Dr. Aubrey Blumsohn has done yeoman work in highlighting the sordid and criminal story of the CIA’s use of psychedelic drugs in experiments done for dark purposes. Whatever the specific purpose was, it was an ill purpose. And, it resonates today because it is mostly unknown to what extent drugs are currently deployed by the CIA for the purpose of interrogation, torture, and, possibly, mind control. In Part V Blumsohn tells the story of the same criminal activities happening in the UK.
LSD and the corruption of medicine (Part I): Invention and the beginnings of MK-ULTRA
LSD and the corruption of medicine (Part II): The entanglement of academia
LSD and the corruption of medicine (Part III): Naming names
LSD and the corruption of medicine (Part IV): Pfizer and memory
LSD and the corruption of medicine (Part V): The UK connection
I’m reminded of the controversy surrounding the use of psychologists–either in the employ of the U.S. military or intelligence services, and, as private contractors–in the circumstance of interrogation and torture. (Outside psychiatrists have bowed out, although it is unknown how many soldier psychiatrists continue to take part as monitors in interrogation teams.) Dr. Steven Soldz tracks the deplorable case of the American Psychological Association’s leadership’s cowardice on his blog, Psyche, Science and Society. His article Protecting the Torturers provides a summary. It’s a shocker. See also Physicians for Human Rights report, Break Them Down: Systematic Use of Psychological Torture by US Forces.
Here’s Sections 1.02/1.03 in the APA’s Ethics Code enabling psychologists to participate in torture.
1.02 Conflicts Between Ethics and Law, Regulations, or Other Governing Legal Authority
If psychologists’ ethical responsibilities conflict with law, regulations, or other governing legal authority, psychologists make known their commitment to the Ethics Code and take steps to resolve the conflict. If the conflict is unresolvable via such means, psychologists may adhere to the requirements of the law, regulations, or other governing legal authority.
1.03 Conflicts Between Ethics and Organizational Demands
If the demands of an organization with which psychologists are affiliated or for whom they are working conflict with this Ethics Code, psychologists clarify the nature of the conflict, make known their commitment to the Ethics Code, and to the extent feasible, resolve the conflict in a way that permits adherence to the Ethics Code.
What’s also beyond the pale is how former APA President Dr. Sharon Brehm and Ethics Director Dr. Steven Behnke baldly line-up on the ethically compromised side when they could, tomorrow, support an uncompromising ethical position, to whit: do no harm without exception.
The APA issued a policy statement about torture in August 2007, but it remains compromised by the ‘out’ granted in Secton 1.02, and, upon close reading, by the numerous exceptions tacit in its numerous qualifications. Dr. Soldz’s response. Those exceptions allow for a lot of harm to be done. See: Reaffirmation of the American Psychological Association Position Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and Its Application to Individuals Defined in the United States Code as “Enemy Combatants”
Summary with links to resources by Michael Otterman.
Excerpt from the June 6, 2007 petition-letter to Dr. Brehm.
Therefore, it is critical that an independent investigation be launched – conducted by individuals well-known for their commitment to human rights – into the development of APA policy in this area, and into the broader issues that likely contributed to a series of suspicious procedural activities. Among the issues this investigation must examine are:
a) the numerous procedural irregularities alleged to have occurred during the PENS process;
b) the role of the military and intelligence agencies in the formation and functioning of the PENS Task Force;
c) the reasons the APA and its leadership have systematically ignored the accumulating evidence that psychologists participating in interrogations are contributing to torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, rather than helping to prevent it;
d) the overall nexus of close ties between the APA staff/leadership and the military and intelligence agencies, ties that may have contributed to a climate that permits undo influence of military and intelligence agencies in the creation of these policies and that encourages turning a blind eye to abuse;
e) the transformation of the APA Ethics Code, from one that protects psychologists’ ethical conduct when such conduct conflicts with law and military regulations to one that protects psychologists who follow unethical law and military regulations.
