November 4, 2013

Statement in Response to the Report of the Task Force of the Institute of Medicine as a Profession and the Open Society Foundation

The American Psychological Association supports a number of the key recommendations of the IMOP/OSF report as consonant with APA’s policies, including the calls for comprehensive training of military health professionals to ensure compliance with professional ethical responsibilities toward detainees and for the Department of Defense and CIA to ensure that health professionals working in detention centers adhere to the ethical principles of their professions. 

The position of the American Psychological Association is clear and unequivocal: For more than 25 years, the association has absolutely condemned any psychologist participation in torture. APA policy states that torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment is never acceptable regardless of circumstances, including war or the threat of war.

APA partnered with the American Psychiatric Association in 1985 to issue a joint statement against torture. Since then, the American Psychological Association has issued numerous statements condemning torture and abuse and adding specificity to the association’s anti-torture policies. These statements have forbidden psychologists from perpetrating or supporting torture; obligated psychologists to report torture and abuse; and prohibited specific “enhanced” interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding and sensory deprivation (2006). APA’s membership passed a referendum that limits where psychologists may consult to ethical interrogations — unlawful detention settings are prohibited for this role.

In August 2013, APA consolidated its many anti-torture resolutions into a single, comprehensive policy. This reconciled policy rescinded the 2005 report of the APA Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security (PENS) — as recommended by the IMOP/OSF report — and retained the association's 2006 policy concerning torture and the 2008 member petition regarding psychologists' work in national security settings

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States. APA's membership includes more than 134,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people's lives.