Keeping Interrogation Clean
Should therapists be involved in prisoner interrogations? Two experts go head to head.
By Matthew Hutson published November 1, 2006 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016
The American Medical Association has banned members (including psychiatrists) from any involvement in prisoner interrogation. So what did the military do? They turned to psychologists, and the issue has sparked wide debate among colleagues. Is it within the bounds of the mental health profession to help extract information unwillingly from detainees? Is there a role for psychologists who want to use their skills to keep the country safe? Or is it all a shade of torture?
Head 2 Head
YES: "The ability to spot conditions that make abuse more likely uniquely prepares psychologists for this task. Adding a trained professional ensures that all interrogations are conducted in
a safe, legal, ethical, and effective manner that protects the individual and helps to elicit information that will prevent future acts of violence." —Stephen Behnke, director of ethics at the American Psychological Association.
NO: "Psychologists should not participate in any nontherapeutic engagement with detainees at sites that have been condemned by international human-rights monitoring agencies. They can contribute to national security by researching, in a general way, ethical and effective ways of interacting with prisoners." —Steven Reisner, senior faculty member at Columbia University's International Trauma Studies Program.