After Scandal, Psychological Association Changes Stance on Interrogations

The American Psychological Association will no longer allow its members to participate in national security interrogations, whether on U.S. or foreign soil. The move follows a scandal that erupted after disclosures that APA member psychologists had helped enable controversial detainee interrogations by U.S. intelligence agencies.

A vote by the American Psychological Association could ensure that the professional group will never again find itself in the situation it faced a month ago.

The APA last week voted to formally ban its members from taking part in national security investigations, a move that comes weeks after the association saw a staff shakeup in the wake of a report that found that APA staff colluded with the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Central Intelligence Agency to build an interrogation program following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The resolution [PDF], approved on Friday by APA’s Council of Representatives, would extend beyond the U.S. to the “Guantanamo Bay detention facility, ‘black sites,’ and vessels in international waters.” (However, an APA spokeswoman noted to NPR that the resolution allows exemptions for treating soldiers and performing psychological examiniations.)

The council voted overwhelmingly in favor of the resolution: Just one of its 173 members voted against it.

“This is an extraordinary victory because these prohibitions are clear, they’re implementable, people will be held accountable,” council member Steven Reisner told The Chronicle of Higher Education. “I’m hoping the American Psychological Association will return from leading us into the dark side to leading us out of it.”

APA President-elect Susan H. McDaniel, Ph.D., said in a news release that the resolution would improve the association’s standing among its own members and the public.

“We have much work ahead as we change the culture of APA to be more transparent and much more focused on human rights,” she said. “In addition, we will institute clearer conflict-of-interest policies going forward, all of which are aimed at ensuring that APA regains the trust of its members and the public.”

The association has been embroiled in other controversies in recent months as well. Earlier this year, APA agreed to a $9 million settlement to end a lawsuit brought by members alleging that the organization used deceptive tactics to collect fees that helped fund the organization’s advocacy arm.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a senior editor for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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