Prestigious US psychologists played part in torture after 9/11 and lied about it, study finds

The Hoffman report finds the APA used its close relationship with the CIA and US military to aid abusive interrogations

Tom Brooks-Pollock
Saturday 11 July 2015 16:59 BST
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An independent review revealed that medical professionals lied and covered up their extensive involvement in post-9/11 torture
An independent review revealed that medical professionals lied and covered up their extensive involvement in post-9/11 torture (Getty)

Psychologists belonging to one of America’s most prestigious medical bodies lied and covered up their extensive role in the torture of terrorist suspects after 9/11, an independent review has found.

Members of the American Psychological Association (APA) – the largest body of its kind in the United States - face being fired, losing their licence or even being prosecuted in light of the revelation, which follows years of denials.

An independent review by a former assistant US attorney, David Hoffman, has undermined the APA’s repeated denials that some of its 130,000 members were complicit in torture, the Guardian reported.

The APA had insisted for years that it strict code of ethics prohibited its members to aid the torture of detainees – while permitting involvement in military and intelligence interrogations.

The APA had sought to refute repeated media reports that it members were complicit in torture, and that it suppressed internal dissent from anti-torture doctors and cleared members of wrongdoing.

The Hoffman report finds the APA used its close relationship with the CIA and US military to aid abusive interrogations. American spies are said to have relied heavily on psychologists to design and implement techniques such as waterboarding.

Unnamed sources with knowledge of the report told the paper that they expected a wave of firings and resignations among the upper ranks of the APA.

Several officials are likely to be sacked, sources told the Guardian, including the APA’s ethics chief Stephen Behnke – who recast the APA’s guidelines to be more open to torture techniques.

And evidence from the Hoffman report could be referred to the FBI to investigate potential criminal charges for torture against APA members.

Human rights groups have been urging for years that those involved in torture should be prosecuted, and the Hoffman report appears to reopen this possibility.

Late on Friday, the APA issued a statement that recognised the report's findings.

“The Hoffman report contains deeply disturbing findings that reveal previously unknown and troubling instances of collusion,” said Dr. Susan McDaniel, a member of the Independent Review’s Special Committee.

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