Senior members of the leading professional association for U.S. psychologists collaborated with the CIA and the Pentagon to bolster the credibility of harsh interrogation techniques used against terrorist suspects in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, according to a report released Friday.
The 542-page report, first published in the New York Times, contains the results of a lengthy investigation conducted by former federal prosecutor David Hoffman. It was commissioned by the American Psychological Association (APA) to examine its relationship with the U.S. intelligence establishment during the presidency of George W. Bush.
The probe concluded that the association’s ethics director and others had “colluded with important [Department of Defense] officials to have APA issue loose, high-level ethical guidelines that did not constrain” the Pentagon in its interrogation of terrorism suspects. The association’s “principal motive in doing so was to align APA and curry favor with DOD,” the report added.
In addition, the association’s ethics office “prioritized the protection of psychologists -- even those who might have engaged in unethical behavior -- above the protection of the public,” the report said.
The APA's support for the so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques,” many of which are now regarded as torture, came at a time when the CIA's own health professionals were raising questions about the ethics of the program. The CIA sought the opinion of a leading APA psychologist on the matter, who urged a “flexible” approach, which helped to allow the program to continue, the Times reported.
“The actions, policies and the lack of independence from government influence described in the Hoffman report represented a failure to live up to our core values,” former APA president Nadine Kaslow told the Washington Post.
The report has been already presented to the leadership of the APA, which is expected to act on its findings soon, the Times reported, adding that many of the individuals named in the investigation are still active in the association.
Anonymous sources with knowledge of the report and its consequences told the Guardian that they expected a wave of firings and resignations across the leadership of organization in the wake of the revelations.
The paper added that its sources believed that evidence disclosed in the Hoffman report may merit referral to the FBI over potential criminal wrongdoing by the APA involvement in torture. Individual psychologists may also face professional ethics charges, which could see them stripped of their licenses, the Guardian reported.