United States psychologists’ convention bans participation in torture

This video, recorded in Canada, says about itself:

Anti-Torture Psychologists Celebrate New APA Interrogation Ban

7 August 2015

Steven Reisner and Stephen Soldz, two founders of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology, speak to Amy Goodman in Toronto moments after the American Psychological Association approved a ban on psychologists from taking part in national security interrogations. See full coverage here.

By Tom Carter in the USA:

US psychologists’ convention bans participation in torture

10 August 2015

On Friday, the American Psychological Association overwhelmingly adopted a resolution banning participation by psychologists in national security interrogations, in the face of accusations that the proposed ban on torture was “anti-government” and “anti-military.”

The resolution states that “psychologists shall not conduct, supervise, be in the presence of, or otherwise assist any national security interrogations for any military or intelligence entities, including private contractors working on their behalf, nor advise on conditions of confinement insofar as these might facilitate such an interrogation.”

The resolution was adopted at a convention in Toronto by a vote of 156 council members to one, with seven abstentions and one recusal. Following the successful vote, participants and a crowd of observers rose for a defiant standing ovation. Some wore T-shirts that read, “First, do no harm,” referring to the fundamental concept in medical ethics.

The American Psychological Association is a scientific and professional organization embracing 122,500 professionals. Full membership in the organization requires a doctoral degree.

According to an APA press release, “The new policy does allow for psychologist involvement in general policy consultation regarding humane interrogations. The prohibition does not apply to domestic law enforcement interrogations or domestic detention settings where detainees are under the protection of the U.S. Constitution.”

The vote follows the release of a 542-page independent report last month implicating the APA in the CIA torture program, which was prepared by a team of lawyers led by former federal prosecutor David Hoffman. The Hoffman report, commissioned by the APA, exposed a conspiracy at the top levels of the APA, in collusion with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Department of Defense (DOD), to facilitate the involvement of psychologists in the CIA torture program and later to shield the perpetrators from accountability.

The CIA torture program was the subject of a devastating Senate Intelligence Committee report in December of last year, which shamefully continues to be ignored by the establishment media in the US. The Senate report painted a picture of systematic and shocking brutality, infamously including “rectal feeding” and other practices, with the active oversight of the highest levels of the state. The Senate report found that numerous medical professionals had been accomplices or direct participants in torture, including doctors, nurses and psychologists.

In the period leading up to the APA’s annual conference last week, dissident psychologists opposed to torture were targeted for browbeating and intimidation. Tony Williams, president of the APA’s Society for Military Psychology, characterized the ban on torture that was passed Friday as a “politically motivated, anti-government and anti-military stance.” He went on to criticize the Hoffman report as serving “an effort to advance an unspoken political agenda.”

In the face of such efforts, the nearly unanimous vote is certainly a welcome repudiation of the criminal torture practices of the American government that were implemented as part of the “war on terror.” The vote vindicates the efforts of those dissident psychologists who have campaigned for years against torture.

At the same time, it is certainly an indication of the present crisis of American society that a vote was even necessary at all. Torture has been clearly illegal for decades, under both international and domestic law.

The involvement of medical professionals in torture is unambiguously prohibited by the Nuremberg Code, which resulted from the trials of Nazi doctors in the aftermath of the Second World War. (See The American Psychological Association, torture and the Nuremberg doctors’ trial.) Under the Nuremberg Code, medical professionals require the voluntary informed consent of their patients, and they are required to minimize harm.

The vote Friday paves the way for ethical complaints to be initiated against the psychologists involved in the CIA torture program, the loss of their licenses, and even prosecutions.

While those psychologists who participated in torture should certainly be held accountable, holding them accountable raises the question of all other civilian, military and intelligence officials and personnel who participated in torture. What about the top officials in the Bush and Obama administrations that orchestrated the program, lied about it, and tried to conceal it?

To date, the Obama administration has consistently refused to hold anyone involved in the criminal torture program accountable, invoking the slogan “looking forward, not backward.” The APA vote on Friday is a reminder that war criminals and torturers remain at large, who have yet to be brought to justice.

