A Tortured Twist on Ethics

Why isn’t the American Psychological Association pursuing ethics charges against psychologist John Leso for abuses he helped carry out at the Guantánamo prison?

— by Yosef Brody

Yosef_Brady

George Orwell wisely observed that our understanding of the past, and the meaning associated with it, directly influences the future. And as the unprecedented public feud between the CIA and Congress makes clear, there are still significant aspects of our recent history of state-sponsored torture that need examination before we put this national disgrace behind us.

Important questions remain unresolved about the U.S. torture program in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. And the four-year, $40 million Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture is unlikely to provide sufficient answers, even if it’s ever declassified and released.

APA Finds No Ethical Violations at Gitmo, a cartoon by Roy Eidelson

For example, what will be done about doctors who helped create U.S. torture programs and participated in their implementation? And is there any evidence that cruel, inhuman, and degrading practices continue under official policy, even to this day?

The question of whether American health professionals previously involved in military torture programs should be allowed to quietly and freely continue their careers came to a head recently when it was revealed that the American Psychological Association (APA)refused to pursue ethics charges against psychologist John Leso.

According to official and authoritative documents, Dr. Leso developed and helped carry out “enhanced interrogation” techniques at Guantánamo Bay in 2002. Importantly, the APA hasn’t disputed Leso’s role in the interrogation of detainee Mohammed al-Qahtani, an interrogation that included being hooded, leashed, and treated like a dog; sleep deprivation; sexual humiliation; prolonged exposure to cold; forced nudity; and sustained isolation.

In a subsequent investigation, Susan Crawford, a judge appointed by then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, characterized this treatment of al-Qahtani as “life-threatening” and meeting the legal definition of “torture.”

Over almost seven years, the APA — whose leadership has nurtured strong connections with the military and intelligence establishment — never brought the case to its full Ethics Committee for review and resolution. In defending this decision a few weeks ago, the APA board released a statement explaining that a handful of top people with classified military access had determined that there was nothing unethical about Dr. Leso’s actions and that the case should be immediately closed.

What exactly is the interest of the leaders of the world’s largest professional association of psychologists in blocking investigation into torture? And should psychologists who participated in torture have this dark chapter of their careers wiped clean without censure?

Ethical imperatives to “do no harm” and sanctions for psychologists who break the rules — from sleeping with patients to insurance fraud to not informing research subjects of their rights — exist not only to protect the public but also to provide clear guidance to professionals faced with moral dilemmas. Yet when considering ethical complaints, the APA apparently takes involvement in torture less seriously than these other transgressions.

If such ethical parameters are effectively nullified, what kind of future might we expect?

Here’s an equally important question: Has U.S. torture really ended? While the Obama administration made an early display of banning some of the worst techniques that had been given the official seal of approval under Bush and Cheney, such as waterboarding, the Pentagon continues to engage in cruel, inhuman, and degrading practices.

As the lawsuit brought this month by Guantánamo prisoner Emad Abdullah Hassan in federal court makes clear, the force-feeding of hunger strikers there is continuing despite a military blackout since December on the number of inmates engaged in that protest. Human rights and medical organizations have widely denounced this brutal practice.

Before U.S. psychologists and other Americans tell ourselves it’s time to put our history of torture behind us, we should take a hard look in the mirror.

What does it mean for our society to allow health professionals who have been involved with torture to subsequently practice with impunity? Like all civilized societies, we must reckon with past and present truths — if we want to be in control of our future.


Yosef Brody is a clinical psychologist and president-elect of Psychologists for Social Responsibility PsySR.org.  The cartoon by Roy Eidelson, APA Finds No Ethical Violations at Gitmo, a former PsySR president, is used by permission. Distributed via OtherWords.org


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In ‘Chilling’ Ruling, Chevron Granted Access to Activists’ Private Internet Data

"Sweeping" subpoena violates rights of those who spoke out against oil giant’s devastating actions in Ecuador

– Lauren McCauley, staff writer

Following their guilty sentence for the dumping of 18.5bn gallons of toxic waste in the Ecuadorian Amazon, Chevron is amassing the personal information of the environmentalists and attorneys who fought against them in an effort to prove ‘conspiracy.’  The US government is not the only entity who, with judicial approval, is amassing massive amounts of personal information against their so-called enemies.

A federal judge has ruled to allow Chevron, through a subpoena to Microsoft, to collect the IP usage records and identity information for email accounts owned by over 100 environmental activists, journalists and attorneys.

