The conscience of the American Psychological Association (APA) is slowly dying as it facilitates torture, cheats its own members, and hussles junk science boondoggles to the defense industry. But the APA wasn’t always this way. Founded in the late 19th century by the intellectual giant William James and others, it had a proud history of advancing the science of psychology, defending the rights of those served by psychology, and promoting the interests of its members.
In 2005 the leadership of the APA violated its governance rules to allow psychologists to support the Bush era torture program. This was critical because the Justice Department had ruled that a health professional needed to be present during “enhanced interrogations” and because other professional organizations such as the America Medical Association and the America Psychiatric Association had unequivocally declared these programs unethical and out of bounds for their members. A national panel of human rights experts investigated a newly released cache of emails showing the APA, with the collaboration of the White House and CIA personnel, secretly modified its ethics policy to keep psychologists involved in torture. The New York Times reported on the panel’s findings on its front page late last month.
In its official response, the APA characterized the report as “recirculated allegations” and maintained that “last October we released a statement refuting these allegations.” But this response is a lie. The human rights experts presented new evidence of APA support of torture and refuted earlier APA denials. One email from Kirk Hubbard, the CIA agent overseeing the torture program, gives a shout out to former APA president Martin Seligman, saying he “had helped a lot over the last 4 years.”  Seligman had earlier denied involvement.
The APA describes the whole issue as a “public misunderstanding” and it has reluctantly hired an attorney to investigate the matter. It intends to publish its own report after which it plans “an aggressive communications program” to set the record straight. Sounds like they’ve already decided what their investigators will find.