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Background article by Associated Press from before the American Psychological Association vote on interrogation techniques.

US psychologists weigh ban on Guantanamo interrogations

Date Published:

Aug 18, 2007 03:00 AM

Author: Sudhin Thanawal

Source: The Associated Press


SAN FRANCISCO: The largest U.S. group of psychologists is to decide Sunday what role, if any, its members can play in interrogating terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay and other U.S. military detention centers.

The American Psychological Association, which is holding its annual meeting in San Francisco, is scheduled to vote Sunday on two competing measures concerning its 148,000 members' participation in military interrogations.

One proposal, which is backed by APA's board of directors, would reaffirm the group's opposition to torture and prohibit members from taking part in more than a dozen specific practices, including forced nakedness, mock executions and simulated drowning.

An APA member who violates the torture resolution could be expelled from the Washington-based organization, which could lead to the loss of the professional's state license to practice, said spokeswoman Rhea Farberman.

The other measure would bar members from any involvement in interrogations at military facilities where foreigners are detained. The moratorium would not be backed by sanctions, but it would carry the APA's "moral authority," said psychologist Neil Altman, who wrote the proposed resolution.

The association's vote follows reports that have implicated mental health specialists in prisoner abuse scandals at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Among other things, psychiatrists and psychologists are accused of helping interrogators increase prisoners' stress levels by exploiting their fears.

A recently declassified Defense Department report said that since 2002 psychiatrists and psychologists have helped military interrogators develop new techniques to extract information from detainees.

Military interrogation has become a dominant issue at this year's meeting of the APA, which represents most of the United States' psychologists.

Supporters of the moratorium say they want the APA to follow the examples of the American Medical Association and American Psychiatric Association, which have said their members have no legitimate role in interrogations at detention centers like Guantanamo.

Critics of the moratorium say the presence of psychologists helps ensure interrogations are not abusive.

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On the Net:

American Psychological Association: http://www.apa.org/

Psychologists for an Ethical APA: http://www.ethicalapa.com/

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