Saturday, August 16, 2008

First, Do No Harm

From the New York Times:
"They have closely studied suspects, looking for mental quirks. They have suggested lines of questioning. They have helped decide when a confrontation is too intense, or when to push harder. More than those in the other healing professions, psychologists have played a central role in the military and C.I.A. interrogation of people suspected of being enemy combatants.

But now the profession, long divided over this role, is considering whether to make any involvement in military interrogations a violation of its code of ethics.

At the American Psychological Association’s annual meeting this week in Boston, prominent members are denouncing such work as unethical by definition, while other key figures — civilian and military — insist that restricting psychologists’ roles would only make interrogations more likely to harm detainees.

Like other professional organizations, the association has little direct authority to restrict members’ ability to practice. But state licensing boards can suspend or revoke a psychologist’s license, and experts note that these boards often take violations of the association’s ethics code into consideration.

The election for the association’s president is widely seen as a referendum on the issue. Human rights groups, including Amnesty International, plan a protest on Saturday afternoon.

And last week, for the first time, lawyers for a detainee at the United States Navy base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, singled out a psychologist as a critical player in documents alleging abusive treatment.

“It’s really a fight for the soul of the profession,” said Brad Olson, a psychologist at Northwestern University, who has circulated a petition among members to place a moratorium on such consulting.

Others strongly disagree. “The vast majority of military psychologists know the ethics code and know exactly what they can and cannot do,” said William J. Strickland, who represents the Society for Military Psychology before the association’s council. “This is a fight about individual psychologists’ behavior, and we should keep it there.”

At the center of the debate are the military’s behavioral science consultation teams, informally known as biscuits, made up of psychologists and others who assist in interrogations. Little is known about these units, including the number of psychologists who take part. Neither the military nor the team members have disclosed many details.

Defenders of that role insist that the teams are crucial in keeping interrogations safe, effective and legal. Critics say their primary purpose is to help break detainees, using methods that might violate international law.

In court documents filed Thursday, lawyers for the Guantánamo detainee Mohammed Jawad asserted that a psychologist’s report helped land Mr. Jawad, a teenager at the time, in a segregation cell, where he became increasingly desperate.

According to the documents, the psychologist, whose name has not been released, completed an assessment of Mr. Jawad after he was seen talking to a poster on his cell wall. [Someone noticed Jawad was having psychotic symptoms] Shortly thereafter, in September 2003, he was isolated from other detainees [a really wrong thing to do with someone you have noticed is having psychotic symptoms] and many of his requests to see an interrogator were ignored. He later attempted suicide [what a surprise] , according to the filing, which asks that the case be dismissed on the ground of abusive treatment.

The Guantánamo court is reviewing the case. Military lawyers have denied that Mr. Jawad suffered any mental health problems from his interrogation [tell it to the Marines]. On Thursday, the psychologist in the case invoked Article 31 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the military’s equivalent of the Fifth Amendment.

“This is what it’s come to,” said Steven Reisner, an assistant clinical professor at the New York University School of Medicine and a leading candidate for the presidency of the psychological association. “We have psychologists taking the Fifth.”

Dr. Reisner has based his candidacy on “a principled stance against our nation’s policy of using psychologists to oversee abusive and coercive interrogations” at Guantánamo and the so-called black sites operated by the Central Intelligence Agency.

The psychological association’s most recent ethics amendments strongly condemn coercive techniques adopted in the Bush administration’s anti-terrorism campaign. But its current guidelines covering practice conclude that “it is consistent with the A.P.A. ethics code for psychologists to serve in consultative roles to interrogation and information-gathering processes for national-security-related purposes,” as long as they do not participate in any of 19 coercive procedures, including waterboarding, the use of hoods and any physical assault."

Yes, yes. Of course.

It's sort of like having a medical doctor present during "interrogations" to revive a torturee so they become awake enough to torture all over again, is it not?

Full story here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was trying to think of something sensible to say, but fuck it, they're scumbags and I hope they all suffer in a way that's as horrid as anything that they were parties to. Bastards.