August 15, 2008

Guantanamo psychologist takes the Fifth

Court case may fuel debate at annual APA Convention

I've been trying to keep this blog out of the torture debate raging within the American Psychological Association, but I wanted to alert readers to this interesting news angle reported in today's New York Sun.

In a courtroom at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay yesterday, a psychologist asserted the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination when called testify about the treatment of a detainee. Her action implies that she could face criminal sanctions or licensure action for her role in the interrogation of detainee Mohammad Jawad.

According to court papers, the psychologist became involved when Jawad's interrogator became concerned over his deteriorating mental state. The detainee had begun speaking to posters on the wall.

The psychologist (whose name is being kept secret by court order) reportedly told the interrogator that Jawad was faking. She recommended that he be placed in isolation in order to weaken his resolve. Nine weeks later, Jawad attempted suicide.

Jawad's military lawyer, Major David Frakt, said the psychologist's refusal to testify is tantamount to admitting "that her conduct was criminal."

The case is likely to figure into the firestorm at this week's annual convention of the American Psychological Association in Boston. The APA is set to vote on whether to ban members from participating in these types of interrogations. A number of psychologists have resigned or are withholding dues in protest of the organization's refusal to take a stronger stand against torture, and more than 1,200 members have signed a protest petition.

The New York Sun article is here. Hat tip to Ken Pope, who has a page of online resources on the controversy. More information is available at the web site of Psychologists for an Ethical APA.

No comments: