APA and Interrogations

The Role of the APA in Military Interrogtions

The Hoffman Report

The APA has released the report of the independent investigation, the Hoffman Report. 

You can find the report, as well as additional information from the APA here. 

Update

The APA Board of Directors has passed a set of recommendations regarding the findings of the Hoffman report that will be voted on by Council at the APA convention next week. The full text of the recommendations are here and in the document library at the bottom of this page. 

A highlight of the recommended actions is the following:

"APA prohibits psychologist participation in interrogation of persons held in custody by military/intelligence authorities."

Response from the Society for Community Research and Action (Division 27, SCRA)

July 15. 2015
To the Members of the Special Committee and the APA Board of Directors:

I am writing to share an initial response to the Hoffman Report approved by the Executive Committee of Division 27 of the American Psychological Association, the Society for Community Research and Action.

We were pleased that the APA hired an independent examiner to investigate allegations that the APA colluded with government officials related to psychologists’ involvement in enhanced interrogations techniques, including torture. The report is thorough and indicates long-standing collusion with the DoD as well as a years-long cover-up to hide this collusion. On its website, APA lists several initial steps that must be taken to address the concerns raised in the Report. Yet, many more steps are needed. We remain concerned about how APA has handled these issues in the past and want to see responses that take deliberate, thorough, and sustained action to rebuild trust with APA members, psychologists, and the public.

We support the framework outlined by Drs. Stephen Soldz and Steven Reisner in their comments to the APA Board on July 2, 2015, including the importance of taking action in the categories of Contrition, Accountability, Transparency, Inclusiveness, and Genuine Change. The complete text of their recommendations appears here.. We look forward to your response about actions taken with due process within each of these 5 domains identified by Soldz and Reisner.

Signed on behalf of the members of Division 27,

Bret Kloos

SCRA President 

Update from Dina Birman, the Div 27 Rep to the APA Council

July 23rd 2015

Dear SCRA Colleagues and Friends,

I am writing as the Division 27 Rep to APA Council to give you an update on response to the release of the Hoffman Report.

Since that time a number of other divisions and associations have issued similar statements, including the Society of Indian Psychologists, Society for the Psychology of Women (Division 35), SPSSI SPSSI (Division 9), Association of Psychologists of Nova Scotia, Psychologists for Social Responsibility, and many others. Many of these statements also support the framework proposed by Stephen Soldz and Steven Reisner in their initial comments on the report (see here), that the response must address the 5 issues of Contrition, Accountability, Transparency, Inclusiveness, and Genuine Change. I would like to summarize for you what has occurred thus far with respect to these 5 categories.

Accountability

Holding those who took part in the events described in the report accountable would include the firing of staff, barring members from governance, and avoiding conflicts of interest.

APA Staff

Under APA Bylaws, the CEO reports to the Board and all other personnel decisions are under the jurisdiction of the CEO.

So far, the only action taken was the firing of Ethics Director Steven Behnke, who according to the Hoffman Report was the key player coordinating with the Department of Defense officials to craft ethics guidelines that did not conflict with DoD policy goals; and participated as a contractor in the DoD interrogation training program.

On July 14 APA also announced the retirements and resignation of 3 senior APA staff members: the CEO Norman Anderson, Deputy CEO Michael Honaker, and Rhea Farberman, APA's executive director for public and member communication. Although clearly these staff stepped down in the wake of the release of the Hoffman Report, the announcement made no mention of this, and was accompanied by laudatory statements praising the contributions of these staff to APA. Norman Anderson remains CEO until the end of 2015, and Archie Turner is Acting CEO in matters pertaining to Hoffman-report related issues.

No other statements about other staff named as key players in the report have been made, and they continue in influential positions at APA.

Members in APA governance

No members of governance in APA have stepped down from their positions; however the following members of the Board of Directors have recused themselves from matters pertaining to the Hoffman report: current APA President Barry Anton, Treasurer Bonnie Markham, and members at large Linda Campbell, Sandra L. Shullman, and William Strickland.

The Council Leadership Team has issued guidelines for members' participation in the Council meetings in August in Toronto. Current president Barry Anton will preside over the opening of the meeting, but has recused himself from the topic of the Hoffman Report, and will turn over the role to President Elect Susan McDaniel. In addition, Council members with a conflict of interest are asked to self-recuse themselves from voting on matters pertaining to the Hoffman Report, but not discussions of the report or other matters. At the present time, discussions are continuing on COR about the boundaries of such recusals, since many members have worked with those named in the report, and some have been named in the report but not as having a role in the events surrounding collusion.

