Sunday, November 16, 2014

The American Psychological Association Executive/CIA Torture Program


      In recent news:

      The CIA, as Eric Lichtblau has reported, settled many Nazi war criminals in the United States and long protected them against prosecution - see here.

       The CIA illegally stonewalls the release of the Senate report on torture, bugging and thieving from the Senate Committee which, under our Constitution's separation and balance of powers,  supposedly oversees it - see here -...

     The CIA presided over the Bush administration's torture and murder of prisoners (100 homicides in American custody by Pentagon statistics...).  They corrupted and suborned the leadership of the American Psychological Association to oversee and participate in torture.

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      The description in James Risen's New York Times article yesterday - below - of the desperate meeting of the psychologist/torturers in the US 'intelligence" apparatus with the leadership of the APA following the released photographs about Abu Ghraib and trying to hide the obvious is hilarious - these are the keystone cops of "intelligence" -  though the light this meeting casts on a kind of pseudo-neutral, "value-free" "professionalism" in the social sciences (political science as well) which serves the Pentagon and the CIA is anything but.

***

     With regard to a decent life for human beings, social science is never "value free" (see my  Democratic Individuality, ch. 1).   Minimally, writers on society, including would-be "scientists," need to seek the truth.  Being value neutral between truth and error or ideology or knowing falsehood is self-refuting and despite any serious accomplishments in research, laughable.  The grain of insight misstated in this methodological doctrine is that researchers should challenge their own biases, a derivate or subordinate neutrality given the primary goal of seeking the truth.

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     Behavioral psychology is not physics; in fact, a psychology which spurns Freud's discovery of the unconscious has little hope of being a serious - in a particular and different domain  of thinking (Dudley Shapere) - equivalent of physics...

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      Worse, these activities not only are neither "neutral" nor professional; they are evil.

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      Other professional associations, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Medical Association have  rightly barred their members from carrying out such war crimes (even the FBI and some CIA professionals withdrew - see here).

***

      For torture is, of course, also ineffective, useful only for widely scaring people and producing hatred for the United States' government - Richard Cheney's "going to the dark side"  - but not for getting useful information Ali Soufan, the FBI interrogator  gained the confidence of prisoners like Abu Zubaydah - see here; it was destroyed by Mitchell and Jesson, the two "psychologists," trotted out under the zealous and foolish leadership of CIA director George Tenet.  In the SERE program, Mitchell and Jesson had only simulated "Chinese Communist' torture on American prisoners, i.e. they had no experience in actually eliciting information from prisoners (one really can't make this stuff up....).

***

    People who knew something at the center of the "Bells and Whistles" Bush administration were in short supply...

    Followers of Leo Strauss like Paul Wolfowitz and William Kristol as well as itinerant, one might say foolish  neocons made overt aggression in the Middle East - the unprovoked attack on Iraq (see Article 2, Section 4 of the United Nations Charter, for the relevant international and American law against aggression (treaties signed by the US are by the Supremacy Clause, Article 6 section 2 of the Constitution) - and torture hallmarks of American policy.

    (Unfortunately, the Democratic neo-neo cons, advisors for "humanitarian intervention" who bellow for war - the criterion for "face time" on tv, as Leslie Gelb later confessed, in the corrupt commercial media - are little better).

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    A revolt from below in the American Psychological Association challenged the leadership and forced much of the information about this nexus of criminality into the light of day.

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     It is often hard in a democracy, even in normal, hierarchical organizations, to maintain anti-democratic evil in secret...

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     James Risen, a New York Times reporter (see below) has written a powerful book on the crimes committed by the US government during this period, its creation of widespread enmity in the Middle East (in a recent poll by the Arab Center for Research and Public Policy, 90% of those interviewed in several countries,  oppose ISIS, 77% American policy in the Middle East...), and its mind boggling stupidity and ineffectualness (let's see - after the truce of IS and Al Qaeda, what horse is Obama betting American troops and respectability on in Syria...?)

***

      Why does a democracy need large secret police organizations, doing frequent horrific - enough to make bursts of big news even in the corporate press - and stupid crimes? (What did the CIA get from recruiting Talcott Parsons, the famous Harvard sociologist, to debrief Nazi war criminals before resettling them in the US?  What positive accomplishments came from von Braun and others (the University of Denver track coach when I arrived was Edgars Laipeneks, formerly "the Butcher of Riga"...- h/t Doug Vaughan)?

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    Why is our "Executive" supposedly helped by such activities?

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     Why has Obama made himself an accomplice to torturers - refusing to prosecute a single one - while threatening to put James Risen in jail for revealing government spying on Americans.  Listen to a striking interview with Risen here.

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       Does militarism/the CIA run the President or the President the CIA?.

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       Why did the editors of the New York Times, engaging in embarrassingly anti-journalistic activity, suppress the story on Bush administration crimes - spying on Americans - a month before the 2004 election and, thus, throw the election to Bush (see here)?

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      Drone murders of innocents have made people hate the US widely and justifiably, since Obama assumed office. Obama has protected  the torturers in the CIA as well  the officials of the Bush administration - only Colin Powell appears actually to have opposed torture, since any military leader can understand that if "we" torture "enemy" prisoners, it is an invitation to or provides legitimacy for "them" to torture Americans.   Obama has so far also protected the criminal - lying to Congress for a start, overseeing torture under Bush, moderating "terror Tuesdays" at the White House to pick some of those to be offed with drones, and the like - and loathsome CIA director John Brennan...

