Sharon Lamb

Professor, Psychologist, Author, Therapist

I am very proud to be a co-author of the Member-Initiated Task Force of Division 35 of APA. Below is the Executive Summary of the Report that can be found at http://div35mitf.wix.com/report

Executive Summary

This report was undertaken by past and present members of Division 35 (Div35) as part of a member-initiated task force (MITF), which is independent from APA and Div35. Our sole purpose was to explore Div35’s accountability with regard to the APA Psychological Ethics and National Security Task Force Report (PENS TF Report) and its aftermath. The MITF co-authors have attempted to write an account of events relating to Div35, beginning around the time period of the PENS TF through the present. We focused on actions and missed opportunities in order to document the role of division leaders, identify lessons learned, and help Div35 move forward. We found that the division and its leaders failed to act in accordance with its feminist principles of social justice, which include attention to power, gender, and its intersection with race, ethnicity, class, and other identities, global feminism, and ethics.

We wish to state clearly that the MITF is not part of, nor is sponsored by Div35 or APA and as such does not purport to represent their views in this report. We hope this report may be of use to Div35 in further understanding actions and inactions of the Division related to APA’s history of involvement in the issues documented in the Hoffman report.

 

It is also important to make clear at the outset that the MITF does not believe that any APA member or staff that we have written about supports abuse or torture. Unfortunately, some actions and inactions may have enabled some individuals in GTMO, Abu Ghraib, and the CIA Black Sites to pursue the abusive interrogation program (see Risen, 2014, Part III: Endless War, Chapter 7: The War on Decency; also Risen, 2015).

 

This MITF report does, however, follow through on Div35’s statement responding to the Hoffman report (see Section IV) in trying to begin to make good on the promises in that statement including: accepting Hoffman, acknowledging our role, condemning the ethical violations, demanding public accountability of all of those involved, acknowledging our failures at different points in time (e.g., failure to oppose PENS, not taking an early stance that APA should uphold international standards related to torture, issuing a separate statement in 2012 instead of signing on to the PENS annulment petition, and pledging to bring together more members to take steps to reform APA in order to prevent such failures in the future).

Conclusions:

1. There were several points in time when the Div35 Executive Committee (EC35) could have taken a position that would have supported the Divisions of Social Justice, the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology, and/or other critics in their efforts to prevent psychologists’ participation in torture and/or abusive interrogations as well as push for accountability. We see the missed opportunities as: 

·      failure to support the 2007 Mini-Convention on Ethics and Interrogations,

·      failure to support the Divisions of Social Justice when they presented the 2007 Moratorium Resolution on psychologists’ participation in interrogations,

·      failure to support the PENS Annulment Petition in 2012 by writing a less effective, substitute statement instead,

·      failure to take a leadership role in the aftermath of Hoffman including: failing to a) call for Moorehead-Slaughter’s resignation, b) investigate our own conflicts of interest, and c) conduct a thorough investigation of Div35’s potential past collusions or mistakes.

2. Overall, Div35 was a minor player in APA’s collusion with the Department of Defense (DoD) regarding psychologists’ involvement in interrogations. Nonetheless, there were several members who took active roles in events that unfolded, which may have contributed to allowing abusive interrogations involving psychologists to continue. Some individuals defended those who may have participated in abusive interrogations. Others were highly influential in steering Div35 against reforms being promoted by individuals working to prevent psychologists’ participation in abusive interrogations. They sometimes did this for what they saw as different social justice ends than those of the dissidents or the Divisions of Social Justice. One striking example was when, after the dissidents wrote a letter criticizing Larry James and others, some Div35 members signed the Melba Vasquez initiated letter to support Larry James, believing, as Vasquez appeared to believe, that he was being maligned for racist reasons. Another leader was Laura Brown who saw her own actions as an attempt to protect military psychologists and their families. Prominent division members went along with leaders they trusted, the APA status quo, or with staff members’ directions (particularly those of past APA Ethics Director, Stephen Behnke). There are multiple likely reasons our leaders went along: perhaps they did not have the time to become better informed about the issues on their own and did not trust the mainstream news or the dissenters’ perspective. Perhaps they trusted APA staff members too much or agreed with them and saw no problem with APA’s position. While there was sufficient evidence in the general news at the times when EC35 members were making important relevant decisions, which could have informed them, personal persuasion seemed to be relied on over seeking of outside information. To add context, Div35’s actions occurred in a period in which the AMA, Physicians for Human Rights, the American Anthropological Association, Amnesty International, the Red Cross, the Center for Human Rights, and other professional and human rights organizations were raising alarms about possible torture and abusive treatment of detainees.

