and guild wars…

Posted on Friday 17 July 2015

In case you’re behind on the APA/Torture story, here are a few catch-up links. Also see Rob Purssey’s comment to the last post [UPDATE: There’s a more readable version here]:
I spent a lot of time in the period between 2005 and 2008 blogging about the misadventures of the Bush Administration and learned more than I ever wanted to know about the CIA/DoD Torture Program. Last night, I looked over some of those posts and felt the same fire in the belly I felt when I wrote them. I reread about the American Enterprise Institute, the Project for the New American Century, the Federalist Society, the Niger Forgeries, Valerie Plame, The Torture Memos, American Dominion, the Unitary Executive, etc. They wanted us to opportunize on the fall of the Communist Bloc and take over as the sole super-power. And they used the tragedy of 911 to jump·start their New American Century by invading Iraq. It was painful to read all of that again and I  stopped when I began to feel nauseated.

But there was one piece in all of what I had forgotten about those crazy times that relates to the present point. Remember that the Bybee/Yoo Torture Memos appeared quickly after 911, and the torture program at GITMO started early, almost as soon as the detainees captured in Afghanistan started arriving. In 2008, the Senate Investigation [The Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody] told us why [see the the why of torture…]:
When Psychiatrist Major Paul Burney arrived at Guantanamo Bay in June 2002, he was unaware that he would be assigned to BSCT [Behavioral Science Consultation Team] to support interrogations.
    [1] Three of us; [the enlisted psychiatric technician], and I, were hijacked and immediately in processed into Joint Task Force 170, the military intelligence command on the island. It turns out we were assigned to the interrogation element because Joint Task Force 170 had authorizations for a psychiatrist, a psychologist, and a psychiatric technician on its duty roster but nobody had been deployed to fill these positions. Nobody really knew what we were supposed to do for the unit, but at least the duty roster had its positions filled.

    They knew nothing of interrogation, so the psychologist contacted a psychologist he had met, LTC Banks, who was [unknown to the contacting psychologist] working with SERE. Banks set out to arrange training. BSCT thought they were going there just to learn about interrogation, but their CO wanted them to bring back SERE techniques to try.

    [2] At the time, there was a view by some at GTMO that interrogation operations had not yielded the anticipated intelligence, MAJ Burney testified to the Army IG regarding interrogations: "This is my opinion, even though they were giving information and some of it was useful, while we were there a large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between al Qaeda and Iraq and we were not being successful in establishing a link between al Qaeda and Iraq. The more frustrated people got in not being able to establish this link, there was more and more pressure to resort to measures that might produce more immediate results."
They actually tortured one detainee into saying that there was an al Qaeda·Iraq connection, but he recanted as soon as they stopped drowning him every day [no big surprise]. And in case you didn’t catch it, the "LTC Banks" mentioned by Major Burney is the same "Banks" that ended up orchestrating the APA PENS Task Force in consort with Stephen Behnke, the APA Ethics Director.

The point is simply that besides being an indelible blot on the moral integrity of our country and failing to yield anything of any worth to us, the Torture Program was actually used as a tool to take advantage of our wounded and frightened state to trump up a reason to invade a sovereign country that had nothing to do with 911 by trying to link al Qaeda and Iraq, probably partly motivated to gain access to Iraq’s oil reserves and partly as a showpiece for their Project for the New American Century – AKA American Dominion on the world stage. So why did the APA Ethics Director, Stephen Behnke, and his cohort in the APA leadership do it? Was he part of the Bush Administration megalomania. No, it was something much simpler…

…to repeat «from the Hoffman Report, page 14»
APA’s motive to please DoD

The very substantial benefits APA obtained from DoD help explain APA’s motive to please DoD. and show that APA likely had an organizational conflict of interest, which it needed to take steps to guard against. DoD is one of the largest employers of psychologists and provides many millions of dollars in grants or contracts for psychologists around the country. The history of DoD providing critical assistance to the advancement and growth of psychology as a profession is well documented, and includes DoD’s creation of a prescription-privileges "demonstration project" in which psychologists were certified to prescribe psychiatric drugs within DoD after going through a two-year training course… And by the time of the PENS Task Force, contemporaneous internal discussions show that improving APA’s already strong relationship with DoD was a clear priority for officials working on the PENS Task Force.