Only such an investigatory process can restore the faith of the membership and the broader public in the APA and in the profession of psychology. To fail to act now would be to continue an organizational policy that maintains and protects psychologists’ roles as the architects of what can only be interpreted as a torture paradigm; one that has intentionally violated the Geneva Conventions, our nation’s values, and our professional ethics.
Current APA President Alan E. Kazdin, Ph.D. does not support unequivocal ethical language.
To draw the circle back to MK-ULTRA,
Excerpt from Dr. K’s letter of resignation from the APA, dated January 2008; from Invictus
1) A full opening of all APA archives related to research and participation in activities with the military, including its intelligence arms; and a call for the government to declassify all documents related to the same;
2) The disestablishment of Division 19, the Society for Military Psychology, from the APA;
3) The immediate recission of APA’s Ethics Code 1.02, which was changed from earlier formulations in 2002 to permit adherence “to the requirements of the law, regulations, or other governing legal authority” when there is otherwise a conflict between the law and psychologists’ ethical practice. Opponents of 1.02 have rightly compared it to the Nazi defense of “following orders” at Nuremberg;
4) A call for the formation of a civilian, cross-disciplinary investigatory panel to examine the past history and current collaboration of scientific and medical professionals with the government, especially its military and intelligence agencies, to encompass fields as diverse as psychology, anthropology, linguistics, and sociology, with a goal of producing recommendations on interactions between government and the scientific and medical communities;
5) A moratorium on research into interrogations;
6) Sever the link that ties APA’s definition of “cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment” in its various resolutions from the Reagan-era Reservations to the UN Convention Against Torture, which seeks to weaken that definition by relying on suspect interpretations of U.S. law rather than international definitions;
7) The immediate cessation of all support for involvement of psychological personnel in participation in any activity that supports national security interrogations.
The sordid history of American psychology when it comes to collaboration with governmental agencies in the research and implementation of techniques of psychological torture is one that our field will have to confront sooner or later. In a larger sense, the problems I have presented here are inherent in a larger societal dilemma regarding the uses of knowledge. This problem was recognized by the first critics of untrammeled scientific advance, and represented powerfully by Goethe’s Faust, and Mary Shelley’s Doctor Frankenstein. Human knowledge is capable of producing both good and evil. The scientist, the scholar, and the doctor hold tremendous responsibility in their hands. That they have not shown themselves, in a tragic number of instances, to ethically wield or control this responsibility has meant that the 21st century opens under the awful prospect of worldwide nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare, while a sinister, behaviorally-designed torture apparatus operates as the servant of nation-states wielding these awful weapons of mass destruction.
It’s appropriate that I close with a statement about the problem of serving powerful national interests from a former president of the APA, a leading and important pioneer in our field, and also, for awhile, a member with top secret clearance in the CIA’s MKULTRA mind control program, Carl Rogers. One wonders, along with the authors of a recent study on Dr. Rogers’ CIA collaboration (see Demanchick & Kirschenbaum (2008), Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 48, pp. 6-30), if Rogers’ exposure to the world of secret government military projects didn’t inform his feelings about psychologists and government, as expressed in his famous debate with another seminal psychologist, B. F. Skinner:
To hope that the power which is being made available by the behavioral sciences will be exercised by the scientists, or by a benevolent group, seems to me a hope little supported by either recent or distant history. It seems far more likely that behavioral scientists, holding their present attitudes, will be in the position of the German rocket scientists specializing in guided missiles. First they worked devotedly for Hitler to destroy the U.S.S.R. and the United States. Now, depending on who captured them, they work devotedly for the U.S.S.R. in the interest of destroying the United States, or devotedly for the United States in the interest of destroying the U.S.S.R. If behavioral scientists are concerned solely with advancing their science, it seems most probably that they will serve the purposes of whatever individual or group has the power. (Rogers & Skinner (1956), “Some issues concerning the control of human behavior. A symposium.” Science, 124, p. 1061.)