Bioethics Blogs

The American Psychological Association Interrogation Policy and Dr. Gerald Koocher, AAAS Fellow

by Steven Miles, M.D. 

A recent 542-page report describes a damning collaboration between the American Psychological Association (APA) and the Department of Defense (DoD) and other government intelligence agencies. In essence, the APA rewrote the ethics code to allow psychologists to design and monitor interrogational torture.[i] The APA Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security (PENS) said that the interrogational psychologists’ client was the interrogational command and not the prisoners’ wellbeing. The aim of this policy was to authorize and shelter psychologists who devised plans that included waterboarding, sleep deprivation, food restriction, use of threatening dogs, solitary confinement, use of restraining stress positions, etc. The coordination of the PENS product with the DoD was so tight that it was sent to the DoD for review before the APA endorsed it. At that point, it was appended to DoD interrogation policies.

The discovered collaboration has been a matter of public debate for several years.[ii] This year, the APA commissioned an investigation and gave a distinguished former prosecutor access to APA archives and personnel.[iii] The APA was humiliated by the findings. It promptly apologized for a “deeply disturbing” “collusion” and fired its ethics officer.[iv] The CEO and deputy CEO and Executive Director for Public and Member Communications have also resigned. Additional internal reforms are underway.[v]

Dr. Gerald Koocher was APA president elect during the work of the PENS Task Force. The centrality of his place in the APA-DoD collusion is described in several hundred citations to his name. He proposed the concept of the Task Force, suggested members and played a major role in ensuring that it was utterly dominated by DoD intelligence officials.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.