Retired Army Colonel Larry James cast the one dissenting vote on Friday. James served as Guantanamo’s chief psychologist in 2003 and as the director of the Abu Ghraib “behavioral science unit” in 2004.

At both Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib, according to the Center for Torture Accountability, “James headed teams of ‘mental health’ professionals charged with destroying the mental health of detainees, on the theory that psychologically broken men would provide interrogators with more information.”

James claims that his role was to ensure that the detainees were treated ethically, but the Center indicates that his real function was “to maximize their psychological pain.”

“On his watch, prisoners were threatened with rape and murder, sexually humiliated, left naked in cold cells, chained into uncomfortable ‘stress positions’ for hours on end, and deprived of sleep and human contact, among other psychological regimens,” the Center notes.

In 2008, James became dean of the School of Professional Psychology at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. In 2009, he served as president of the American Board of Health Psychology. From 2009 to 2010, he served as president elect of the APA’s Division of Military Psychology.

In 2010, James announced that he had been appointed to a task force headed by Michelle Obama called, “Enhancing the Psychological Well-Being of The Military Family.” In a press release, James emphatically agreed with the Obama administration’s policy of “turning the page” on torture—that is, the policy of zero accountability for torturers and their accomplices.

See also here.

CIA made doctors torture

This video about the USA says about itself:

CIA Torture Dr. Gets Contract

15 Oct 2010

The government keeps rewarding contracts to private security firms like Blackwater, despite the murder, fraud, drugs, and prostitutes, as if there’s no one else available to do the job. And today famed psychologist Martin Seligman, whose theory in many ways was the inspiration for the CIA’s interrogation program during Bush. But it turns out earlier this year the Army awarded a contract to the University of Pennsylvania where Dr. Seligman works. Mark Benjamin investigative reporter with Salon.com explains the bases of the CIA’s torture process that was inspired by Seligman.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

CIA made doctors torture suspected terrorists after 9/11, taskforce finds

Doctors were asked to torture detainees for intelligence gathering, and unethical practices continue, review concludes

Sarah Boseley, health editor

Monday 4 November 2013

Doctors and psychologists working for the US military violated the ethical codes of their profession under instruction from the defence department and the CIA to become involved in the torture and degrading treatment of suspected terrorists, an investigation has concluded.

The report of the Taskforce on Preserving Medical Professionalism in National Security Detention Centres concludes that after 9/11, health professionals working with the military and intelligence services “designed and participated in cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment and torture of detainees“.

Medical professionals were in effect told that their ethical mantra “first do no harm” did not apply, because they were not treating people who were ill.

The report lays blame primarily on the defence department (DoD) and the CIA, which required their healthcare staff to put aside any scruples in the interests of intelligence gathering and security practices that caused severe harm to detainees, from waterboarding to sleep deprivation and force-feeding.

The two-year review by the 19-member taskforce, Ethics Abandoned: Medical Professionalism and Detainee Abuse in the War on Terror, supported by the Institute on Medicine as a Profession (IMAP) and the Open Society Foundations, says that the DoD termed those involved in interrogation “safety officers” rather than doctors. Doctors and nurses were required to participate in the force-feeding of prisoners on hunger strike, against the rules of the World Medical Association and the American Medical Association. Doctors and psychologists working for the DoD were required to breach patient confidentiality and share what they knew of the prisoner’s physical and psychological condition with interrogators and were used as interrogators themselves. They also failed to comply with recommendations from the army surgeon general on reporting abuse of detainees.

The CIA’s office of medical services played a critical role in advising the justice department that “enhanced interrogation” methods, such as extended sleep deprivation and waterboarding, which are recognised as forms of torture, were medically acceptable. CIA medical personnel were present when waterboarding was taking place, the taskforce says.

Although the DoD has taken steps to address concerns over practices at Guantánamo Bay in recent years, and the CIA has said it no longer has suspects in detention, the taskforce says that these “changed roles for health professionals and anaemic ethical standards” remain.

“The American public has a right to know that the covenant with its physicians to follow professional ethical expectations is firm regardless of where they serve,” said Dr Gerald Thomson, professor of medicine emeritus at Columbia University and member of the taskforce.

