In August, the Council of Representatives of the
American Psychological Association (APA) voted 157-1
to ban psychologists from participating in national
security interrogations for military or intelligence entities.
The move comes after years of work by a small group of
psychologists who exposed the APA’s role in legitimizing the
U.S. government’s use of torture in the war on terror.
For nearly a decade, the APA denied claims made by the
group. But last year — after James Risen of The New York
Times published Pay Any Price: Greed, Power and Endless
War, which documented the APA’s collusion in torture —
the organization commissioned an independent review to
examine the accusations.
The analysis confirmed the APA’s secret collaboration with
the Department of Defense (DOD) and CIA on “enhanced
interrogation” programs, including waterboarding, sleep
deprivation and other extreme tactics, during George W. Bush’s
presidency. In late July, the APA apologized for the “extremely
troubling and painful” revelations.
The APA’s sanctioning of the practices was critical to the
Bush administration’s claim it was acting within the law,
because it allowed the DOD and CIA to argue the tactics were
“safe and effective and therefore legal,” says Widney Brown,
director of programs at Physicians for Human Rights. The ban
represents a critical step toward accountability for those who
participated in torture, she says.