Torture, Collusion, And The American Psychological Association

The Colonies saw a lot of use from stocks and pillories, but waterboarding is more tortuous and also an old form of torture.
The Colonies saw a lot of use from stocks and pillories, but waterboarding is more tortuous and also an old form of torture. | Source

Sadness and Disillusionment with American People and Organizations

From the day we enter this world we begin losing. We lose innocence as we mature, but we gain incredible experiences. We lose pets and sometimes replace them with new animal friends. We lose friends and family members to death and disability. As we age, more and more friends die.

The more painful losses can be those of disillusionment and loss of trust. This is evident to reactions in the press and among your own neighbors to the crimes uncovered among some of our nation's pastors, teachers, elected leaders, some sort of "shadow government", movie stars, and company spokespeople.

In July 2015, we heard announcements that the American Psychological Association has been an advocate for torture.

Personnel Changes After the Hoffman Report

On July 14, 2015 the APA Board of Directors announced the retirement of Dr. Norman Anderson from his post as CEO of APA since 2003, to take place a year early, at the end of 2015. In addition, Deputy CEO Michael Honaker announced retirement for mid-August 2015. Rhea K. Farberman, Executive Director for Public and Member Communications has resigned, effective July 31, 2015 after 22 years.

The American Psychological Association

American Psychological Association, near Union Station In Washington DC.
American Psychological Association, near Union Station In Washington DC. | Source

A Letter From the APA

We members of APA received a letter from the leadership of the organization.

We were informed, if we had not already known, that a professional investigator, David Hoffman of the law firm Sidley Austin completed an extensive review of allegations of a relationship between the APA and the Bush 43 Administration regarding abusive interrogation techniques employed with W's War on Terror.

The long report was to have been released during the week of July 11, but it was leaked to the press, blindsiding APA in The New York Times. It is also posted on the APA website.

Leadership of the APA has apologized to its membership for not being as independent of federal government influence as it might have been.

Exhibit on Constitution Ave., NW; Washington, DC in 2007

Apparently,. waterboarding is much older than I thought it to be - 100s of years older.
Apparently,. waterboarding is much older than I thought it to be - 100s of years older. | Source

As a result of the report, there will be significant changes in the organization, in terms of both policies and procedures. Dr. Stephen Behnke is no longer an employee of APA as a result of the findings in the Hoffman report, and other personnel actions are under consideration.

— Drs. Nadine Kaslow and Susan McDaniel, The APA Independent Review’s Special Committee

Something Else to Grieve

It is unfortunate that as we age through the lifespan, we seem to encounter growing amounts of loss. Developing additional resilience, making new friends, cultivating new interests, maintaining an interest in the life and world that go on after our loses are ways to survive and live additional years in productive enjoyment, no matter whether we are 13 or 103.

The American Psychological Association has done much good work and particularly in gaining respect for all sorts of minority populations that have suffered abuses in the past. Children, women, veterans, people with disabilities and birth defects, folks suffering Severe Mental Disorders, and all genders can see that the APA is an advocate for human rights.

Associating torture with the APA will likely not close down the organization, but it gives us a sense of disappointment and loss. In the 2010s, increasing numbers of people are seeing the former pillars of society - if they were pillars at all - crumbling. This is not "1950s World" where a happy home, a two-parent family, a government for the people, and a pantheon of American heroes were all advertised as standard across the nation. Those of us that were kids in the 50s, 60s, or 70s know that the advertisements were misleading.

Reality is hard. It is harsh, but we can survive it. What did the 542-page report on the APA find?

Nothing will ever undo what was done in the past, and we cannot deny that it is a stain on the honor of “Psychology,” but we must and we will return to our roots to rebuild a new organization of which all of us can be proud.

— Ibid.

Summary of Infractions

Mr. Hoffman analyzed the materials available to him in documents and email message records and found a short list of infractions against human rights.Problems included:

  1. Evidence of an ongoing pattern of collusion between a few people in APA and the US Department of Defense. -- This can be seen as disturbing and frightening. It is one more infraction to stack on the woodpile of things the government should probably not have done - like exposing people in the American West to radiation in the 1940s - 50s and, most recently learned in 2015, injecting fogs over San Francisco with two forms of bacteria in warfare technique tests without informing the population.
  2. The intent of those participating in the collusion was to "curry favor" with the Defense Department. This may have led to the federal government's use of torture in interrogation. -- This may cause people to ask if the APA is a clandestine arm of the federal government.
  3. The analysis found no evidence of collusion of APA with the CIA or in the 2002 changes in the APA Code of Ethics.