He added: “It’s clear that in the name of national security the military trumped that covenant, and physicians were transformed into agents of the military and performed acts that were contrary to medical ethics and practice. We have a responsibility to make sure this never happens again.” The taskforce says that unethical practices by medical personnel, required by the military, continue today. The DoD “continues to follow policies that undermine standards of professional conduct” for interrogation, hunger strikes, and reporting abuse. Protocols have been issued requiring doctors and nurses to participate in the force-feeding of detainees, including forced extensive bodily restraints for up to two hours twice a day.

Doctors are still required to give interrogators access to medical and psychological information about detainees which they can use to exert pressure on them. Detainees are not permitted to receive treatment for the distress caused by their torture.

“Putting on a uniform does not and should not abrogate the fundamental principles of medical professionalism,” said IMAP president David Rothman. “‘Do no harm’ and ‘put patient interest first’ must apply to all physicians regardless of where they practise.” The taskforce wants a full investigation into the involvement of the medical profession in detention centres. It is also calling for publication of the Senate intelligence committee’s inquiry into CIA practices and wants rules to ensure doctors and psychiatrists working for the military are allowed to abide by the ethical obligations of their profession; they should be prohibited from taking part in interrogation, sharing information from detainees’ medical records with interrogators, or participating in force-feeding, and they should be required to report abuse of detainees.

Since September 11, 2001 medical professionals under the direction of the CIA and the US Department of Defense were ordered to disregard the core “do no harm” principles of medical ethics in their dealings with detainees held by the US in the so-called “war on terror.” Health professionals were required to engage in practices which included “designing, participating in, and enabling cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment” of prisoners: here.


Exposed: American Doctors and Psychologists Engaged in Frightening Torture Programs Since 9/11: here.

A 542-page independent report made public by the New York Times on Friday implicates the American Psychological Association (APA) in the CIA torture program. The devastating report, prepared by a team of attorneys led by former federal prosecutor David Hoffman, not only exposes the involvement of psychologists in torture, but also lifts the curtain on years of lies, conspiracies, and cover-ups reaching to the top of the APA and academia: here.

Wildlife photos, good for health

This video, recorded in Australia, is called Bird sounds from the lyrebird – David Attenborough – BBC wildlife.

The sources which I quote here mention only photographs, not videos. But maybe this video is good for mental health as well?

Translated from Dutch regional TV RTV Noord:

‘Photo of nature works miracles for health’

Posted: 22:09 pm, Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A good mood, better concentration, and less stress – nature can work wonders for our health. But we even we do not have to go outside for that. According to research by future Professor Agnes van den Berg.

According to Van den Berg, just people looking at nature through a window or seeing an image already has a positive effect on health. …

Van den Berg this Tuesday will have her inaugural lecture at the University of Groningen.

From the University of Groningen site:

Agnes van den Berg professor of Experiencing and Valuing Nature and Landscape

Date: January 11, 2012

On 1 January 2012, Dr A.E. van den Berg became professor by special appointment in Experiencing and Valuing Nature and Landscape at the Faculty of Spatial Sciences (FRW) of the University of Groningen. The founding of a chair in Experiencing and Valuing Nature and Landscape comes at a time when there is wide general concern about the violation of nature and landscape values. With Van den Berg as the holder of the chair, the Netherlands has gained an active advocate for more academic research into the consequences of these developments for the health and wellbeing of people.

Agnes van den Berg (Apeldoorn, 1967) studied experimental psychology at the University of Groningen and gained a PhD in 1999 from the same university with research on how nature development areas are experienced. In 1997 she moved to Wageningen to work as an environmental psychologist at the Alterra knowledge institute.

With the publication of the essay ‘Van buiten word je beter’ [Fresh air makes you healthy] in 2001, she moved the importance of nature for the health of the public high up the social and scientific agenda. Since 2003, Van den Berg has been combining her applied research at Alterra with an academic appointment at Wageningen University. Within the NWO project ‘Vitamin G’ (where G stands for green), she is working on the scientific basis of the relationship between green in the living environment and health.

