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Report Exposes American Psychological Association Complicity in US Torture Program


Report Exposes American Psychological Association Complicity in US Torture Program

Sarah Lazare, staff writer

A new report from human rights investigators and medical professionals reveals that the prestigious American Psychological Association secretly helped the administration of former President George W. Bush legally and medically justify its post-9/11 torture program.


In the same vein (perhaps we should say toxic drip-feed) and of equal importance is the Counterinsurgency Manual linked to General David Petraeous. The Network of Concerned Anthropologists was so appalled by the perspective and practices that they published the The Counter Counterinsurgency Manual. It costs about $12 and is available online.
From the blurb:

“… The Counter-Counterinsurgency Manual critiques that strategy and offers a blueprint for resistance. Written by the founders of the Network of Concerned Anthropologists, the Counter-Counterinsurgency Manual explores the ethical and intellectual conflicts of the Pentagon’s Human Terrain System; argues that there are flaws in the Counterinsurgency Field Manual (ranging from plagiarism to a misunderstanding of anthropology); probes the increasing militarization of academic knowledge since World War II; identifies the next frontiers for the Pentagon’s culture warriors; and suggests strategies for resisting the deformation and exploitation of anthropological knowledge by the military. This is compulsory reading for anyone concerned that the human sciences are losing their way in an
age of empire. …”

It is a most stimulating read. As usual Marshall Sahlins does not mince words in the preface.


More American exceptionalism.


Not too sure, the rabbit hole seems to be a vortex…


Even if the BushCo sociopaths had heard of Milgram and Zimbardo (highly unlikely), they would have done what they did anyway. Either the country’s already been taken over (more likely), or MILLIONS of Americans who vote for these flag-pinned maniacs are right comfortable with all that’s been done in their name.


I have trouble seeing the APA itself as complicit, though I recognise that what constitutes “the APA” is slippery and difficult to pin down.

Most psychologists, like most MDs, APNs, etc, are apolitical in their practice. There’s no coursework required in a doc program (or there wasn’t, anyway) that even makes the possibility of major ethical conflicts visible. The few courses in ethics tend to focus on a smaller arena: when should the possibility that the client will self-harm be disclosed, and to whom? What about harming others? How long should an uncooperative client continue to be seen? Stuff like that. Torture doesn’t figure into it.

“Torture” is a poorly-defined term. There are those who’d say not allowing photos of family qualifies as torture, just as there are those who’d claim even repeatedly bringing a person to the edge of death is not. Both groups are nuts.

This article is long on innuendo and short on facts. There evidently were individuals who did something to weaken or fog up the APA’s official position on vicious practices, and thus served illegitimate government purposes, BushCo’s in that instance but it could just as well have been ObamaCo’s or ClintonCo’s. Did the elected leadership of the APA sign up for that? Did they even know about it? Did the membership know?

Those who did the work, if it can be presumed that they knew what they were doing and chose to serve the state rather than the victims, should definitely be struck off, their credentials revoked. There’s no possible excuse for serving the state at the expense of the powerless.

But before I’d agree that “the APA” was complicit, I’d want to see more evidence that the majority of its membership and nominal leadership knew what was being done in their names and approved of it.


It appears that all the oaths, high-minded declarations, and virtuous rhetoric mean little to these ‘doctors’ when a dollar is to be had. Maybe it has always been this way. Alexis de Tocqueville noted in his 1835 work "Democracy in America’ that dollar was the most frequently spoken word.


Shame on them. They became the Milgram students. As someone said, you’d think they’d know better, but the desire to be “in” with the powerful is strong and causes delusions.



The article states that APA “officials” were directly involved. This article doesn’t say that the entire membership of the APA knew what those officials were up to.

inserted by APA officials into the 2005 APA ethics policy on interrogations.

Does that not convey an official APA policy position? Could not a person be a member of the APA while at the same time be opposed to that official APA policy position? I’m not implying that there aren’t such members but making the point that an APA official policy does speak for the APA regardless of whether or not the entire membership agrees.

Thus, the APA has condoned torture officially, apparently. And seems that there is proof of this.


Things may have changed, but the APA used to be a collegial association, the “officials” holding honorary, ceremonial positions, not ones of fiat power. Back then, at least, significant changes would be discussed by the whole membership, perhaps for years, before being voted on. So the statement you call out looks like their action was illegitimate, much like that of the SCOTUS clerk who in the 1880s unilaterally turned corporations into people with a stroke of his pen.


Things always change. I urge you to read the report:

The APA’s complicity in the CIA torture program, by allowing psychologists to administer and calibrate permitted harm, undermines the fundamental ethical standards of the profession.


But the claim you quote mis-states the case, Aleph, which is my objection to the “report” in general (which, I suppose I’d better mention, I did read). The APA can’t “allow” or “not allow” anything – they’re not a licensing board, they have no power other than criticising those members who behave egregiously, and eventually suspending/expelling them from membership if they won’t reform, as they finally did to the vile Paul Cameron (see http://psychology.ucdavis.edu/faculty_sites/rainbow/HTML/Cameron_apaletter.html).