Task Force to Examine Ethics and National Security

Shortly after organizing a Capitol Hill briefing "How Can the Science of Human Behavior Help Us Understand Abu Ghraib?" in June of 2004, Science Policy staff worked with APA's Director of Ethics to convene an "Ethics and National Security Forum".

Shortly after organizing a Capitol Hill briefing "How Can the Science of Human Behavior Help Us Understand Abu Ghraib?" in June of 2004, Science Policy staff worked with APA's Director of Ethics to convene an "Ethics and National Security Forum". The meeting, held July 20 at APA headquarters, brought together psychologists and psychiatrists working in various parts of the intelligence community to discuss a range of issues relevant to the conduct of national security investigations.

As an outgrowth of those discussions and increasing media attention on interrogation practices at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and elsewhere, APA President Ron Levant called for the establishment of a "Task Force to Explore the Ethical Aspects of Psychologists' Involvement and the Use of Psychology in National Security-Related Investigations". The APA Board of Directors approved the Task Force at its February 16-17 meeting, and Dr. Levant is now seeking nominations for individuals with appropriate expertise to serve on the Task Force. Names of nominees should be forwarded to Stephen Behnke, director of APA's Ethics Office, along with a brief statement no longer than 200 words (please do not send CVs) concerning the individual's qualifications for the Task Force. Nominations are due March 1.

In anticipation of the announcement of the new Task Force, Science Policy staffer Heather Kelly and the Director of APA's Ethics Office, Stephen Behnke, briefed senior staffers from the Senate Armed Services Committee on the proposed Task Force on February 9. Staff were very interested in following the progress of the new Task Force. APA has been engaged in other parallel activities by offering to serve as a resource to the Office of the General Counsel within the Department of Defense, which is also reviewing policies that may pertain to the role of mental health professionals in interrogation settings. Further, Science Policy staff have contacted both the Institute of Medicine and senior psychologists in the Army Surgeon Generals Office to offer APA as a resource should the Army or Congress decide to commission further study of the subject via an independent scientific advisory group.