Importantly, members are not being asked to recuse themselves from voting on other matters that do not specifically refer to the Hoffman report, even though the report implicated the broader structures of APA and its governance in allowing the abuses of power to happen.

Contrition

In a press release on its website, APA has issued an apology as follows:

"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. We profoundly regret, and apologize for, the behavior and the consequences that ensued. Our members, our profession and our organization expected, and deserved, better."

However such contrition is not evident in the press releases associated with staff retirements and resignation.

Today (July 23) Norman Anderson sent a letter (to appear in "From the CEO" Column in the September issue of the Monitor in which he states:

"Many of you have shared with me the range of reactions that you've experienced, and I understand how deeply painful this time is for you. I personally feel that my heart is broken—broken more than I imagined possible—because of my love for APA, our members, and our staff"

However he does not in this letter take responsibility for what has occurred, and does not apologize for what has happened, either on behalf of APA, or for his own involvement in the collusion with the DoD as described in the Hoffman Report.

Finally, no public apology offered by anyone associated with APA leadership or staff has mentioned the harm done to those dissidents who spoke out within and outside APA about APA's involvement in the torture program, and brought these accusations to light, while suffering systematic dismissal and ridicule. For example, no one within APA has taken responsibility for the personal attacks directed at Jean Maria Arrigo, a persistent critic of the PENS report and APA actions, and member of APA Council.

Inclusiveness

There are efforts being made to solicit input from a range of perspectives, and to that end, the invitation extended to Soldz and Reisner to comment on the report prior to its release to the COR and to the public was a great step.
Transparency

With respect to transparency, APA did, as promised, released the entire report to the public. APA leadership has created a mechanism through which the public can post comments, and these comments are being read and considered, as reflected in discussions I have seen on the COR listserv.

In addition, APA has just added a site to allow those accused in the Hoffman Report to respond to these accusations. This can be found here

Genuine Change

The report suggests the need for serious and extensive change in the APA. One of the key findings in the report is that APA Council was disempowered and manipulated as APA leadership and staff engaged in collusion with the DoD. The most immediate step in the process of working toward genuine change is to make sure that Council has real power to affect change, starting with the August Council Meeting.

According to the Hoffman Report, the ways that APA governance has gone around Council in the past included tactics such as delaying votes on important issues till the end of the meeting, and opting to ask Council to "receive" a report rather than adopt or accept it, as a way of postponing or avoiding action. At this time Council has vowed to make sure that discussion of the Hoffman report is first on its agenda in August. However, ironically, there is currently a discussion on COR as to whether the Hoffman report will be "received" or "accepted" at the Toronto meeting.

Where we are

My conclusion at the present time is that APA has taken some strides toward addressing a number of important issues. However in terms of contrition and accountability, APA has not gone far enough, and more steps are required to ensure that genuine change can occur.

Next Steps

In the next few days we will be creating a page on the SCRA website where we can post information and links related to the response to the Hoffman Report to share with all of you, and we will keep it updated.

Here are a number important sites and opportunities I would like to highlight for you:

The Hoffman Report itself and comments from the public

Responses of those mentioned in the Report

Letter from Nadine Kaslow to Council of Representatives

"First, Do No Harm" t-shirts to purchase and wear to the Town Hall Meting at the Convention . $1 from every purchase will go to the Center for Victims of Torture,. Click here to purchase a shirt.

I will keep you further posted as more information comes in. I welcome your input, ideas, and responses. I know there is a diversity of opinions within SCRA about these matters, and I welcome your perspectives as I continue to formulate my own position on these issues.

Dina

APA Rep, Division 27

Dina Birman, Ph.D.
Associate Professor| Educational and Psychological Studies
Director| Community Well-Being PhD Program
School of Education and Human Development | University of Miami
5202 University Drive | MB 311-A| Coral Gables, FL 33146
d.birman@miami.edu| phone: 305-284-3460
Editor, International Journal of Intercultural Relations

Response from Other Organizations

Psychologists for Social Responsibility

Society for Indian Psychologists

Society of the Psychological Study of Social Issues (APA Division 9)

Asian American Psychological Association Response to Hoffman Report 

Society of Counseling Psychology (APA Division 17) 

Psychoanalysis, (APA Division 39)

 

Documents Related to This Issue

The document libraries below includes reports, commentaries, timelines, and other writings about the history and ethics behind APA's involvement in military interrogations. If you have a document that you would like added to one of these libraries please email web@scra27.org.

SCRA Responses to APA and Torture Allegations

Responses From Those Mentioned in the Report

Documents from Soldz and Reisner

Other Documents

Have a question or comment? Ask it here and someone will get back to you.

You must be logged in to leave a reply. Login »