In addition, at the time of the task force’s creation, DoD was in the midst of developing policy about how psychologists and psychiatrists could participate in interrogations and other intelligence-collection activities. APA wanted to positively influence DoD regarding this policy so that psychologists would be included to the maximum degree possible, and psychologists would not lose the lead role to psychiatrists. APA used the pro-DoD task force composition and report to show its strong support to DoD, with the hope or expectation that APA would be rewarded with a very prominent role for psychologists in this new policy. And in fact, the policy did provide a very prominent role for psychologists, a fact celebrated by the APA officials who had worked most closely on the task force…
And in response to allegations that psychologists had behaved unethically and actively participated in Torture:

«from the Hoffman Report, page 63»
Behnke failed to proceed with and actively resisted proceeding with these complaints. The evidence shows that Behnke knew that the adjudications process was not equipped to address ethical complaints regarding psychologists’ participation in interrogations — and that it would not lead to any sort of meaningful or thorough investigation.

The end result of the limited nature of the ethics investigations and the Ethics Office’s purposeful unwillingness to thoroughly investigate allegations of unethical conduct by psychologists who participated in interrogations was that the Ethics Office prioritized the protection of psychologists — even those who might have engaged in unethical behavior — above the protection of the public.

    berit bryn jensen
    July 18, 2015 | 4:20 AM

    From America – the USA – we get the worst and the best of everything, a saying from the European side of the pond, fitting at times as these. It’s heartbreaking to consider – once again – the corruption of health professionals into enablers of torture, murder and the massmurder of war, as Nazi-Doctors of years past. It gives (some) hope to witness people of integrity resisting the evil, doing their share, as documented on this blog. Thank you! Following a link here, I found more to ponder:

    July 19, 2015 | 9:14 AM

    Although this doesn’t apply to Behnke, a lot of psychologists are not familiar with philosophy, not even the titles of major schools of thought. I talked to a newly-minted psychologist who had never heard of consequentialism or utilitarianism. She was a utilitarian, bu she didn’t know it.

    It’s interesting to me that the APA’s Psychoanalysis branch is the one that fought hardest against torture. I kind of wonder whether certain aspects of CBT and Seligman’s positive thinking lend itself to this kind of thinking. Torture doesn’t work to get good information, but if you are a utilitarian who believes in the possibility of calculating units of happiness and well-being then you can make the argument that torture is justified if it makes the lives of more people better or some people that much better than it harms the individual being tortured.

    The value of the grants and training (the improvement in the well-being of the psychologists and the advancement of the science) can be justified. I haven’t thought this through yet, and I don’t want to malign Beck in any way, but I do find a much darker side to Seligman’s Positive Psychology.

    July 19, 2015 | 7:52 PM

    As pathetic as Bush’s war in Iraq was, it is equally pathetic what Obama refuses to acknowledge per the role of radical Islam has in current violence, especially after what happened in Tennessee this week.

    And, I have patients who work in Washington who are more and more concerned about the risk of being victims of terrorism that this pathetic president refuses to acknowledge.

    So, maybe think about that as a post if it has an impact on your concerns…

    July 20, 2015 | 10:12 PM

    “[insert religion] leaders also delivered stern, sometimes violent, talks condemning the non-[insert religion] who were then considered threats.”

    Ferrell Varner
    July 20, 2015 | 10:36 PM

    Many old issues. Abu Grahib always comes up as some sort place at the apogee of torture. It was a mess to be sure. However, it reminded me of prolonged fraternity hazing. During the time Abu Grahip was open, a lot more people died in fraternity hazing incidents than died at AG. Only one died at AG. Prisoners were humiliated, shaved, made to stack naked on each other and pose for alarming, stupid pictures. Just like the letterman’s Club initiation at various colleges. The humiliation certainly went on longer, and they could not go home, but it was not a house of carnage. Thankfully, the army and government investigated, reported and punished. Hopefully it won’t happen again. Trying to spread democracy and capitalism caused a lot of death and sadness. It was less than a communist/socialist revolution, but certainly more than we should have ever been involved with.

    Winge D. Moncke Ph.D.
    July 20, 2015 | 11:59 PM

    From the start it seemed odd that psychologists were of any special use to…anyone, I guess. We see what they wanted from DOD but it seems to me DOD should have cast a wider net if it’s true that the interrogations mainly failed.

    Stephen Soldz in 2012 recounting a conversation with Behnke. In context, he doesn’t seem to think Behnke is speaking truthfully.

    So we went on and parried. It was a very interesting evening because he was field-testing arguments on me. He was giving me counter-arguments, I would counter them, and there were two or three arguments that I didn’t have good counters to.

    Q: Such as?

    Soldz: Such as the American Psychiatric Association, who had said their members shouldn’t be involved in interrogations, had, nonetheless, said that they wouldn’t take ethics action against anyone who did participate. That was one. I forget what the other one was.

    p48, 49
    The Reminiscences of
    Stephen Soldz
    Columbia Center for Oral History
    Columbia University
    Interviewer: Mary Marshall Clark Date: May 24, 2012

    July 21, 2015 | 5:48 AM


    Those initiations were pretty awful. I’d have told them whatever they wanted to hear just like the detainees did.

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