Regarding APA Stance on Enhanced Interrogation, from Marta Miranda, Psy.D.

Some background: A post dated January 28, 2017 called into question the APA’s stance on the presence of psychologists at the prison at Guantanamo Bay and the CIA black sites. The item of interest referenced within this post, which has since been removed from the APA’s February agenda, is NBI 23A. NBI 23A is a rather controversial item that seems to undo the policy item (NBI 23B) APA passed in August 2015, which prohibited psychologists from providing any psychological services to detainees at Guantanamo or any CIA “black list” sites. As of last August, some in the military community brought NBI 23A back to the floor, and a lot of debate ensued over whether APA was now contemplating undoing the decisions made in NBI 23B.  Some in the military community have argued that NBI 23B went too far, and that military psychologists should be allowed to provide psychological care to detainees, who would presumably not receive any care whatsoever. It’s a complicated topic, made even more so by the fact that the US government has not allowed independent psychologists access to Guantanamo or other restricted, military sites.

I recently received emails and phone calls from psychologists in Washington State who were responding to [the above-referenced post] regarding APA’s proposed Resolution in Favor of Providing Support and Assistance to Military and National Security Psychologists Striving to Abide by the APA Ethics Code and APA Policy (New Business Item 23A).  I understand members’ concerns and offer the following information for your consideration.

I have devoted a significant part of my practice to working with immigrants and refugees and have conducted psychological assessments for individuals who survived torture and state-sponsored abuses in their countries of origin.  Ensuring that psychologists are not complicit in such gross abuses is important to me and one of the reasons I ran to represent WSPA on APA’s Council.

Let me assure you that APA is deeply concerned with the flurry of executive orders being signed by President Trump and has issued press releases to that effect. You may find these on APA’s website. As an example, I have attached below a press release sent on Thursday, January 26, 2017 that urges President Trump not to reinstate “enhanced” interrogation techniques that were banned under President Obama. This press release also reiterates APA’s policy prohibiting psychologists from engaging in torture or working against U.S. and international human rights standards.

With regard to New Business Item 23A, the original movers of the item have requested that it be withdrawn from the agenda of Council’s upcoming February meeting, and it likely will not be considered at this time. I will provide a summary to WSPA members of Council’s deliberations on this and other agenda items after the February meeting; WSPA members will receive my report from Council in a future WSPA newsletter.

Finally, I strongly encourage you to write your Congress person to urge her/him to oppose Mr. Trump’s executive orders that would re-open “black list” sites, reinstate “enhanced interrogation techniques” that were banned by President Obama, and ban the International Red Cross from timely access to detainees.  While APA can and should set policy that ensures its members abide by international human rights standards, Congress and the Executive Branch ultimately hold the power to ensure these abuses are not perpetrated by our military or intelligence agencies.

Thank you for your interest in these issues.


Marta Miranda, Psy.D.
APA Council of Representatives
Washington State Psychological Association

Below, you will find the original press release that urges President Trump not to reinstate “enhanced” interrogation techniques that were banned under President Obama.

Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017
 Kim I. Mills
(202) 336-6048
Urges President Trump Not to Sign Executive Order
WASHINGTON –  The American Psychological Association called on President Trump to refrain from issuing an executive order that could possibly restart the CIA’s “enhanced” interrogation program.

“APA has expressed its forceful opposition to the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques that were authorized under President George W. Bush and halted by President Obama,” said APA President Antonio E. Puente, PhD. “We are concerned that, if signed by President Trump, this order could open the door to interrogation practices that are now illegal and have been deemed cruel, inhuman and degrading to detainees.”

APA’s fundamental mission includes protecting and promoting human welfare based on what we know from psychological science. The association has a policy that prohibits psychologists from engaging in torture or working in violation of the U.S. Constitution or international law (as deemed by U.N. authorities).

APA also took issue with President Trump’s latest statement asserting that torture is an effective means of soliciting information. “Contrary to the president’s statement, there is no credible scientific evidence that torture works,” Puente said. “But there is evidence that rapport-building interrogation techniques are effective.”

APA has had a policy condemning torture since 1985, which has been reaffirmed and expanded several times since. Psychologists are bound by ethical principles that call for them to “respect the dignity and worth of the individual and strive for the preservation and protection of fundamental human rights.”

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States. APA’s membership includes nearly 115,700  researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people’s lives.