Psychologists accused of Geneva violations

Salon claims to have uncovered evidence that two psychologists have been involved in developing military and CIA interrogation techniques “which likely violated the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners”.

The online magazine has been investigating the role of psychologists in ‘war-on-terror’ interrogations for some time.

Last year they broke the story that the American Psychological Association endorsed the participation of psychologists in military interrogations when American medical associations had explicitly banned their members from taking part as they considered it against their ethical code.

The article caused a storm of controversy among psychologists, not least because the committee that drafted the guidelines had a majority of members with direct ties to the military.

Despite protests from members, the APA still fell short of bringing their code of conduct in line with their medical colleagues, although they did require their members to intervene and report abusive practices.

Now, Salon claim that two psychologists have been involved in a joint US military / CIA project to develop potentially abusive interrogation techniques by ‘reverse engineering’ a training programme to help special forces troops resist abusive interrogations.

There is growing evidence of high-level coordination between the Central Intelligence Agency and the U.S. military in developing abusive interrogation techniques used on terrorist suspects. After the Sept. 11 attacks, both turned to a small cadre of psychologists linked to the military’s secretive Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape program to “reverse-engineer” techniques originally designed to train U.S. soldiers to resist torture if captured, by exposing them to brutal treatment. The military’s use of SERE training for interrogations in the war on terror was revealed in detail in a recently declassified report. But the CIA’s use of such tactics — working in close coordination with the military — until now has remained largely unknown.

Furthermore, APA members have now written an open letter claiming that another psychologist has been involved in similar practices.

If the accusations turn out to be true, it makes for truly grim reading for a profession that usually prides itself on its ethical standards and robust code of conduct.

Link to Salon article ‘The CIA’s torture teachers’.

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