She also plays an active role in the translation of academic knowledge of the experience of nature and health into practical advice and guidelines. She regularly gives presentations and interviews on themes including the importance of nature for the development of children, the contribution paid by gardening to healthy ageing, and designing with how it will be experienced in mind.

Van den Berg’s research and Rottum island: here.

US psychologists vote against Guantanamo torture

This Democracy Now! video from the USA is called American Psychological Association and TORTURE- part 1.

Part 2 is here.

Part 3 is here.

From Associated Press in the USA:

Psychologists’ group votes against aiding military in prisoner interrogations at Guantanamo

By LINDSEY TANNER | AP Medical Writer

1:04 PM EDT, September 18, 2008

The nation’s leading psychologists’ association has voted to ban its members from taking part in interrogations at the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and other military detention sites where it believes international law is being violated.

The ban means those who are American Psychological Association members can’t assist the U.S. military at these sites. They can only work there for humanitarian purposes or with non-governmental groups, according to Stephen Soldz, a Boston psychologist. Soldz is founder of an ethics coalition that has long supported the ban.

“This is a repudiation by the membership of a policy that has been doggedly pursued by APA leadership for year after year,” Soldz said Thursday. “The membership has now spoken and it’s now incumbent upon APA to immediately implement this.”

The new policy should take effect at the association’s next annual meeting in August 2009. However, its council likely will discuss whether to act sooner, said spokeswoman Rhea Farberman.

The interrogation ban brings the psychologists more in line with the American Medical Association and American Psychiatric Association. In 2005, the psychologists association adopted a position that said, for national security purposes, it was ethical to act as consultants for interrogation and information-gathering.

Psychologists have been involved in decisions that approve of coercion methods, including “taking away comfort items like clothes and toilet paper from detainees” to help extract information from them, Soldz said.

He said that some even declined to diagnose post-traumatic stress in detainees because that would suggest detainees had been abused or harmed while in custody.

The group has no real power to enforce its new policy, although its council is expected to discuss whether to recommend the ban become part of its ethics code. That would mean a violator’s membership could be revoked, Farberman said,

Yale University psychologist Alan Kazdin, the group’s president, said the policy “will have teeth.”

“The organization will be disseminating our position to Congress and to other leaders and make it very clear what psychologists cannot do as part of our policy,” he said.

AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION HELPED JUSTIFY TORTURE “The American Psychological Association secretly collaborated with the administration of President George W. Bush to bolster a legal and ethical justification for the torture of prisoners swept up in the post-Sept. 11 war on terror, according to a new report by a group of dissident health professionals and human rights activists.” Read the full report. [NYT]

US psychologist Zimbardo says Abu Ghraib not ‘bad apples’, but Bush administration

Bush, Rumsfeld, and war crimes in Iraq, cartoon by Steve Bell

From Associated Press:

‘Psychology Of Evil’ Prof’s Last Stanford Lecture

STANFORD The retiring psychology professor who ran the famed Stanford Prison Experiment savagely criticized the Bush administration’s War on Terror Wednesday and said senior government officials should be tried for crimes against humanity.

In his final lecture at Stanford University, Philip Zimbardo said abuses committed by Army reservists at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison weren’t isolated incidents by rogue soldiers.

Rather, sadism was the inevitable result of U.S. government policies that condone brutality toward enemies, he said.

Individual military personnel those who stripped prisoners and leashed them like dogs are only as culpable as the people who created the overall environment in which the soldiers operated, Zimbardo told undergraduates enrolled in Introductory Psychology.

“Good American soldiers were corrupted by the bad barrel in which they too were imprisoned,” said Zimbardo, 73.

“Those barrels were designed, crafted, maintained and mismanaged by the bad barrel makers, from the top down in the military and civilian Bush administration.”

The professor blasted President Bush, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and other senior officials who said that al-Qaida and Taliban captives would be considered “unlawful combatants” rather than “prisoners of war,” a designation that would invoke the Geneva Convention.

He said those officials “should be tried for the crimes against humanity.”

See also here.

And here.