As was recently leaked to the New York Times, an independent review has confirmed allegations that senior members of the American Psychological Association were complicit in post-9/11 torture. In a previous post, I discussed the active involvement of certain psychologists in the CIA torture program, both in training interrogators and in conducting direct interrogations at CIA "black sites" around the world.
Following the release of the report, the following statement was sent to all APA members as a response:
The APA Board of Directors commissioned Mr. David Hoffman of Sidley Austin to do a thorough and independent review related to allegations of a relationship the APA and Bush Administration related to the use of abusive interrogation techniques during the War on Terror. The report was recently received confidentially by Council who were in the process of providing recommendations to the Board when it was leaked to the New York Times. We had planned on a public release this coming week after Council’s input, but we have now posted the complete report on the APA website along with a press release that includes the Board’s initial recommendations. The supporting documents will be made available on our website this weekend.
The conclusions of the Independent Review report are deeply disturbing. Mr. Hoffman found evidence of an ongoing pattern of collusion between a small group of APA representatives and the Department of Defense. The Hoffman report states that the intent of the individuals who participated in the collusion was to "curry favor" with the Defense Department, and that may have enabled the government's use of abusive interrogation techniques. As a result, the 2005 PENS report became a document based at least as much on the desires of the DoD as on the needs of the psychology profession and the APA's commitment to human rights. Mr. Hoffman did not find evidence of collusion with the CIA or in the 2002 change to our Code of Ethics.
The Hoffman report clearly writes a difficult chapter in our organization’s history. We sincerely apologize for the actions, policies and lack of independence from governmental influence detailed in the report. Our members, our organization, our profession, and the public expected and deserved better. We have announced a series of corrective actions related to policies and procedures to strengthen our organization and demonstrate our commitment to ethics and human rights.
We realize it is a lengthy document, but encourage you to read the full report. Although the Executive Summary thoroughly overviews the findings, the specific details that provide the background (emails and interview data) are in the actual document. Reading the full document will help you to better understand how Mr. Hoffman came to his conclusions.
As troubling as the findings are, it is important that they have come to light so we can address them in a systematic and thoughtful way. As a result of the report, there will be significant changes in the organization, in terms of both policies and procedures. Dr. Stephen Behnke is no longer an employee of APA as a result of the findings in the Hoffman report, and other personnel actions are under consideration.
APA as an organization is a tremendous force for good in the world. Our members and our staff include so many talented, committed, and ethical psychologists. Our task now is to use what we have learned to ensure that something like this can never happen again, to return to a focus on our core values in everything we do, and to work to regain the trust of both our members and the public.
The months ahead will be very challenging for the association. We have much work ahead of us to address the findings of the report and to move toward healing. Nothing will ever undo what was done in the past, and we cannot deny that it is a stain on the honor of “Psychology,” but we must and we will return to our roots to rebuild a new organization of which all of us can be proud. With your patience, support and engagement, we truly believe that we can come through this painful time an even stronger organization.
Drs. Nadine Kaslow and Susan McDaniel
The APA Independent Review’s Special Committee