The June 7, 2006 New York Times brings news that the United States Department of Defense has decided to give preference to using psychologists over psychiatrists as advisers to its interrogation teams at Guantánamo and other unnamed locations based on “a recognition of differing positions taken by their respective professional groups.” More specifically, The American Psychiatric Association unequivocally has adopted a policy stating that its members should not be part of these interrogation teams. The American Psychological Association has adopted a far weaker policy that, in practice, puts no constraints upon its members participating in interrogation, stating only that members consulting on national security interrogations should be "mindful of factors unique to these roles and contexts that require special ethical consideration." This position is taken in spite of considerable pressure from many members desiring the Association to state unequivocally that members should not participate in these interrogation teams in any capacity.
The nature of this involvement of psychologists and psychiatrists has been documented in several sources. For example, an article in the July 7, 2005 New England Journal of Medicine states: “Psychiatrists and psychologists have been part of a strategy that employs extreme stress, combined with behavior-shaping rewards, to extract actionable intelligence from resistant captives.” Further, as is documented in an official U.S. Southern Command policy statement, health professionals, including psychologists and psychiatrists working at Guantánamo, were for a while explicitly instructed to violate commonly-accepted canons of confidentiality and concern for patients’ welfare that date back eons. There still remains ambiguity around safeguards for detainees’ confidentiality at this facility.
We psychologists wish to unequivocally state our rejection of participation by psychologists in the interrogation process at Guantánamo or similar, still secret, facilities. A profession aiming at human betterment and built upon a respect for the dignity of the individual should never be perverted to further illegal abusive treatment or torture. We call upon the American Psychological Association to loudly and unequivocally insist that members desist from collaborating indirectly through educating, training and advising others or participating directly in the interrogations at Guantánamo or other such detention facilities. We will not stand by and remain silent while our profession throws overboard its concern for human dignity by becoming complicit in inhumane institutions.