News coverage of APA convention vote on psychologists’ participation in interrogation processes within national security settings

An email I sent at 11:30 today, Saturday August 8, 2015, to the list serv of the Maine Psychological Association:

Remarkably, the NYTimes’ James Risen covered the vote that was held this Friday in Toronto. His story was relegated to the lower half of page 11 of today’s edition, underneath a story about the Obamas’ vacation in Massachusetts. I can’t find it either in my daily email of NYTimes headlines nor in the page at nytimes.com that offers an extensive summary of all stories of the paper today.

[In the email, I here explained I was sending a copy of the complete article as an addendum, with my highlighting. Those interested can find it at the Times’ website, through a search for “Psychologists Approve Ban on Role in National Security Interrogations¬†By JAMES RISEN ¬†AUG. 7, 2015”]

The Wall Street Journal did not mention the vote or convention at all in today’s paper. (I was at my local library searching through the print editions of these two papers, rather than on line, to be able to make these observations.) The Journal does however carry a small lower page story about a report from the human rights committee of the OAS accusing the Obama administration of dragging its feet on clearing uncharged and evidently not dangerous detainees out of Guantanamo. Another news story, easier to find in the mainstream, identifies the Obama administration’s efforts to step up the pace of detainee delegation to other nations, which may be happening largely in anticipation of the APA vote and the OAS report. See http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2015/08/07/world/asia/07reuters-usa-guantanamo.html.

The paucity of coverage of the APA Council’s nearly unanimous vote (and the Times’ relegation of it to near-oblivion) is remarkable in light of the strategic role of the participation of psychologists in the enhanced interrogation of detainees who are typically held without known charges and all without rights of habeas corpus while subject to the ongoing torture (according to international human rights authorities) of forced feeding if they decide to join in a wide-spread hunger strike, while they are secured in a highly classified, secretive installation off our national borders.

Without having secured the green light for psychologists to participate, the Department of Defense, the CIA and the FBI might have very reasonably failed to sustain the kinds of interrogation and forced feeding practices that they have, early and late in the Guantanamo/black-sites period, a loss that might have led to more such detainees being held for interrogation under the auspices of other nations’ detention facilities, with interested covert visits from American security interrogators. Whether that scenario would have been preferable or more horrible for those detained is open to question, while it might serve primarily to support a NIMBY defensiveness of plausible deniability for the US. The mess that our “war on terror” has spawned and continues to augment is not going away easily at this point. And clearly the administration’s policy is to prosecute it, come hell or high water, leading to assassinations by drone or JSOC forces on other nations’ territories with or without their permission. We have “boots on the ground” anywhere on earth that the administration decides to put them at the moment, as a matter of clearly developed national security policy.

Mainstream news sources like The Times or the US government will not be found offering statistics about the number of hunger strikers currently active or the number of prisoners currently force-fed in Guantanamo, even in an article like that at http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/08/us/guantanamo-hunger-strikers-petition-divides-officials.html?_r=0, about a detainee currently litigating (at 75 pounds and counting) for release 13 years after he was found “along the Afghan border, and . . . accused of having gone to the region to fight with the Taliban and of having received some weapons training.” The wrong place at the wrong time, as they say.

The article implies that his hunger strike is an isolated occurrence and that letting him leave Guantanamo might signal the efficacy of hunger striking as a tactic for other detainees to resort to, in order to manipulate the system and secure release. Nevertheless, you can see some numbers referenced in a recent Huffington Post story on a major ethical stand taken by a nurse at Guantanamo. He refused to participate in a forced feeding there and consequently found charges made against him by military authorities and his duties downgraded, although since then the case has been dropped (without explanation, evidently). In that article you will find reference to an internal military document at http://www.scribd.com/doc/254035173/Forcefeeding that explains that forced feeding of a mentally competent person is never acceptable to “international law and certain medical ethical standards”. Have psychologists been involved in advising or observing these feedings? Who can say? If not, why not? If so, how do we parse the ethics of their toleration of this practice?

Yesterday’s Democracy Now! radio/TV program featured excerpts from the Town Hall Meeting held Thursday under the auspices of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, for those interested in checking out some of the speakers there. Risen is also interviewed for several minutes. The producers of the program considered covering this issue important enough to base the show’s production in Toronto this Friday, rather than NYCity. You can see, hear, or read the show or segments of it, as you prefer, by checking at http://www.democracynow.org/

Steve

 

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