The American Psychological Association (APA) today announced an initial series of policy and procedural steps in response to findings of individual collusion and organizational failures in the group’s activities related to the Bush Administration’s war on terror.
The actions come as the APA released a 542-page report produced by attorney David Hoffman, of the Sidley Austin law firm, detailing the relationship between various activities of the APA and Bush Administration policies on interrogation techniques.
“The Hoffman report contains deeply disturbing findings that reveal previously unknown and troubling instances of collusion,” said Dr. Susan McDaniel, a member of the Independent Review’s Special Committee. “The process by which the Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security (PENS) was created, the composition of the membership, the content of the PENS report and the subsequent activities related to the report were influenced by collusion between a small group of APA representatives and government officials.”
The Hoffman report states that the intent of the individuals who participated in the collusion was to “curry favor” with the Defense Department, and that may have enabled the government’s use of abusive interrogation techniques. As a result, the 2005 PENS report became a document based at least as much on the desires of the DoD as on the needs of the psychology profession and the APA’s commitment to human rights.
“Our internal checks and balances failed to detect the collusion, or properly acknowledge a significant conflict of interest, nor did they provide meaningful field guidance for psychologists,” said Dr. Nadine Kaslow, chair of the Independent Review’s Special Committee. “The organization’s intent was not to enable abusive interrogation techniques or contribute to violations of human rights, but that may have been the result.
“The actions, policies and the lack of independence from government influence described in the Hoffman report represented a failure to live up to our core values. We profoundly regret, and apologize for, the behavior and the consequences that ensued. Our members, our profession and our organization expected, and deserved, better.” Mr. Hoffman also said his inquiry “did not find evidence” that supporting the Justice Department’s legal rationale for approving abusive interrogation techniques was “part of the thinking or motive of APA officials.”
“This bleak chapter in our history occurred over a period of years and will not be resolved in a matter of months,” said Dr. Kaslow. “But there should be no mistaking our commitment to learn from these terrible mistakes and do everything we can to strengthen our organization for the future and demonstrate our commitment to ethics and human rights.”
Our Conclusion: Apologies Accepted… many lives, more than a decade, and millions of dollars later.
The Full Hoffman Report is available on the APA website.