The APA leadership and related committees pledge to fix any problems found in the report as quickly as possible. This began with at least one personnel change and will be followed by several additional changes as reported to the UK's Guardian on July 11, 2015.

I do not think that America has used any of these torture chairs that contain spikes in the arms and the back.
I do not think that America has used any of these torture chairs that contain spikes in the arms and the back. | Source

August 2015 APA Convention

The APA Annual Convention for 2015 was set for the first week of August in Toronto. A new possible prime topic for the session became the long Hoffman report.

A large enough number of people have historically distrusted the APA - enough for the Hoffman report to add deadly ammunition to their criticisms. Some voices call for the APA to be investigated by the FBI.

However, some people want the FBI to be investigated by APA.

The United States of America has had many disturbing issues in recent decades and this has been another of them.

Psychology has been discredited by some opinions since early days, but it has carried on.

1909 gathering of some of the first psychologists. Front row: Sigmund Freud, G. Stanley Hall (first President of APA), Carl Jung; Back row: Abraham A. Brill, Ernest Jones, and Sándor Ferenczi.
1909 gathering of some of the first psychologists. Front row: Sigmund Freud, G. Stanley Hall (first President of APA), Carl Jung; Back row: Abraham A. Brill, Ernest Jones, and Sándor Ferenczi. | Source

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Comments 8 comments

no body profile image

no body 17 months ago from Rochester, New York

I'm torn Patty, about a couple of things. First off the Inquisition is nothing like the waterboarding that was used to find out information on terrorists. The inquisition was to "purify," "to atone for a supposed error." I don't think that was the same as what modified methods were employed.

ON the other hand, people are sinners and I really don't know for certain that any or all of the torture machines employed in that Middle Ages are used today by our country in this or that part of the government, in secret, hiding in the shadows and funded by our tax dollars. It's hard for me to believe that some people are using torture with the same goals in mind as were in those dark days: Maximum length of time, with death as the conclusion, and pain (as much as possible) in the interim.

In our present day, I should think that people could hold a person to that interim time of pain for as long as they want without death, but what do I know.

That all being said, I do believe that obtaining life saving information with the least damage to the interrogated is necessary. And clever mind tricks or deception with that person, discomfort and other things may be needed to manipulate a person set to see death and mayhem to our shores.

I hope I said what i believe clearly and do not sound like I would keep that chair you showed for a little Q&A with someone. Breaking someone's will to spill the beans would have to be the hardest job on earth in my opinion. bob.


drbj profile image

drbj 17 months ago from south Florida

It would appear, Patty, that the APA like similar professional organizations often behaves in a manner that is expedient and serves their self-interest. Some things never change.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 17 months ago from North America Author

@no body - I don't know if extreme questioning methods bring out the truth or not. It's disturbing.

In one of the films about the Native American Code Talkers of WWII, one of the code talkers is captured by the enemy, looks across a field to his ranking officer, calling him to kill him if he could not free him from the enemy. His superior officer shot him. I don't know if this is historically accurate, but undergoing tortuous questioning must be a horror.


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 17 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

Hello Patty. I sense this particular issue hits close to home. It is an embarresment to you personnaly. The psychology of the country is under attack and hitting to close to home. The idea of the U.S. seems to be spoiling like an apple with a bruise.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 17 months ago from North America Author

@mcbirdbks - This is why I am hesitant to join anything anymore! But I do not yet want to be a hermit, so I will try to accept the shortcomings of people and organizations. This APA SNAFU certainly is embarrassing, since many in the psychiatric APA would like to see the psychological APA have less influence. Can we pronounce "ammunition" any more clearly?

I think the wrongdoers should apologize on International TV.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 17 months ago from North America Author

In mid-July several APA executives resigned or retired after many years of service in order to allow people with fresh energy to tackle the problems illuminated by the Hoffman report.


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 16 months ago from USA

Term limits for APA leaders? Sadly, it's a case of doctor, heal thyself. I'm a psychologist and when I first digested what occurred I was saddened to say the least.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 16 months ago from North America Author

I know you had to be saddened at least. Are clients questioning you about it yet? I trust APA will recover and look more closely to what it's officers do.

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