For the past seven months, attorney David Hoffman of the law firm Sidley Austin has been investigating allegations that the American Psychological Association colluded with the CIA, the Pentagon, and the White House in support of the Bush Administration’s torturous “enhanced interrogation program.” Having hired Mr. Hoffman last November, the APA Board recently expressed its commitment to the public release of his forthcoming report prior to the APA’s Annual Convention, which begins August 6th.
At this point, without speculating about exactly what the Hoffman Report will say, we already have enough facts to indicate that complete exoneration is unlikely. Indeed, if Mr. Hoffman has received the unfettered access promised to him by the APA Board, then it is reasonable to expect that his report will provide further evidence of grave collusion.
Given this likelihood, this is an opportune time for the Council of Representatives – APA’s governing body – to commit to taking specific actions if the Hoffman Report confirms that collusion took place. Doing so now will serve as a bulwark against any pressure or temptation to waver in pursuing appropriate accountability and reform once the report is released.
In support of this approach, here are ten steps that APA’s leadership can commit to now, contingent on the Hoffman Report documenting that the APA colluded with government agencies involved in the torture and abuse of “war on terror” detainees:
1. APA will take serious action against all staff members or other leaders who permitted or participated in any documented collusion.
3. APA will exclude all individuals directly or indirectly implicated from any role in deliberations or decisions in response to the Hoffman Report.
4. APA will also exclude from deliberations all individuals with potential professional, financial, or other conflicts of interest.
5. APA will support a separate, thorough, transparent, and independent review of the APA’s bureaucratic structures and processes that facilitated collusion to prevent similar wrongdoing in the future.
6. APA will refrain from issuing public statements that minimize or obscure documented collusion.
7. APA will restore the many documents relevant to the documented collusion that have been removed from the APA website.
8. APA will investigate the prior handling of all relevant ethics complaints, including the Ethics Office’s “no cause for action” decision in the complaint against Guantanamo psychologist John Leso.
9. APA will pursue sua sponte actions against any current members where evidence indicates that they committed ethics code violations related to the documented collusion.
10. APA will support a comprehensive reconsideration of all ethics policies related to psychologist involvement in national security and intelligence roles.
This list is not comprehensive and it invites constructive modification. I offer it to facilitate discussion and engagement among stakeholders concerned about the future of the APA and the profession of psychology in the United States.