Dearborn – The Muslim Mental Health Conference took place last week in Dearborn, Michigan, with the main topic revolving around victims of torture, their post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and their mental health as a result.
The conference jumped right in, beginning with Dr. Nadine Kaslow, psychologist and former president of American Psychological Association (APA), speaking on the implications of “The Hoffman Report.” After ten years of allegations against the U.S. government, the Department of Defense (DoD), and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), on their torture and illegal interrogations tactics, the APA was also under fire for their role. According to Dr. Kaslow, when the findings were completed, there was a difference of opinion on the results.
“You can imagine the diversity on one side if you have military and DoD psychologists on one side and you have human rights activists on the other side. That the concerns expressed about the report, the conclusions drawn, and the actions steps taken, could not be more different … why was an attorney called to do this? The conclusions drawn were wrong,” said Dr. Kaslow.
So many APA members resigned after the August 2007 annual meeting’s effectively endorsed a professional role for psychologists in torture. Then in July of last year, the New York Times gave breaking news, revealing that the ‘APA had been complicit in torture.’ By this time, it had now leaked that the APA was working closely with the DoD and the CIA. It was also apparent to many that the psychologists involved, were actively involved and present during interrogations; including stress positions, nudity, hooding, isolation, slapping, shaking, dog threats, death threats, sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation, extreme heat or cold, intense light, relentless noise, exploitation of personal phobias, cultural and sexual humiliations, and of course, the sheer terror of waterboarding.
Thus, the Board of Directors of the APA employed an independent third party in November 2014, comprised mostly of psychologists, to conduct impartial review of these allegations. The findings are referred to as “The Hoffman Report,” named after the lead investigator. According to report, “the gist of the allegations was that APA made these ethics policy decisions as a substantial result of influence from and close relationships with the U.S. Department of Defense, the Central Intelligence Agency, and other government entities, which purportedly wanted permissive ethical guidelines so that their psychologists could continue to participate in harsh and abusive interrogation techniques being used by these agencies after the September 11 attacks on the United States.”
The main question the APA wanted answered was if their own officials conspired with DoD and the CIA, to support any form of torture.
“The report found that there were secret collusions between some, few in numbers, but still some, APA officials and physiologists in the DoD,” said Dr. Kaslow.
Kaslow explains that the report’s findings proved that the ethical guidelines given to psychologists in the military, in regards to national security involvement, was no stricter than the DoD’s interrogation guidelines, that’s how loose they were designed. Though, there was still no evidence that anyone in APA was aware of the CIA’s interrogation methods. The results were released a week early once The New York Times leaked them on July 10th, 2015. Dr. Kaslow responded to these results publicly with a quote in the Times, as the former president of APA, saying: “We profoundly regret and apologize for the behavior and consequences that ensued.”
“People don’t usually apologize in the NYT I guess, or they don’t apologize anywhere, and this will probably be the most significant thing I’ve ever said in my career . . . I stand by that apology even though there’s lots of people that disagree with our decision to do that,” Dr. Kaslow added, at this year’s conference.
According to Dr. Kaslow, the findings of the report were incorrect and there is still more that we do not fully know. Still, following the results, the legal and public relations costs spent by all parties involved totaled over $5 million. The psychologist within the report sent apologizes to APA members. Dr. Kaslow said that some people thought they apologized too much, while others told her it was not enough; that they should have also apologized to the detainees.
Dr. Kaslow concluded her speech with a quote from President Obama:
“In the immediate aftermath of 9/11 we did some things that were wrong, we tortured some folks, we did things that were contraire to our values, I’m sorry.”