Worldwide Campaign to stop the Abuse and Torture of Mind Control/DEWs

The "DARK" side of the Government/Military/Psychology must be stopped

The dark side of psychology in abuse and interrogation

A new report uncovers the role of US psychologists in torture and criticizes the American Psychological Association for supporting interrogation in the name of national security

guantanamoThe IMAP/OSF report raises disturbing questions about the role of psychologists in cruel and inhumane treatment of prisoners. Photograph: Bob Strong/Reuters

This week the Institute on Medicine as a Profession (IMAP) and the Open Society Foundations (OSF) have published the most comprehensive study on the role of psychologists in the War on Terror. At 269 pages, the full report is as detailed as it is grim, concluding that American psychologists collaborated extensively with the Department of Defense, the Department of Justice, and the CIA to develop a range of interrogation methods used in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantánamo Bay.

The list of methods is horrifying: beatings, exposure to extreme cold, shackling, repeated slamming into walls, sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, exposure to prolonged white noise and yelling, forced nakedness, exploitation of phobias, slaps to the face and abdomen, cramped confinement, prolonged stress positions (such as having hands and feet chained to the floor), forced feeding via gastrointestinal tubing, sexual and religious humiliation, forcible restraint of the head, deprivation of basic items such as sheets, blankets and mattresses (termed "comfort items"), threats to the detainee’s family, asphyxiation, and waterboarding

The report documents how psychologists consulted with the military under the Orwellian euphemism of "safety officers". Their official role was to work in Behavioral Science Consultation Teams to "identify vulnerabilities of detainees and collaborate with interrogators in exploiting them". Psychologists were selected for these positions based on professional training in clinical and forensic psychology. Yet while clearly valuing these qualifications, the military classified the psychologists as "combatants" rather than health practitioners, a move which enabled them to bypass normal ethical standards.

Those ethical standards themselves are unclear. The American Psychological Association (APA) – the official professional body for psychologists in the US – officially rejects torture but it also supports the role of psychologists in interrogation: "It is consistent with the APA Ethics Code for psychologists to serv.... The APA has yet to indicate which, if any, of the methods listed in the IMAP/OSF report would be consistent with its ethical policy.

The position of the British Psychological Society is even less clear. On the one hand the Society condemns torture yet at the same time remains silent on whether psychologists can assist with interrogation or other military objectives. As with the APA's policy, the point at which interrogation becomes abuse is left unsaid, the boundaries of unethical conduct given room to move.

The report makes a number of concrete recommendations, calling for US president Barack Obama to apply more strict prohibitions on the use of "sleep deprivation, isolation, exploitation of fear, and other interrogation methods that violate international standards". It also urges the APA to clarify its ethical policy and "repudiate the report of its Presidential Task Force…that condones the participation of psychologists in interrogation".

These are undoubtedly vital reforms, but the facts uncovered by this study raise even more fundamental questions. In the quest for national security, is there a genuine balance to be met between the ideologies of "do no harm" and "prevent harm being done"? At what point (if any) is it morally acceptable for psychologists to be deployed as weapons of war? As important as it is for the psychological profession to clarify its policies on these issues, it is also not for psychologists alone to provide the answers. That responsibility is shared by all citizens of a free society.

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Comment by Ms. Kris Durschmidt on November 25, 2013 at 1:32pm
Zoe Lofgren
US congresswoman

But the intelligence agencies dismiss such claims, arguing that their programs are constitutional, and subject to rigorous congressional and judicial oversight. Secrecy, they say, is essential to meet their overriding aim of protecting the public from terrorist attacks.

