Department of Defense Controversy Unfolds

APA beholden to Department of Defense?
It appears that evidence is mounting that APA has considerable interest in maintaining good graces with the Department of Defense — particularly related to the issue of prescription rights. I didn’t say it. I was reluctant to make this link. But this is not a conspiracy theory that insults the intelligence. Much of it is compelling.

Dr. Elaine Rodino posted a link, on the Los Angeles County Psychological Association (LACPA) listserv, to a piece at Harper’s magazine. The article characterizes the APA resolution as being full of loopholes, allowing for other methods of torture. In turn, they quote an editorial at the Houston Chronicle:

The worst argument for psychologists’ presence at interrogations comes from U.S. Army Col. Larry James, director of the psychology department of a military medical center,” the Chronicle went on to explain. ‘If we lose psychologists from these facilities, people are going to die,’ he said at the APA meeting.

Mary Pipher returns Presidential Citation.
The Harper’s piece continues reporting that Mary Pipher, author of the bestselling Reviving Ophelia, has recently returned her APA Presidential Citation award, citing the interrogation issue. Here’s their quote:

I cannot accept the August 19, 2007 Reaffirmation of APA’s Position Against Torture… Under this motion, psychologists will be allowed to continue working on interrogation teams that are not subject to the Geneva Conventions. This motion places our organization on the side of the CIA and Department of Defense and at odds with the United Nations, The Red Cross, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Medical Association. With this reaffirmation we have made a terrible mistake.

Pipher’s full statement, worth taking a look at, kind be found here.

Finally, in this flurry of press, Dr. Pipher, a credible source, asserts that psychologists were involved at the Fort Bragg project that reverse engineered torture for the Department of Defense. She goes on to address issues in the APA leadership and governance in this article at Democracy Now:

MARY PIPHER: …Well, I think in a matter of conscience it’s better not to encourage people to do a specific action, beyond, I think, every psychologist in the country who is in accord with my thinking should do something to let APA know how deeply upset they are. Now, I actually know some things people are doing, like resigning, for example. I wouldn’t recommend that. [itals mine] That’s a very complicated question.

But I think that the APA has long been a clan; the top leadership, the people on the council have been there for decades. It’s a very ingrown group of people. And I think we probably need some new leadership in APA. I’m not even a member of APA at this point. I closed my office in 2000, and I allowed all of my memberships to lapse. But I think for the members, it would be an excellent thing to really look not only at this specific decision, but the whole way that APA at this point is functioning.

Cancelling memberships.
Dr. Pipher makes an important point about membership. Some psychologists are canceling their memberships in protest. This effectively removes some of the most valuable voices we have in this debate from being able to participate. It may be time for some new blood at APA. This needs to be taken care of from within the organization. As Harper’s put it:

Right now, the APA is out on a limb doing a tango with the CIA and the DOD. The branch has cracked and it is going to fall to the ground. And the reputation of the APA is going to suffer still more when the collaboration of some of its members with the torture regime is fully exposed, as it surely will be.

All Americans need to be asking how our society can cope with a profession that is beset with such severe moral rot.

Kalea Chapman, Psy.D.


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Clinical Psychologist practicing in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles, California.

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