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Professional modesty


Here‘s the letter the American Psychological Association (APA) sent to the Senate Intelligence Committee about the imminent promotion of Gina Haspel to CIA Director. It seems they’re concerned about her history of torturing people and destroying the evidence; traditional CIA practices that doubtless drew President Trump’s attention to her resume in the first place.

The letter’s second paragraph establishes the APA’s credentials as an organisation dedicated to the betterment of mankind; made up of loads of highly professional people who are considerably smarter than you. But they’re understating their qualifications.

Many members of the APA are uniquely placed to assess CIA torture programs, having designed and implemented them for decades across much of the world. In fact close cooperation between APA members and the CIA in illegally abusing people goes back to the latter’s founding in 1947 and includes such highlights as Projects Bluebird, Artichoke, MKSearch and MKUltra.

In 2015 an independent investigation reported that APA officials, particularly the ethics director Stephen Behnke, were at the heart of efforts to bring APA guidelines into line with CIA and Department of Defense requirements, facilitating employment of members in the torture of detainees at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere; including ‘Detention Site Green‘ run by Gina Haspel in Thailand. Behnke simultaneously managed a lucrative sideline personally training CIA torturers. A former director of the Physicians for Human Rights campaign against torture described the APA’s collaboration as “the single greatest health professional ethics scandal of the 21st century”.

I wonder if the APA now bars members from senior positions if they’ve helped the CIA torture people. That would narrow the field a bit.


Postscript: On 8 August, 2018 the American Psychological Association voted almost two to one to maintain its 2015 policy revision against participation by members in CIA torture programs. That’s down significantly from the 157 to 1 landslide only three years ago, back when the US Administration at least gave lip service to ending torture (while continuing to run torture sites and protect torturers from legal or career penalties).

If the APA vote is representative of the profession as a whole you can rest assured there is currently only a 33% chance your psychologist considers inflicting torture a legitimate part of his/her professional domain.

From → history

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