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     Piece by piece, the war complex - the military-industrial-congressional-political-intelligence-foreign generals purchasing/using US military equipment with American "aid"-media complex - needs to be looked at. That our society or the world can survive this kind of militarism in combination with global warming (read Martin Luther King's speech on Vietnam here) in this century is doubtful.

***

    In any case, the thought that we, as a people, would be better off if we abolished the action arm of the CIA(/intelligence agencies), restricting it to gathering knowledge, though not by spying on Americans, that we  would be better off blocking its infamous crimes of which suborning social science is but one  (overthrowing some 15 nonwhite democracies during and after the Cold War, too, leaps to mind), is important and deserves to be meditated on.

***

New York Times:
"Psychologists to Review Role in Detainee Interrogations
By JAMES RISEN NOV. 13, 2014

WASHINGTON — The nation’s largest organization of psychologists will conduct an independent review into whether it colluded with or supported the government’s use of torture in the interrogation of prisoners during the Bush administration.
  
The American Psychological Association said in a statement released late Wednesday that its board had named David H. Hoffman, a Chicago lawyer, to conduct the review.  
For years, questions about the role of American psychologists and behavioral scientists in the development and implementation of the Bush-era interrogation program have been raised by human rights advocates as well as by critics within the psychological profession itself. Psychologists were involved in developing the enhanced interrogation techniques used on terrorism suspects by the Central Intelligence Agency. Later, a number of psychologists, in the military and in the intelligence community, were involved in carrying out and monitoring interrogations.

In an interview, Mr. Hoffman, a former federal prosecutor and onetime inspector general of the city of Chicago, emphasized the independence of his investigation. “We will go wherever the evidence leads,” he said.
Some longtime critics praised the move by the group. “The A.P.A.’s action is a long-needed step toward an independent review of their post-9/11 activities,” said Stephen Soldz, a professor at the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis. “It is vital that this review be fully independent and comprehensive in nature.”
Critics like Mr. Soldz have said that the participation of psychologists allowed the Bush administration to argue that the interrogations did not constitute torture because they and other behavioral scientists were monitoring the interrogations to make sure they remained “safe, legal and effective.” Psychiatrists were not as willing to cooperate with the interrogation programs.
In particular, the critics have cited the association’s 2002 decision to modify its ethics rules that in effect gave greater professional cover to psychologists who had been helping to monitor and oversee interrogations.
The most important change was a new guideline that made it clear that if a psychologist faced a conflict between the A.P.A.’s ethics code and a lawful order, the psychologist could follow the law. Critics say this introduced the Nuremberg defense into American psychology — following orders was an acceptable reason to violate professional ethics.
“It’s sad that the A.P.A., rather than protecting its members from engaging in interrogation activities, bent its rules to allow their participation in those interrogations,” Mr. Soldz said.
The association has long defended the profession’s activities as well as itself against critics who have questioned whether the organization helped make it easier for psychologists to remain involved with the government’s interrogation program, even after the Abu Ghraib scandal set off a public debate about the program.
In its statement, the association said that its decision to appoint an independent reviewer was prompted by questions raised about the relationship between the psychological profession and the government agencies involved in the torture program in the new book, “Pay Any Price: Greed, Power and Endless War,” by this reporter.
The book uses the email archive of Scott Gerwehr, a behavioral researcher with ties to the C.I.A. and other agencies who died in 2008, to provide a glimpse at the network of psychologists, academic researchers, contractors and intelligence and Pentagon officials who formed the behavioral science infrastructure that grew up after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to support the Bush administration’s war on terror.
Most notable, the emails reveal that after the Abu Ghraib scandal broke in 2004, the association was eager to get out in front of the controversy by developing new professional guidelines for psychologists involved in interrogations. The group created a committee to study the matter, and in 2005 issued a report that, in effect, enabled psychologists involved in the Bush interrogation program to continue. A number of psychologists and human rights advocates have been critical of the work of that committee, known as the PENS Task Force, ever since.
Mr. Gerwehr’s emails show for the first time the degree to which behavioral science experts from within the government’s national security apparatus played roles in shaping the outcome of the A.P.A. task force. The emails show that in July 2004, just months after the graphic photos of abuse at Abu Ghraib were publicly disclosed, association officials convened a private meeting of psychologists who worked at the C.I.A., the Pentagon and other national security agencies to provide input on how the association should deal with the “unique ethical issues” raised for psychologists in the wake of the Abu Ghraib disclosures.
After the A.P.A. task force effectively endorsed the continued involvement of psychologists in the interrogation program, one association official wrote, in an email on which Mr. Gerwehr was copied, that he wanted to thank an intelligence official for helping to influence the outcome of the task force. “Your views were well represented by very carefully selected task force members,” the A.P.A. official wrote.
The association’s statement suggested, however, that Mr. Hoffman’s investigation would range far more widely than the relatively narrow questions raised by Mr. Gerwehr’s emails detailed in the book."

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