Monday, July 30, 2007

For your reading pleasure

Working on a sermon about Abraham and Sodom and Gomorrah. In the meantime:

Rorschach and Awe at Vanity Fair.


I heard the author of the article interviewed on Democracy Now! this morning. The APA is meeting this week, and the issue of involvement in these interrogations is a hot one. The transcript is now up, allow me to quote a bit:

KATHERINE EBAN: Originally, a group of psychologists had come to me from within the APA. They were highly disturbed about the results of a task force, which had determined that psychologists could follow military guidelines and American law instead of international human rights treaties, if they were given directions by the military to participate in interrogations. Basically, they felt this was allowing psychologists to follow the lower standard of human rights and basically would keep them in the interrogation booth. Conversely, the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association prohibited their members from being involved in interrogations. So these group of psychologists were suspicious that there was some kind of quid pro quo, some sort of backroom deal with the Defense Department.
That "deal" may well be access to prescription writing power:

BRAD OLSON: -- that there’s this issue of psychopharmacology. Should psychologists -- I mean, that’s the main distinction between psychologists and psychiatrists, or one of them, and that’s that psychiatrists can prescribe. So, there is a big movement within psychology, so to make it so that psychologists have prescriptive authority. And Walter Reed, the Department of Defense, set up the pilot program that essentially put -- that gave psychologists the foot in the door to start prescribing. And, in fact, some of these psychologists are the very -- the “Biscuit” psychologists are the ones who are -- have been part of this prescriptive authority program. But there’s all sorts of different reasons, and some people argue that it has to do with appropriations and funding for research and just all sorts of possible connections.
The issue arises now because it's become a contentious one in the APA. I don't know how much of the article covers this, but in the interview it was clear the power structure of the APA is sucking up to power in ways that make "ethics" and "morals" completely empty terms:

GERALD KOOCHER (former APA President): We don't, as a professional association, tell our members that they can't work for a given employer. Obviously there are some people who don't think that psychologists should assist in the military at all. That's a political preference and a social statement, but there are many very beneficial things that psychologists have done in the military. One example is that the lead officer sent in to help clean up Guantanamo Bay was a psychologist, a US Army colonel, who was sent in to help to clean up the abuses as soon as they were reported. There's another APA member, a civilian employee of the Navy, who was sent to Guantanamo and was one of the first people to file complaints with his superiors about things that he observed down there, and he reportedly brought about some changes.
To which Katherine Eban responded:

KATHERINE EBAN: Well, you don't make an ethics policy by citing a few positive examples. There has been an army or military line and an APA line that are surprisingly similar, which is that psychologists make interrogations safer and more effective. But what my reporting found is that the interrogations they make safer are the interrogations that had been made more dangerous. In other words, you take some very dangerous methods, like reverse-engineered SERE tactics -- it’s basically like letting a tiger loose in the interrogation booth, and then you get in an animal trainer to make sure that the animal doesn't go crazy, but why did you put the tiger in the booth in the first place? In other words, psychologists were initially used in the SERE program in order to prevent against behavioral drift. So what the military is saying and what the APA is saying is, psychologists can play that role in interrogations, but those are the interrogations in which these reverse-engineered SERE tactics are being used. Now, presumably, if you didn't use those tactics, you wouldn't need psychologists to safeguard them.
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

No comments:

Post a Comment