I’ve come across some articles on the subject of torture that I thought readers of this blog would find interesting and/or informative.
CIA on the Couch: Why there would have been no torture without the psychologists. (Slate)
This article was written by Steven Reisner. He is a psychoanalyst and founding member of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology and adviser on ethics and psychology for Physicians for Human Rights. In his article, Reisner writes of how the American Psychological Association appears to have colluded with the CIA to bend the profession’s rules of ethics to permit torture.
Recent revelations in James Risen’s new book, Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War, add an additional dimension to this story—it appears that senior staff members of the American Psychological Association, the world’s largest association of psychologists, colluded with national security psychologists from the CIA, the Pentagon, and the White House to adapt APA ethics policy to suit the needs of the psychologist-interrogators. Now, the APA, under enormous pressure because of the allegations reported by Risen, has agreed to an independent investigation to be conducted by David Hoffman, a former inspector general and federal prosecutor. It will in all likelihood provide a rare opportunity to look inside the secret world of APA-counterintelligence collusion.
Risen based his allegations on emails found on the personal computer of Scott Gerwehr, a researcher at the Rand Corp. and apparent CIA consultant, who died in a motorcycle accident in 2008. Gerwehr had established close ongoing collaboration with a group of “national security psychologists who had influence behind the scenes at key institutions throughout Washington.” Among them were Susan Brandon, behavioral science adviser at the Bush White House (she is now chief interrogation scientist for the Obama administration) and Kirk Hubbard, the CIA’s chief behavioral scientist. Hubbard has publicly admitted to bringing Mitchell and Jessen into the CIA to design the agency’s “enhanced interrogation” program. Brandon, Hubbard, Gerwehr, and Geoff Mumford, APA’s director of science policy, had worked together since soon after the 9/11 attacks to bring psychologist-researchers together with psychologist-operatives to collaborate on issues related to national security interrogations and interrogations research. Mitchell and Jessen were among the operatives present at these invitation-only meetings.
In July 2004, months before the role of psychologists in torture was made public when a report from the International Committee of the Red Cross on Guantanamo was leaked to the New York Times, Hubbard, Gerwehr, and personnel from the CIA and Pentagon were invited by Mumford and APA’s ethics director Stephen Behnke to a secret meeting. Publicly the APA has claimed at various points that the meeting was to address challenges faced by domestic law enforcement investigations. However, the true goal of the meeting, according to the emails obtained by Risen, was to “bring together people with an interest in national-security” interrogations and to “ask individuals involved in the work what the salient issues” were and to “provide guidance” for the ethical issues that may come up with regard to those interrogations—the very interrogations so nauseatingly described in the Senate report.
This article, written by Peter Binary, addresses the fact that the United States has employed torture at different times throughout its history.
The implication of the statements by Obama, King, and Yarmuth is that there is an essential, virtuous America whose purity the CIA defiled. But that’s silly. Aliens did not invade the United States on 9/11. In times of fear, war, and stress, Americans have always done things like this. In the 19th century, American slavery relied on torture. At the turn of the 20th, when America began assembling its empire overseas, the U.S. army waterboarded Filipinos during the Spanish-American War. As part of the Phoenix Program, an effort to gain intelligence during the Vietnam War, CIA-trained interrogators delivered electric shocks to the genitals of some Vietnamese communists, and raped, starved, and beat others.
America has tortured throughout its history. And every time it has, some Americans have justified the brutality as necessary to protect the country from a savage enemy. Others have called it counterproductive and immoral. At different moments, the balance of power between these two groups shifts. But neither side in these debates speaks for the “real America.” The real America includes them both. Morally, we contain multitudes.
The Humane Interrogation Technique That Works Much Better Than Torture: Confessions are four times more likely when interrogators adopt a respectful stance toward detainees and build rapport, a study finds. By Olga Khazan (The Atlantic)
A study published this year by Jane Goodman-Delahunty, of Australia’s Charles Sturt University, interviewed 34 interrogators from Australia, Indonesia, and Norway who had handled 30 international terrorism suspects, including potential members of the Sri Lankan extremist group Tamil Tigers and the Norwegian-based Islamist group Ansar al Ismal. Delahunty asked the interrogators what strategies they used to gain information and what the outcomes of each interrogation session were.
The winning technique, as BPS Research Digest notes, was immediately clear:
Disclosure was 14 times more likely to occur early in an interrogation when a rapport-building approach was used. Confessions were four times more likely when interrogators struck a neutral and respectful stance. Rates of detainee disclosure were also higher when they were interrogated in comfortable physical settings.
The ‘Graywashing’ of CIA Torture: The brutal interrogation program was far less defensible than its moderate critics seem to realize. By Conor Friedersdorf (The Atlantic)
This would be a lot more plausible (though still not actually true) if every last tortured prisoner was like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. But the attempt to portray the CIA’s torture program as relatively forgivable falls apart when examined beside the facts. Let’s take a smart, intellectually honest torture-opponent’s assessment of CIA interrogations as our illustration of the spy agency being given too much credit. Ross Douthat begins by harkening back to the September 11 terrorist attacks.
“In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, amid the shock the attack produced and because of what seemed like an immense knowledge deficit about what our enemies were capable of doing,” Americans feared that more mass casualty attacks were imminent, he argued. “This belief shaped the decisions made by senior policymakers as well as the attitudes of the general public, and it was shared by leaders of both parties, however leading Democrats prefer to cast their position nowadays.”
He continued, “the pervasiveness of that belief, especially in those first anthrax days, has to shape on how we retrospectively assess the decision to push the envelope,” adding, “this was a path our entire government took, with a public consensus at its back.” He sees these as mitigating factors, but consider what his analysis leaves out.
EDITORIAL: Torture: We are better than that (Asbury Park Press)
One of those truths is stated in the report’s introduction: “The CIA abuse violated U.S. law, treaty obligations and our values.”
We need to do more than just shake our heads over this. America must hold those responsible accountable for their actions. Otherwise, other nations could follow us down those same dark paths with the knowledge that America paid no attention to its international legal commitments, so why should they?
Some Americans argue that the release of the report puts Americans at risk for terrorist reprisal. It seems perfectly clear that terrorists do not need to concoct any other justifications for killing Americans. They do it wantonly and for no reason that logic or basic humanity can explain.
The report made clear that the CIA’s Orwellian “enhanced interrogation techniques,” otherwise known as torture, included beatings, solitary confinement and water boarding, and they simply didn’t work. They failed to elicit intelligence that helped to foil terrorist attacks…
What is reckless and irresponsible is forgetting the words of Gandhi: “•’An eye for an eye’ makes the whole world blind.”
What are your thoughts on the subject of torture?