around the world, we should turn over a new leaf in the United States and celebrate an American Spring as well – one that rejects torture and is not afraid to use its judicial system, whether trying accused terrorists or torturers.

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.

Source: The Guardian

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