August 17, 2008

APA Response to Stephen Soldz in the Boston Globe

Letter to the editor in response to the Op-ed, "Ending the psychological mind games on detainees," (The Boston Globe, August 10, 2008), by Stephen Soldz.

Dear Editor:

IN HIS recent piece ("Ending the psychological mind games on detainees," Op-ed, Aug. 10), Stephen Soldz seriously mischaracterizes both the actions and position of the American Psychological Association regarding psychologists' involvement in the interrogation of detainees.

In a series of resolutions dating more than 20 years, the APA has resoundingly condemned torture and the involvement of any psychologist in torture or abuse.

One year ago, the association's governing body passed a resolution condemning the abusive interrogation techniques that Soldz mentions. The 2007 policy resolution also expressed the APA's "grave concerns over settings in which detainees are deprived of adequate protection of their human rights" and "affirmed the prerogative of psychologists to refuse to work in such settings."

In its most recent statements, the APA has explicitly rejected a post-Sept. 11 justification for torture or abuse; imposed an obligation on psychologists to report instances of torture or abuse; and called upon US courts to reject testimony arising from torture or abuse. There are no exceptions to this position.

Notably, the Washington Post called the APA's 2007 antitorture resolution "a rebuke of the Bush administration's antiterrorism policies."

The APA has repeatedly expressed its concerns about these administration policies to President Bush, CIA Director Michael Hayden, and members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees.

The APA's position was arrived at by its members through an open, democratic process, which included the posting of the names and biographies of the APA task force on psychological ethics and national security on its website. The APA's position is also based on the premise that psychologists are obligated to try to prevent the abuse of detainees.

While two psychologists (neither of them APA members) have been identified in the media as developers of the CIA's so-called enhanced interrogation techniques, several other psychologists - some of them APA members - have been identified as intervening to try to stop abusive interrogations at the Guantanamo Bay detention center and elsewhere.

Far from attempting to quiet dissent on this issue among its membership, the APA has ensured that all voices and perspectives have been part of our robust and ongoing dialogue.

Washington, D.C.
The writer is executive director of public and member communications of the American Psychological Association