APA's Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security (PENS) stated clearly in its report last year that psychologists should not mix the role of interrogation consultant and health-care provider. To shed further light on interrogations and compliance with the Ethics Code-which some members say needs clarification-APA's Ethics Committee is currently developing a detailed commentary/casebook, noted committee chair Olivia Moorehead-Slaughter, PhD, at APA's 2006 Annual Convention.
By providing psychologists with examples drawn from experiences of practitioners working in the field, the commentary will help them make their own judgments about what constitutes ethical behavior, Moorehead-Slaughter said. She believes the examples will help psychologists recognize when they see an interrogation veer toward cruel, degrading or inhuman treatment of a prisoner or detainee.
"With some of those terms-cruel, degrading, inhuman-they'll take on more meat in terms of what that would look like,'' she said.
The commentary will likely also include a section discussing ways a psychologist can intervene to stop mistreatment if it occurs, and to report it, she said.
To make the commentary relevant for military psychologists, it will also discuss the unique role of serving as a psychologist and an officer within a military unit, she said.
Moorehead-Slaughter said she understands that some psychologists believe that their colleagues shouldn't play any role in interrogations related to national security and terrorism, but emphasized that the commentary will discuss how such work can be ethically performed.
"It is certainly possible in their roles to act ethically, and practice ethically," she said. "It will not be debate or referendum on whether they should be doing the work they're doing at all."
The Ethics Committee will work on the commentary at a meeting this month but has not set a deadline for publication.