Psychologists are shaking hands with officials, abusive interrogations go on

Leaders of the largest association of psychologists in the country reportedly collaborated with Pentagon and CIA officials to weaken the group’s guidelines, allowing psychologists to take part in and cover up their involvement in coercive interrogation tactics after the 9/11 attacks.

The American Psychological Association’s report details findings from a former federal prosecutor that seem to show the complicity of psychologists in interrogation programs that sometimes relied on torture, according to The Washington Post.

The investigation into the association concludes that the APA’s ethics director and others colluded with top level Department of Defense officials to have the association issue “loose, high-level ethical guidelines that did not constrain” the Pentagon in its interrogations of Guantanamo Bay detainees.

The Post reports the investigation also found that “current and former APA officials” had pertinent interactions with the CIA between 2001 and 2004 when the agency used waterboarding and other extreme measures to try and get information from prisoners at the camp.

The scathing 542-page report was commissioned by the psychological association’s board of directors last year base on an investigation led by David H. Hoffman. Hoffman was an assistant U.S. attorney in Chicago from 1998 to 2005.

The Guardian, citing sources with knowledge to the report, writes a slew of firings are expected to be handed down at the association. Several officials are likely to be on their way out. The paper reports APA’s ethics chief Stephen Behnke is one of the officials who is likely to be fired stemming from the revelations. Behnke reportedly relied heavily on psychologists to design and implement abusive techniques.

The report says Behnke and others coordinated with Defense officials to issue guidelines to psychologists after public revelations about the abuse of prisoners in Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison.

The Guardian also reports the evidence could merit and FBI investigation into criminal wrongdoing by the APA, according to its sources. However, it wouldn’t be intelligence officials being investigated or senior officials in the Bush administration, but rather the psychologists who directed them.

The association indicated in a statement to The Post Friday it plans to adopt sweeping changes across the board, including potentially banning psychologists from participating in future interrogations of people held in custody by the military or intelligence officials.

“The Hoffman report contains deeply disturbing findings that reveal previously unknown and troubling instances of collusion,” said Susan McDaniel, a member of an association independent review panel evaluating the findings.

The APA report has added to the list of scathing findings during a controversial period in history, including a Senate Intelligence Committee report last year that accused the CIA of shrugging off the brutality of its interrogation methods.

The collusion between officials and psychologists was aimed to make sure the new panel wouldn’t prohibit psychologists from continuing their work at Guantanamo Bay, The Post reports.

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