A bait and switch trick on torture and psychologists?

A poster on Metafilter has collected together news reports on the growing number of psychologists leaving the American Psychological Association in protest at their failure to condemn members who take part in the ‘War on Terror’ interrogations.

One of the most surprising aspects is from a contributor who suggests that the APA released a different text to the one approved by a 2006 committee vote that was intended to condemn abusive practices by psychologists.

The campaign group Coalition for an Ethical Psychology released a report [pdf] claiming that the original statement reviewed by the committee defined torture in terms of the United Nations criteria, but the published resolution had been changed to refer to the US Constitution, providing a definition of torture that is being used to allow abusive interrogations.

Strong public protests over the PENS Report [which condoned psychologists participating in interrogations, without mentioning torture or other abuse] prompted the APA Divisions for Social Justice and others to craft a new resolution prohibiting psychologists from participating in abusive detainee interrogations. In August 2006, after much discussion and debate, the APA’S Council of Representatives passed a Resolution Against Torture, Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment.

However, the version published by the APA differed from the version discussed and passed by the Council, in at least one significant respect: in the document reviewed by Council, psychologists were instructed to look to the United Nations Principles of Medical Ethics and international instruments for definitions of unethical behavior and “torture, cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.” In the published document, the definition of torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment instead was taken from the 5th, 8th and 14th amendments to the US Constitution, precisely the same definitions that had been used by the CIA, the DoD and the Bush Administration to assert that the abusive interrogation techniques in use at Guant√°namo, CIA black sites, and elsewhere were not “torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”

The more recent August 2007 resolution refers to both the United Nations and the US Constitution criteria, presumably making for a much stricter definition, although still fails to define some key definitions concerning distress.

However, the fact that an earlier version was ‘switched’ is quite concerning as it has become clear that psychologists are an incredibly valuable part of interrogation or ‘Behavioral Science Consultation Teams’ (aka ‘biscuit teams’).

In contrast, psychologists’ colleagues in both the American medical and psychiatric associations have outright banned their members from participation.

In practice, this hasn’t stopped some physicians becoming complicit in these interrogations, but many US psychologists are embarrassed by their parent organisations unwillingness to take the equivalent ethical line when the profession is increasingly seeking equal status to doctors.

Link to MeFi on psychologists leaving the APA (via BoingBoing).

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