Psychologists Mull Policy Shift on Detainees

July 30, 2018

The American Psychological Association, which has apologized for its involvement in advising the George W. Bush administration on interrogation techniques after Sept. 11, could modify its policy against military psychologists interrogating government detainees at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere, Science reported. The current policy has been in place since 2015, the same year that an independent review found the association abandoned certain ethical principles in an attempt to please the Pentagon, arguably making it easier for the military to justify enhanced interrogation techniques that many view as torture. A new policy proposal says that military psychologists are still banned from interrogating detainees but that they may provide mental health services to detainees.

The association’s Council of Representatives will consider the measure next month at its meeting in California. Advocates of the policy shift say that the ban on military psychologists providing care to detainees was an overreaction to earlier criticism of the association’s role in shaping detainee interrogation practices. Critics of the change say that the new policy language undermines a 2008 referendum opposing torture approved by 59 percent of association voters, and that it could eventually lead to psychologists’ participation in interrogations. Currently, clinical psychologists who work for detainees or human rights organizations may offer mental health services.

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