Letter to President Bush
November 1, 2007
President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
On behalf of the American Psychological Association (APA), we are writing to call upon you and your administration to safeguard the physical and psychological welfare and human rights of individuals incarcerated by the U.S. government in foreign detention centers. APA, the world's largest scientific and professional organization of psychologists, unequivocally condemns the use of torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment under any and all conditions, including the detention and interrogation of both lawful and unlawful “enemy combatants,” as defined by the U.S. Military Commissions Act of 2006 (see enclosed August 2007 resolution). Accordingly, we also urge you to establish policies and procedures to ensure the judicial review of these detentions, which in some instances have gone on for years without any determination of their legality.
Mr. President, the ongoing U.S. Senate confirmation process involving your Attorney General nominee Michael B. Mukasey provides a timely opportunity to expand your July 2007 Executive Order to clarify that “enhanced” interrogation techniques, such as forced nudity, waterboarding, and mock executions, which are defined as torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment by the Geneva Conventions and the United Nations Convention Against Torture, shall not be used or condoned by the U.S. government. We also urge the government to disallow any testimony resulting from the use of these techniques.
Psychologists consulting to the military and intelligence communities, like their colleagues in domestic forensic settings, use their expertise to promote the use of ethical, effective, and rapport-building interrogations, while safeguarding the welfare of interrogators and detainees. It is always unethical for psychologists to plan, design, or assist, either directly or indirectly, in interrogation techniques delineated in APA's 2007 resolution and any other techniques defined as torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment under the Geneva Conventions, the United Nations Convention Against Torture, and APA's 2006 Resolution Against Torture.
There are no exceptional circumstances whatsoever to these prohibitions, whether induced by a state of war, threat of war, or any other public emergency, or in the face of laws, regulations, or orders. APA supports psychologists who refuse to work in settings in which the human rights of detainees are not protected. Moreover, psychologists with knowledge of the use of any prohibited interrogation technique have an ethical responsibility to inform their superiors and the relevant office of inspectors general, as appropriate, and to cooperate fully with all government oversight activities to ensure that no individual is subjected to this type of treatment.
We look forward to working with your administration and the Congress to develop policies on interrogation that provide for ethical and effective means to elicit information to prevent acts of violence. Our own work in this area is ongoing, and we plan to make available a casebook and commentary (upon completion) to provide guidance on the interpretation of our resolution. If you have any questions or are in need of additional information, please contact either of us or APA's Director of Ethics, Stephen Behnke, J.D., Ph.D., at (202) 336-6006 or e-mail.
Sharon Stephens Brehm, Ph.D
Norman B. Anderson, Ph.D.
Chief Executive Officer