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Statement of APA Board of Directors: Outside Counsel to Conduct Independent Review of Allegations of Support for Torture

The American Psychological Association (APA) Board of Directors has reviewed the allegation in James Risen's book, "Pay Any Price: Greed, Power and Endless War," that APA colluded with the Bush administration to support torture during the war on terror. Specifically, Risen alleges that APA supported the development and implementation of "enhanced" interrogation techniques that constituted torture, and was complicit with the CIA and U.S. military to this end.

We believe that APA's October 16th statement refuting Risen's assertion was a fair and accurate response. However, the allegation made by Mr. Risen is highly charged and very serious. His book has created confusion for the public and APA members. This confusion, coupled with the seriousness of the allegation, requires a definitive, independent and objective review of the allegation and all relevant evidence.

Toward that end, and to fulfill its values of transparency and integrity, the APA Board has authorized the engagement of David Hoffman of the law firm Sidley Austin to conduct an independent review of whether there is any factual support for the assertion that APA engaged in activity that would constitute collusion with the Bush administration to promote, support or facilitate the use of "enhanced" interrogation techniques by the United States in the war on terror. Read the Board of Directors resolution establishing the review.

The engagement of the independent reviewer will be coordinated by a special committee consisting of three members of the APA Board of Directors -- 2014 APA President Dr. Nadine Kaslow, 2015 President- Elect Dr. Susan McDaniel and APA Treasurer Dr. Bonnie Markham.* The special committee will be assisted by APA General Counsel Nathalie Gilfoyle.

The independent reviewer will consider and report to the special committee as to whether APA colluded with the Bush administration, CIA or U.S. military to support torture during the war on terror. The review will include but not be limited to the following three issues: 1) whether APA supported the development or implementation of "enhanced" interrogation techniques that constituted torture; 2) whether changes to Section 1.02 of the APA Code of Ethics in 2002 or the formation and/or report of the APA Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security (PENS Task Force) were the product of collusion with the government to support torture or intended to support torture; and 3) whether any APA action related to torture was improperly influenced by government-related financial or policy considerations, including government grants, contracts or adoption of government policy regarding prescription privileges for psychologists serving in the military.

It is the intent of the Board that this review will be thorough and fully independent. The sole objective of the review is to ascertain the truth about the allegation described above, following an independent review of all available evidence, wherever that evidence leads, without regard to whether the evidence or conclusions may be deemed favorable or unfavorable to APA. The independent reviewer will have full authority to conduct interviews of any present or former APA employee or member or any other person he deems necessary or appropriate. The independent reviewer will have access to all information and documents that he believes would assist in his work. APA staff and Board members have been instructed to fully cooperate in providing documents, electronic messages and information requested by the independent reviewer and to assist the reviewer in contacting former APA employees and others outside of APA who may have responsive information. The special committee will be responsible for providing the necessary support to the independent counsel in his conduct of the review, including resources, access to people and documents, and other support necessary to ensure that the review is completed in a thorough and independent manner.

At the conclusion of the independent review, the independent counsel will present his final report to the special committee. The committee will review the report, formulate recommendations for responsive actions as needed, and then transmit the independent reviewer's final report -- without modification -- together with the committee's recommendations, to the APA Board. After reviewing the independent report, the APA Board will make it available -- without modification -- to the APA Council of Representatives, APA members and the public. In addition the Board will take actions in response to the report and the recommendations of the special committee as it finds appropriate.

Anyone having information that they believe the independent reviewer should be aware of is invited to contact Mr. Hoffman at Information can also be shared with Mr. Hoffman via a special phone line -- (312) 456-8468.

Depending on access to information and persons needing to be interviewed, the review process is expected to be completed within the first quarter of 2015.

In the meantime, the Board again reiterates the Association's longstanding policy prohibiting any psychologist involvement in torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. There are no exceptions to that policy. Anyone seeking information about prior statements and actions of the APA Board of Directors and Council of Representatives related to detainee welfare and psychologists' work in national security settings can review an extensive timeline. Also available as part of this timeline is APA's comprehensive 2013 policy related to psychologists and national security. When Council adopted the 2013 policy, it also rescinded the PENS Task Force report.

*On Nov. 28, 2014, Dr. Norman B. Anderson, CEO of APA, withdrew from the committee and was replaced by APA Treasurer Dr. Bonnie Markham.

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States. APA's membership includes nearly 130,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people's lives.

[Source: American Psychological Association, Washington, 12Jul15]

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small logoThis document has been published on 13Jul15 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.