August 29, 2005

APA Council Endorses Ethical Guidelines for Psychologists Participating in National Security-Related Investigations and Interrogations

WASHINGTON - The American Psychological Association (APA) Council of Representatives, the Association's governing body, has endorsed a Task Force Report on Psychological Ethics and National Security today that sets forth strict ethical guidelines for psychologists' participation in national security-related investigations and interrogations.

Following the recommendations of the Task Force, the APA Council of Representatives reaffirmed an Association resolution against torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. The Task Force Report prohibits psychologists from any participation whatsoever in such abusive behaviors and places an ethical obligation on psychologists to be alert to and report abusive behaviors to the authorities. The Council of Representatives stated that there are no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether induced by a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, that may be invoked as a justification for torture, including the invocation of laws, regulations, or orders.

Central to its ethical analysis, the Task Force stated that psychologists are bound by the Association's Ethics Code in all their professional activities, regardless of whether they identify themselves as 'psychologists,' 'behavioral scientists' or some other term. The Council of Representatives directed the Ethics Committee to review a proposed change to the Association's Ethics Code, which would assure that psychologists faced with a conflict between ethics and law follow only those laws that are 'in keeping with basic principles of human rights.' The APA Council of Representatives also voted that credible evidence of unethical behavior should be referred to the APA Ethics Committee, the body charged with investigating and adjudicating ethics complaints.

The American Psychological Association (APA), in Washington, DC, is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world's largest association of psychologists. APA's membership includes more than 150,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 53 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting human welfare.