Saturday, October 11, 2008

One Small Step for APA, One Giant Leap for All

JUAN GONZALEZ: The American Psychological Association has approved a landmark measure banning members from taking part in interrogations of prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay, Iraq, Afghanistan and all of the secret CIA black sites. Nearly 60 percent of members voted in favor of the referendum in the largest turnout for an APA vote to date.

APA officials initially suggested they would delay implementing the referendum for up to a year. But in a surprise move, APA president Alan Kazdin recently wrote President Bush to inform him of the decision.

AMY GOODMAN: The letter says: “The effect of this new policy is to prohibit psychologists from any involvement in interrogations or any other operational procedures at detention sites that are in violation of the U.S. Constitution or international law…In such unlawful detention settings, persons are deprived of basic human rights and legal protections, including the right to independent judicial review of their detention…There have been many reports, from credible sources, of torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment of detainees during your term in office. Therefore, the American Psychological Association strongly calls on you and your administration to safeguard the physical and psychological welfare and human rights of individuals incarcerated by the U.S. government in such detention centers and to investigate their treatment to ensure that the highest ethical standards are being upheld.”

The referendum was spearheaded by a dissident APA group called the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology. We’re joined right now by a member of the group who helped draft the referendum text. Dan Aalbers joins us now from Reno, Nevada.

Welcome to Democracy Now! Dan Aalbers, talk about how this referendum was finally passed. There has been this growing dissident movement within the world’s largest association of psychologists, the American Psychological Association. How did you do it?

DAN AALBERS: Well, this is really a community effort. I think that there was a lot of dissatisfaction with APA policy up until this point. And a group of us came together, Psychologists for an Ethical APA, Withhold APA Dues, and looked into the APA bylaws to find a way to bring this issue directly to the membership. And so, I joined with Brad Olson, with Ruth Fallenbaum—two other dissident psychologists—and we just used old-fashioned networking. We spread it around, and I was really amazed to see the way this spread spontaneously. We did not ask a single group to endorse this referendum, but day after day, I would open my email, and another group had come in spontaneously, because people had been working autonomously in their own groups to bring this referendum forward. And it worked.

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