3. Olivia Moorehead-Slaughter, President-elect of Div35 (as of July 2015) and member since 2008, played a major role in these events during the time period examined by this report.  According to the 2015 APA-commissioned Hoffman report, she was Chair of the PENS TF and supported Behnke’s manipulation and dismissal of those who were attempting to address the problems of the Task Force and its report. The Hoffman report shows her substantial involvement in: willingly supporting irregular and corrupt processes during and following the PENS TF deliberations; obstructing any dissidents; collaborating with Behnke to delay votes; undermining members’ leadership over staff leadership; delaying publication of the Casebook; supporting the changing of the wording of resolutions to preserve loopholes; and facilitating Behnke’s manipulation of the APA Council of Representatives.

She continued and benefited from supporting the PENS process up through her publication with Behnke (Behnke & Moorehead-Slaughter, 2012), and continuing through her election as President-elect of Div35. Our own report shows multiple points in time when she could have potentially challenged the PENS process and its aftermath by: asking questions, challenging authority, and/or supporting Jean Maria Arrigo or other dissidents. After the Hoffman Report came out, many division members and past leaders requested accountability and for Moorehead-Slaughter to step down as President-elect due to the conflicts of interest. That request resulted in a rift within Div35, wherein those who attempted to hold her responsible were implied to be naïve at best and racist at worst. The strategy of labeling requests for Moorehead-Slaughter to step down as racist appears to be due to perceptions of past racism in Div35. This strategy of labeling others as racist was also used by people in prominent positions in an attempt to silence dissidents who spoke out against fellow PENS TF member Larry James in 2007 and thereafter. The rift within Div35 continued through 2015 and 2016, and was manifested through: leaders’ use of lawyers to silence critics within Div35 and a debate about free speech on Div35 listservs which devolved into a debate about netiquette. Moorehead-Slaughter has largely remained disengaged from the membership during this period and when she has engaged, has defended her participation, explaining that “she didn’t know what she didn’t know at the time,” but not why she ignored or disregarded the information provided by protesters at the time.

4. Our analysis describes several division problems that may have contributed to the division’s actions during this period. We name only a few here:

·      lack of a feminist analysis of power that could have informed Div35’s response to military injustices;

·      lack of a global feminist analysis including exploration of similarities and differences between racism in the US and global racism;

·      invisibility and/or apparent lack of concern for the Global Brown community in arguments about racism;

·      following of trusted influential leaders without question;

·      privileging of friendship and niceness over social justice;

·      seemingly protecting some leaders of color solely based on their race, no matter their actions or positions, which was perhaps a reaction to previous racism that women of color experienced in APA and Div35

5. Our recommendations, summarized in Section VI of the report, request that Div35 support

a) Truth-Telling, including accepting the MITF Report as an official document of Div35;

b) Culture Changes, including finding ways to safeguard against the cult of niceness and the suppression of dissension or angry voices, creating a better communication system so that all members may feel encouraged to participate in important ethical discussions, forming a Task Force to better understand the history of racism in the division as it has affected Div35, and devising safeguards against silencing members’ voices especially when issues of race and ethnicity arise;

c) Changes within Division Governance, including creating changes in election and appointment to the Div35 Executive Committee (EC35), term limits, policies related to conflicts of interests by holding multiple leadership positions across the organization, and policy preventing the same people from “division shopping” and moving the same individuals to various positions within the EC which effectively crowds out new opinions and new participation;

d) Changes in the Understanding of Feminism and Feminist Process, including creating a series of Feminism in the 21st century workshops that provide education regarding intersectionality, global feminism, and issues that recommit the division to a definition of feminism that goes beyond simply advancing women leaders in the pipeline, supporting women, no matter their positions;

e) Leading APA Reform, including repairing our position as a social justice division and leading APA in ethical reform;

f) Reparations, including making reparations to those whom we have harmed by our silence, ignorance, and complicity with power.

With regard to Conflicts of Interest, we articulate why the current President-elect, Olivia Moorehead-Slaughter, should not continue in her current office and recommend that EC35 ask her to step down as President-elect, whether or not the by-laws or constitution can enforce this request.

 

In conclusion, Div35, as a feminist organization, has a greater responsibility to pressure APA and to hold its leaders accountable for their role in PENS and post-PENS events. We offer this report in hopes of not only moving forward but in changing business-as-usual in our division and in APA. The history of feminism shows many splits and coming together to support our shared values of inclusivity, justice, and care. May this report bring us back together, if not now, then hopefully in the near future.

 

With regard to those who were tortured and abused in part because of our passivity, the focus must change to be on them. It takes moral courage to move out of the role of bystander. We must be alert to harmful trends, and ready to step out of our comfort and safety zones in order to take action to protect the welfare of others when psychologists inflict cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment (Pope, 2015). We must be especially alert to people and populations who may be more vulnerable due to their race, ethnicity, income level, status, and religion. We would like to see APA move forward in making reparations to the victims and hope that Div35’s leadership supports taking action towards that end.

 

NOTE: If, in response to this report, new information comes to light suggesting substantive factual errors or errors that would substantively change our analysis and/or recommendations, we will publish a corrected version.