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Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, technology, health care, and philosophy

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Psychologists are facing consequences for helping with torture. It’s not enough.

Roy Eidelson
The Washington Post
Originally posted October 13, 2017

In August, two psychologists, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, settled a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of three former CIA detainees. The psychologists were accused of designing, implementing and overseeing the CIA’s experimental program of torture and abuse (for which their consulting firm received tens of millions of dollars). The evidence against them was compelling: a detailed Senate report, multiple depositions, newly declassified documents and even Mitchell’s memoir . Prior to settling, Mitchell and Jessen denied any legal responsibility, and their attorneys argued their inculpability by comparing them to the low-level technicians whose employers provided lethal gas for Hitler’s extermination camps.

As a psychologist who has spent the past decade working with colleagues and other human rights advocates to reset my profession’s moral compass against torture, I recognize this settlement as an achievement, even if it’s not the damning finding of liability I would have preferred. The case marks the first instance of legal accountability of any kind for psychologists who abandoned ethical standards — and basic decency — while claiming they were merely following government orders on torture. Getting to this point was an uphill battle. And there’s still a long way to go before psychologists’ participation in torture is ended for good.

The article is here.