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Psychologists, The U.S. Military Establishment And Human Rights

Psychologists, The U.S. Military Establishment And Human Rights

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Published by sbondiolihp
Report on psychologists, the U.S. military and human rights by J. Wesley Boyd, Alice LoCicero, Monica Malowney, Rajendra Aldis, and Robert P. Marlin
Report on psychologists, the U.S. military and human rights by J. Wesley Boyd, Alice LoCicero, Monica Malowney, Rajendra Aldis, and Robert P. Marlin

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Published by: sbondiolihp on Aug 05, 2014
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 Human Rights in the Military: The Role of Psychology
J. Wesley Boyd, Alice LoCicero, Monica Malowney,Rajendra Aldis, and Robert P. Marlin
The American Psychological Association (APA) has long maintained aclose, even symbiotic, relationship with the Department of Defense (DOD)and the Veterans Administration (VA). Herein we highlight these close tiesand describe psychologists’ participation in interrogations by U.S. militaryand intelligence entities. We then review the APA’s statements about the permissibility of psychologist participation in the interrogation and tortureof suspected terrorists. These issues are significant in and of themselvesand because the VA and DOD have been described as “growth careers”for psychologists of the future (1). Additionally, the Health Care PersonnelDelivery System allows the drafting of civilian clinical psychologists intomilitary service even in the absence of a general draft. In light of psychol-ogistsextensive involvement in the interrogation process of suspectedterrorists, and the possibility that psychologists without prior military experi-ence may be drafted, we wondered how much psychologists have been taughtabout their ethical duties should they find themselves in military settings.The results of our pilot study of U.S. psychology graduate students, whichassessed their knowledge of military ethics, raise concerns that psycholo-gists receive inadequate formal training in these matters. This may leave psychologists vulnerable to misinformation about proper ethical conduct intheir future work.
Psychology in the United States has a longstanding, close relationship withthe military. Psychologists contributed significantly to the U.S. military effort in both World Wars, including evaluating new recruits, assisting in the treatment of 
International Journal of Health Services, Volume 44, Number 3, Pages 615–625, 2014© 2014, Baywood Publishing Co., Inc.doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.2190/HS.44.3.jhttp://baywood.com
soldiers with “shell shock,” and offering advice about the enemy in order tomake interrogations more effective (2).After World War II, the relationship between psychology and the militarytook new and various forms. The Army and the Navy, for example, utilized psychological input and consultation in addressing various Cold War issues andtactics, including mind control and sensory deprivation. U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) funding went to leaders within the American PsychologicalAssociation (APA) and actually drove the research agenda of the APA in par-ticular and the discipline in general (2). Psychology became so integral to theDOD that by 1952, 78 percent of all federal funding to psychology came throughthe DOD. By 1960, the DOD was spending almost its entire US$15 millionsocial science research budget on psychology, equivalent to roughly US$120million in today’s dollars (2).The APA has experienced dramatic growth over the last 70 years. Between1945 and 1970, the APA’s membership grew from just over 4,000 to more than30,000. Today the APA has approximately 134,000 members (3). Many creditthe prominence that psychology achieved through its work in the military as pivotal to the growth of the APA: “The burgeoning of psychology from a smallacademic discipline to the largest of the social sciences with 70 percent prac-titioners would have been unimaginable without the resources, support, andrespect of the DOD and CIA” (4).This close relationship continues to this day, and research in psychologyin academic settings still depends largely on military funding. The behavioralscience research budget of the DOD is approximately US$400 million annually,with the majority devoted to psychological research, dwarfing other funders of  psychological research (4).At the outset of the U.S. War on Terror in general and Operation Iraqi Freedomin particular, the U.S. government condoned interrogation tactics that were his-torically considered to constitute torture. It has been reported that psychologistsconceived of the entire interrogation system employed by U.S. interrogatorsand, in some instances, informed interrogators about prisoners’ phobias andother psychological vulnerabilities that could be exploited during interrogation(5–8). For instance, an Army psychologist reportedly wrote to interrogators atGuantanamo about an inmate, “He appears to be rather frightened, and it looksas if he could break easily if he were isolated from his support network and madeto rely solely on the interrogator.…Make him as uncomfortable as possible.Work him as hard as possible” (9).GENEVA CONVENTIONS AND OTHER INTERNATIONAL STANDARDSThe Geneva Conventions are clear that prisoners of war are only obligatedto divulge their name, service type, rank, and nothing more. The dictates to their 616 / Boyd et al.
captors are clear: “No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion,may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kindwhatever. Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted,or exposed to unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind” (10).Although the Geneva Conventions ban threatening, coercing, humiliating,degrading, injuring, or murdering prisoners of war for any reason, psychologistswho have participated in interrogations of prisoners might not have been awarethat they were engaged in conduct that violates international agreements. DuringPresident George W. Bush’s two terms in office, the U.S. government argued that prisoners arrested in the war on terror were “detainees” or “enemy combatants”rather than “prisoners of warso the Geneva Conventions did not apply totheir treatment, a position with which many ethical and legal analysts disagreed(11, 12). Psychologists without prior knowledge of international codes suchas the Geneva Conventions and the Nuremberg Conventions, unprepared todisobey orders that violated these agreements, were likely to be unquestioningand compliant when told to assist the interrogators. Given that violating theGeneva Conventions can carry with it a death sentence, the stakes are high (13).AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION STANCEON PSYCHOLOGIST PARTICIPATIONIN INTERROGATIONIn concert with the Bush administration’s efforts to bypass the mandates of the Geneva Conventions, the APA adopted a position that supported military psychologists who might decide to violate the organization’s own code of ethics if ordered to take an unethical action. The APA Ethics Code Principle 1.02 in effectfrom 2002 and 2010 and the 2005 Report of the Presidential Task Force onPsychological Ethics and National Security (PENS) allow for psychologists to participateininterrogations,includingthosethatmeetthedefinitionoftortureunder international standards: “Psychologists may serve in various national security-related roles, such as a consultant to an interrogation, in a manner that is consistentwiththeEthicsCode,andwhendoingsopsychologistsaremindfuloffactorsuniqueto these roles and contexts that require special ethical consideration” (14). It statesfurther,“PsychologistsdonotengageinbehaviorsthatviolatethelawsoftheUnitedStates, although psychologists may refuse for ethical reasons to follow laws or orders that are unjust or that violate basic principles of human rights.” If there is aconflict between ethics and the law, the PENS report allows for psychologists toviolateprevailing ethicalnormsand “adhereto therequirementsofthelaw”(14).Insodoing,thePENSreportattemptstojustifyandcodifywhatisgenerallycalled“the Nuremberg defense,” the stance taken by the Nazi doctors at Nuremberg whodeclared that they were merely following orders, a position repeatedly rejected byinternational courts and ethicists (15).Psychologists, U.S. Military, and Human Rights / 617

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