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August 01, 2007

Rotten Eggs


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in context

In an article in Vanity Fair Katherine Eban reports

Both army leaders and military psychologists say that psychologists help to make interrogations "safe, legal and effective." But last fall, a psychologist named Jean Maria Arrigo came to see me with a disturbing claim about the American Psychological Association, her profession's 148,000-member trade group. Arrigo had sat on a specially convened A.P.A. task force that, in July 2005, had ruled that psychologists could assist in military interrogations, despite angry objections from many in the profession. The task force also determined that, in cases where international human-rights law conflicts with U.S. law, psychologists could defer to the much looser U.S. standards—what Arrigo called the "Rumsfeld definition" of humane treatment.

Arrigo and several others with her, including a representative from Physicians for Human Rights, had come to believe that the task force had been rigged—stacked with military members (6 of the 10 had ties to the armed services), monitored by observers with undisclosed conflicts of interest, and programmed to reach preordained conclusions.

One theory was that the A.P.A. had given its stamp of approval to military interrogations as part of a quid pro quo. In exchange, they suspected, the Pentagon was working to allow psychologists—who, unlike psychiatrists, are not medical doctors—to prescribe medication, dramatically increasing their income. (The military has championed modern-day psychology since World War II, and continues to be one of the largest single employers of psychologists through its network of veterans' hospitals. It also funded a prescription-drug training program for military psychologists in the early 90s.)

A.P.A. leaders deny any backroom deals and insist that psychologists have helped to stop the abuse of detainees. They say that the association will investigate any reports of ethical lapses by its members.....

While there was no "smoking gun" amid the stack of documents Arrigo gave me, my reporting eventually led me to an even graver discovery. After a 10-month investigation comprising more than 70 interviews as well as a detailed review of public and confidential documents, I pieced together the account of the Abu Zubaydah interrogation that appears in this article. I also discovered that psychologists weren't merely complicit in America's aggressive new interrogation regime. Psychologists, working in secrecy, had actually designed the tactics and trained interrogators in them while on contract to the C.I.A....

Two psychologists in particular played a central role: James Elmer Mitchell, who was attached to the C.I.A. team that eventually arrived in Thailand, and his colleague Bruce Jessen. Neither served on the task force or are A.P.A. members. Both worked in a classified military training program known as sere—for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape—which trains soldiers to endure captivity in enemy hands. Mitchell and Jessen reverse-engineered the tactics inflicted on sere trainees for use on detainees in the global war on terror, according to psychologists and others with direct knowledge of their activities. The C.I.A. put them in charge of training interrogators in the brutal techniques, including "waterboarding," at its network of "black sites." In a statement, Mitchell and Jessen said, "We are proud of the work we have done for our country."....

Mitchell and Jessen's methods were so controversial that, among colleagues, the reaction to their names alone became a litmus test of one's attitude toward coercion and human rights. Their critics called them the "Mormon mafia" (a reference to their shared religion) and the "poster boys" (referring to the F.B.I.'s "most wanted" posters, which are where some thought their activities would land them).

Had enough? We hope not. Go back and read the entire article, it's really not that long.

All of us here at Dakota find it particularly distressing that the A.P.A. has been so meticulously courted by those who embrace torture. Why would these perpetrators need the endorsement of a professional psychological organization to do what they intend to do anyway? Does it support their credibility? Are they planning to make even broader use of these practices? Psychologists, who are ostensibly dedicated to healing, must begin to question the infiltration of these influences into their organization.

From Daily Kos 2006:

.......Ray McGovern who, among other things, told of the work of Jean Marie Arrigo who has researched the question of what is required when there is a state-backed policy of torture; in other words, what is the logistical infrastructure for the policy of torture. Among the things McGovern listed are:

* the training and equipping of torturers
* the recruiting of medical assistants
* the conduct of research to determine what to do
* the pre-approval of the courts.

As they say in emoticon something's <*)))-}.

Photo note: Hundred year old eggs aren't really rotten. They've just been buried a long time - not a hundred years, more like a hundred days. They can be found everywhere in the street markets of Hong Kong. I would have tried one, but it just didn't look like the kind of thing you'd want to taste without bringing to a full boil for fifteen minutes.

Posted by Dakota at August 1, 2007 09:03 AM