In an editorial, the New York Times says: The first detailed accounts of the brutal interrogation program the Central Intelligence Agency established after the Sept. 11 attacks noted that psychologists and other medical professionals played key roles in abetting the torture of terrorism suspects. However, much about their role and their degree of responsibility in one of the most macabre and shameful chapters of American history has remained shrouded in secrecy.
A new report by a former federal prosecutor, first disclosed by James Risen in The Times, contains astonishing, disturbing details. It found that top members of the American Psychological Association, the largest professional organization of psychologists, colluded with officials at the Pentagon and the C.I.A. to keep the group’s ethics policies in line with tactics that interrogators working for the agency and the military were employing.
At a time when intelligence and Department of Defense officials were desperate for intelligence that would help them foil new terror plots, they were willing to pay handsomely for experts who could give the torture program a veneer of legitimacy. Prominent psychologists were apparently happy to indulge them. “A.P.A. chose its ethics policy based on its goals of helping D.O.D., managing its P.R., and maximizing the growth of the profession,” the report said.
The 542-page report, which was commissioned by the board of directors of the American Psychological Association, says that some medical personnel at the C.I.A. became concerned about the torture program, which was run by Bruce Jessen and James Mitchell, two contractors who were former Air Force psychologists. The critics at the agency expressed concerns about the effectiveness of the interrogation tactics and questioned whether they were in line with the ethics guidelines of the psychologists association.
The association assembled a task force in 2005 to study the concerns. The task force was dominated by “national security insiders,” Mr. Risen reported. They concluded that psychologists could resume assisting in brutal interrogations.
On Friday, Physicians for Human Rights justifiably called on the Department of Justice to begin a criminal investigation into the psychologists association’s role in the Bush administration’s torture program.
“As mental health professionals, our first obligation must be to our patients,” said Dr. Kerry Sulkowicz, a psychiatrist and the vice chairman of the board of Physicians for Human Rights, in a statement. “The A.P.A.’s collusion with the government’s national security apparatus is one of the greatest scandals in U.S. medical history.”
The Obama administration has so far refused to prosecute the torturers. As more evidence about this program comes to light, that position becomes increasingly indefensible.