Comment by Ms. Kris Durschmidt on November 25, 2013 at 1:32pm
Comment by Ms. Kris Durschmidt on November 25, 2013 at 1:36pm

Perhaps the antidote to this self-righteous lunacy is to be found at the coalition Web site: It will happen again if we don't stand up to it now.
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Robert Koehler, an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist, is an editor at Tribune Media Services and nationally syndicated writer. You can respond to this column or visit his Web site at
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Comment by Ms. Kris Durschmidt on November 25, 2013 at 1:54pm

Related article:

terrorists after 9/11, taskforce finds

Doctors were asked to torture detainees for intelligence gathering, and unethical practices continue, review concludes
  • Jump to comments (1239)
CIA made doctors torture suspected terrorists after 9/11, taskforce finds
An al-Qaida detainee at Guantanamo Bay in 2002: the DoD has taken steps to address concerns over practices at the prison in recent years. Photograph: Shane T Mccoy/PA

Doctors and psychologists working for the US military violated the ethical codes of their profession under instruction from the defence department and the CIA to become involved in the torture and degrading treatment of suspected terrorists, an investigation has concluded.

The report of the Taskforce on Preserving Medical Professionalism in National Security Detention Centres concludes that after 9/11, health professionals working with the military and intelligence services "designed and participated in cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment and torture of detainees".

Medical professionals were in effect told that their ethical mantra "first do no harm" did not apply, because they were not treating people who were ill.

The report lays blame primarily on the defence department (DoD) and the CIA, which required their healthcare staff to put aside any scruples in the interests of intelligence gathering and security practices that caused severe harm to detainees, from waterboarding to sleep deprivation and force-feeding.

The two-year review by the 19-member taskforce, Ethics Abandoned: Medical Professionalism and Detainee Abuse in the War on Terror, supported by the Institute on Medicine as a Profession (IMAP) and the Open Society Foundations, says that the DoD termed those involved in interrogation "safety officers" rather than doctors. Doctors and nurses were required to participate in the force-feeding of prisoners on hunger strike, against the rules of the World Medical Association and the American Medical Association. Doctors and psychologists working for the DoD were required to breach patient confidentiality and share what they knew of the prisoner's physical and psychological condition with interrogators and were used as interrogators themselves. They also failed to comply with recommendations from the army surgeon general on reporting abuse of detainees.

The CIA's office of medical services played a critical role in advising the justice department that "enhanced interrogation" methods, such as extended sleep deprivation and waterboarding, which are recognised as forms of torture, were medically acceptable. CIA medical personnel were present when waterboarding was taking place, the taskforce says.

Although the DoD has taken steps to address concerns over practices at Guantánamo Bay in recent years, and the CIA has said it no longer has suspects in detention, the taskforce says that these "changed roles for health professionals and anaemic ethical standards" remain.

"The American public has a right to know that the covenant with its physicians to follow professional ethical expectations is firm regardless of where they serve," said Dr Gerald Thomson, professor of medicine emeritus at Columbia University and member of the taskforce.

He added: "It's clear that in the name of national security the military trumped that covenant, and physicians were transformed into agents of the military and performed acts that were contrary to medical ethics and practice. We have a responsibility to make sure this never happens again."The taskforce says that unethical practices by medical personnel, required by the military, continue today. The DoD "continues to follow policies that undermine standards of professional conduct" for interrogation, hunger strikes, and reporting abuse. Protocols have been issued requiring doctors and nurses to participate in the force-feeding of detainees, including forced extensive bodily restraints for up to two hours twice a day.

Doctors are still required to give interrogators access to medical and psychological information about detainees which they can use to exert pressure on them. Detainees are not permitted to receive treatment for the distress caused by their torture.

"Putting on a uniform does not and should not abrogate the fundamental principles of medical professionalism," said IMAP president David Rothman. "'Do no harm' and 'put patient interest first' must apply to all physicians regardless of where they practise."The taskforce wants a full investigation into the involvement of the medical profession in detention centres. It is also calling for publication of the Senate intelligence committee's inquiry into CIA practices and wants rules to ensure doctors and psychiatrists working for the military are allowed to abide by the ethical obligations of their profession; they should be prohibited from taking part in interrogation, sharing information from detainees' medical records with interrogators, or participating in force-feeding, and they should be required to report abuse of detainees.

Comment by Sue on November 26, 2013 at 1:23pm

Sad to say Kris but it doesnt suprise me that psychological/medical practioners are involved and their cover of protecting the public from "terrorist attacks" is just bullocks as we know.


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