The American Psychological Association secretly collaborated with the administration of President George W. Bush to justify torture. That’s the claim made in a new report issued by academics, health professionals and human rights activists. The report claims that the APA worked closely with Bush administration officials to maintain the presence of psychologists in the program, in effect granting it legitimacy. In this way, the APA helped the Justice Department to argue (in secret opinions) that the program was legal and did not constitute torture, since the interrogations were being monitored by health professionals to make sure they were safe.
The American Psychological Association “clearly supports the role of psychologists in a way our behavioral science consultants operate,” said Dr. William Winkenwerder, then the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs. In 2004, after reports of the abuses at Abu Gharib prompted harsh criticism of the torture program, the association issued guidelines that in effect allowed its members to be involved in the interrogation program.
“In 2004 and 2005 the C.I.A. torture program was threatened from within and outside the Bush administration,” Mr. Soldz, one of the authors of the report, told the New York Times. “Like clockwork, the A.P.A. directly addressed legal threats at every critical juncture facing the senior intelligence officials at the heart of the program. In some cases the A.P.A. even allowed these same Bush officials to actually help write the association’s policies.”
The interrogation program has since been shut down, and is considered by experts to have been ineffective and abusive. The cooperation of scientists in the program, if proven, is a shameful episode in American academia.