Secret collaboration between the American Psychological Association (APA) and the administration of President George W. Bush designed to place the legal and ethical justification of torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in better light has sparked controversy according to an article in the New York Times. The times reports that a “group of dissident health professionals and human rights activists” have issued findings on the APA’s involvement in the interrogation program. The clear implication is that Bush officials used the group to justify the program and to stave off criticisms that prison operatives were not illegally torturing the inmates. In the wake of congressional investigations, it is now clear that the prisoners were tortured and the disclosure of the APA’s collaboration with military figures either at the CIA or prison level, appear to seriously threaten the integrity of the organization.
When Senator Dianne Feinstein took on the CIA (begrudgingly, the Senator is hawkish and forgiving on extended military and CIA programs), and demanded (at first, sheepishly) a report of their activities concerning the torture of suspected terrorist detainees, Senate staff members discovered, according to a recent article in the New Yorker Magazine:
[In February, 2009, the staff members appeared before the committee and described what they had found. Nearly twenty-four hours a day for twenty days, Abu Zubaydah was stripped naked and subjected to multiple “enhanced” techniques: slammed into a wall, slapped, deprived of sleep, confined in a coffin-size box, forced into painful postures. He was also waterboarded at least eighty-three times. Two psychologists, contracted by the C.I.A. to develop and run the interrogation program, reported that Abu Zubaydah was “ready to talk” during the first exposure, but “we chose to expose him over and over until we had a high degree of confidence he wouldn’t hold back.”]
Later, in the same article, it is reported that the CIA and Feinstein staffers (Feinstein herself, was conflicted over her heretofore unexamined admiration for CIA techniques) argued over whether the report, as released by the CIA, should contain so much redacted information (for alleged security concerns) and more specifically, whether the report should be riddled with pseudonyms in lieu of real names. The article states:
[But on August 1st, when the C.I.A. delivered the redacted report—a few days before its expected release—Feinstein saw that the agency had redacted all the pseudonyms, arguing that readers might be able to combine them with other details and identify the agency personnel. The report, shot through with black lines, resembled a play where the pivotal actors were unrecognizable from scene to scene, making the action almost impossible to follow. The C.I.A. made one concession. The report had used the real names of the two contract psychologists—already identified in the press—who were paid eighty million dollars to develop the interrogation program.]
The APA has denied that their organization coordinated with the Bush administration on the issue of “how” the psychologists would respond in their roles there. The Times has previously reported on the deep complicity of psychologists and doctors in torturing suspected terrorists. An independent review of the APA’s actual role in the matter is underway. Meanwhile, Feinstein has apparently resorted back to her default mesmerizing mode over CIA policies; the New Yorker article states:
[Some have hoped that Feinstein’s experience with the torture report might lead her to view intelligence agencies more skeptically. There is little sign of that. In a recent speech, she reflected on her tenure as chairman of the Intelligence Committee and said that she would change only one thing: “I would hold more open hearings.” She is as confident as ever about the ethics of the targeted-killings program.]
Meanwhile, the New York Times released details from a lengthy report compiled by a Chicago law firm that examined the existence of torture and the APA’s involvement. The Times reported: