Psychologists and Torture

A new report in Vanity Fair documents more about this administration's authorization of torture as its main tool in intelligence-gathering in the war on terror. Among the facts that are becoming clearer is the cooptation of the psychological profession to craft, monitor and adjust torture techniques for detainees. Some in the professional psychological and psychiatric community are raising hell. Money quote from a press release from Physicians For Human Rights today:

"The indisputable evidence disclosed today that the US government, with the assistance of psychologists, was engaged in psychological torture tactics for the CIA is as morally reprehensible as Tuskegee and the MK-Ultra program of the 1950’s and 60’s," stated Leonard S. Rubenstein, Executive Director of PHR. "It is imperative that both White House and Congress explicitly prohibit the use of these specific tactics once and for all.  They have no place in lawful and honorable military and intelligence communities," ...

"The use of psychologists by the military and the intelligence community to inflict psychological harm on detainees in our custody is the most severe affront to health professional ethics imaginable," stated Brigadier General Stephen N. Xenakis, MD (USA-Ret.), former Commander of Southeast Medical Command and a Senior Advisor to PHR. "This scandal has stained the core ethical and legal foundations of two professions the soldier and the healer. Those uniformed and civilian officials who authorized this perversion of the military medical corps' mission should be ashamed of their actions and be held to account."

In my view, they should be prosecuted for war crimes, along with their civilian administration masters. PHR goes on:

Beyond the disclosures about the alleged actions of psychologists at CIA Black Sites, today’s report in Vanity Fair contains disturbing new information about high-level authorizations in late 2001 of broad parameters for CIA interrogations involving personnel, including psychologists, seconded from the DoD.  These authorizations strongly suggest the involvement of senior-level Bush Administration officials in the events that led to the regime of psychological torture that migrated to all three theaters of operation in the "War on Terror," including Iraq, Afghanistan, and the CIA Black Sites.

"The long-standing distinctions between the roles of the military and intelligence communities appear to have been ripped asunder in the rush to employ abusive interrogation tactics after the tragedy of 9/11," stated Xenakis.  "Harnessing the medical knowledge of health professionals to break bodies and minds is, sadly, but one of many egregious consequences when over two centuries of military tradition and ethical discipline is tossed aside."