July 1, 2008

APA Actions to Implement the Council Resolutions Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The American Psychological Association (APA) has undertaken several actions over the past year to implement the APA Council of Representatives resolutions against torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.

The American Psychological Association (APA) has undertaken the following actions over the past year to implement the APA Council of Representatives resolutions against torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment:

  • Calls for Changes to Bush Administration Interrogation Policy. APA sent letters with the 2007 Council resolution to President George W. Bush, CIA Director Michael Hayden, and Attorney General Michael Mukasey (PDF, 125 KB) urging prohibition of the 19 specified interrogation techniques, as well as any others that constitute torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. These officials were informed that APA members are prohibited from participating in such techniques and that testimony derived from the use of such techniques should be rejected. APA also urged them to establish policies and procedures that fully protect the human rights of detainees in all settings. These letters were posted on APA's Web site and shared with news media and the public in a continued effort to influence news reporting, public understanding, and federal policy decisions.

  • Support for Congressional Hearings regarding Interrogation Techniques. APA sent letters to the Senate Judiciary Committee surrounding the then-pending confirmation of Judge Mukasey as attorney general that called for the prohibition of waterboarding and other harsh “enhanced” interrogation techniques authorized by President Bush's Executive Order in July, 2007. APA also communicated with the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties in advance of a hearing on these “enhanced” interrogation techniques and was contacted afterwards by the subcommittee counsel for input regarding specific legislation.

  • Submission of Congressional Testimony. APA was invited to submit written testimony for a hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that highlighted the important contributions of psychologists in eliciting information to prevent violence and protect our nation's security, the need for clear ethical guidelines to govern these processes, and the critical need for further research on all aspects of information-educing processes. Science Government Relations and Ethics staff met with Committee legal counsel to reinforce APA's no torture or abuse policy and recommendations.

  • Collaboration with Human Rights Organizations. APA has engaged in initiatives with human rights organizations, such as Physicians for Human Rights, and will continue to do so to further our proactive agenda to safeguard human rights and welfare through involvement at the federal level.

  • Ethical Guidance for APA Members. The APA Ethics Committee put out a call for vignettes for a casebook and commentary to provide guidelines for psychologists in military interrogations that are consistent with international human rights instruments and guidelines developed for health professionals. The Committee will sponsor a session at the August 2008 APA Convention in Boston to provide an update on its work, which it expects to complete this year.

  • Public and Member Communications. APA's Public Affairs Office has responded to hundreds of inquiries from members, the news media, and the public regarding APA's position, posted a "Frequently Asked Questions" summary on APA's Web site, and monitored media and blog coverage of the issue. The APA Ethics Office, in collaboration with the Practice Directorate's State Advocacy Office, has consulted with state psychological associations to address member inquiries about APA's position. APA continues to make information publicly available about its policies concerning ethics and interrogation and its activities to implement the Council resolutions (see American Psychological Association Policies and Actions Related to Detainee Welfare and Professional Ethics in the Context of Interrogation and National Security).