Amid mounting evidence that the American Psychological Association colluded with the CIA in protecting the Bush Administration’s abusive “enhanced interrogation program,” APA’s leaders are insisting that they will reserve all comment until attorney David Hoffman completes his “independent” review of these allegations. CEO Norman Anderson has also offered assurances that the APA is “fully cooperating” with the investigation.
But it seems that cooperation is in the eye of the beholder. Because while APA executives have called for patience while everyone waits for the Hoffman report, it appears that someone has been steadily removing valuable, relevant content from the APA website. Perhaps it’s true after all: idle hands are indeed the devil’s workshop.
A small corner of the APA’s website is home to the Association’s “Science Policy News,” a monthly electronic newsletter about the APA’s science-related advocacy and its lobbying efforts for psychology research dollars from the Defense Department and related agencies. Until a few years ago, the newsletter was called “Science Policy Insider News,” which gave it the rather ironic acronym “SPIN.”
Using the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, it’s possible to examine some of the history of the APA webpage that provides links to past issues of the SPIN newsletter. Ten months ago, in July 2014, the number of monthly SPIN issues available online was 131. Eight months later, in March of this year, the number had dropped to 106. And today the available issues are down even further, to only 81. In short, dozens of SPIN newsletters have disappeared from the APA’s website over the past ten months, many of them over just the past seven weeks.
This disappearance has taken place during a period of heightened scrutiny of the APA. As a reminder, last October James Risen published his book Pay Any Price alleging APA collusion with the CIA. In November, after first dismissing Risen’s charges, the APA Board hired Mr. Hoffman to conduct a review. And then in December the Senate Intelligence Committee released the executive summary of its scathing report on CIA torture, including details about the participation of James Mitchell, who was an APA member until 2006.
Almost every SPIN newsletter from 2003 to 2007 is now missing – the very years during which much of the APA’s collusive activities reportedly took place. As examples, this period includes the APA’s invitation-only “science of deception” workshop in 2003, attended by Mitchell and Bruce Jessen; the private meeting with the CIA’s Kirk Hubbard and other intelligence professionals at APA headquarters in 2004; and the APA’s PENS task force meeting on psychological ethics and national security in 2005, where Susan Brandon, now chief of research for the government’s High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, was among the undisclosed observers. All of these events received mention in issues of SPIN that have now disappeared.
APA’s leaders have some difficult questions to answer. For starters, why has so much information been removed from the APA website at the very time Mr. Hoffman is being promised “full and unfettered access” for his investigation?