The oil giant is demanding the records in an attempt to cull together a lawsuit which alleges that the company was the victim of a conspiracy in the $18.2 billion judgment against it for dumping 18.5 billion gallons of oil waste in the Ecuadorean Amazon, causing untold damage to the rainforest.

The "sweeping" subpoena was one of three issued to Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft.

"Environmental advocates have the right to speak anonymously and travel without their every move and association being exposed to Chevron," said Marcia Hofmann, Senior Staff Attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who—along with environmental rights group EarthRights International (ERI)—had filed a motion last fall to "quash" the subpoenas.

"These sweeping subpoenas create a chilling effect among those who have spoken out against the oil giant’s activities in Ecuador," she added at the time.

According to ERI, the subpoena demands the personal information about each account holder as well as the IP addresses associated with every login to each account over a nine-year period. "This could allow Chevron to determine the countries, states, cities or even buildings where the account-holders were checking their email," they write, "so as to ‘infer the movements of the users over the relevant period and might permit Chevron to makes inferences about some of the user’s professional and personal relationships.’"

In their statement about the ruling, ERI notes that the argument given by presiding US District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan—who was previously accused of prejudice against the Ecuadorians and their lawyers—was as "breathtaking as the subpoena itself." They continue:

According to Judge Kaplan, none of the account holders could benefit from First Amendment protections since the account holders had “not shown that they were U.S. citizens.”

Now, let’s break this down. The account-holders in this case were proceeding anonymously, which the First Amendment permits. Because of this, Judge Kaplan was provided with no information about the account holders’ residency or places of birth. It is somewhat amazing then, that Judge Kaplan assumed that the account holders were not US citizens. As far as I know, a judge has never before made this assumption when presented with a First Amendment claim. We have to ask then: on what basis did Judge Kaplan reach out and make this assumption?

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This work was published on Thursday, July 11, 2013 by Common Dreams and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License (Photo: Rainforest Action Network/ cc/ Flickr)

Supreme Court Bombshell: No Right to Remain Silent

 

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In a 5-4 ruling, the justices ruled that a person no longer has the right to remain silent as guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment. In relevant part, the Fifth Amendment mandates that no one “shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.”
Thanks to the Supreme Court’s decision in Salinas v. Texas, that part of the Bill of Rights has been excised — and has joined the list of so many other fundamental liberties that now lay on the scrap heap of history.
Here’s a little background of the circumstances of the Salinas case, as told by Slate:
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It’s Time to END Indefinite Detention and Close Guantanamo!

President Obama, fulfill the promise you made four years ago to close the prison at Guantánamo and end indefinite detention without charge or trial. Congress has made this task more difficult for you, but you have the authority to close Guantánamo, and you must use it. Use your authority to direct the release of the men you do not intend to try, and charge the rest in a court that meets fair-trial standards. Begin by releasing the 86 men your own administration has approved for transfer. And appoint an individual within your administration to lead the closure of Guantánamo.

Sign the Petition

Why is this important?

A grave crisis is currently unfolding at the U.S. prison in Guantánamo Bay, where escalating despair has driven most of the imprisoned men to risk their very lives to protest their indefinite detention through a peaceful, large-scale hunger strike that is entering its fourth month.

This crisis at Guantánamo cannot be divorced from the fact that the vast majority of the 166 remaining prisoners have been held for more than 11 years without any charge or trial, and with no end to their detention in sight.

In the past four years that I have spent learning about the stories of the men detained at Guantánamo, and working with my colleagues at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) to shut down this notorious prison camp, I have never been as anxious. If ever there was a moment for President Obama to act upon the promise that he made four years ago to shutter the prison, it is now. He must act quickly to release the men that he does not intend to try, and charge the rest in a court that meets fair trial standards. Innocent people should not spend a decade in an American jail, only to die alone and far from home.

CCR’s client Tariq Ba Odah has said, “Freedom is more precious than any other worldly desire. And we should never give it up regardless of how expensive the price may be.” That price has been tremendous for Tariq—more than a decade of separation from his loved ones, living in solitary confinement with almost no contact with others, and the excruciating daily routine of force-feeding. He has been tube-fed through his nose for over 6 years, half as long as Guantánamo has been open. Tariq maintains that hunger-striking “is the only peaceful way I can show the magnitude of the injustice I suffer.” Tariq was sent to Guantánamo in 2002 when he was about 24 years old, and he has been detained without charge ever since. He now weighs just 90 pounds, and needs urgent, sophisticated medical care. President Obama should release Tariq back home to Yemen on humanitarian grounds.

Sign my petition to help secure justice for Tariq and for the rest of the men at Guantánamo. Sign it so this country can better live up to the best of its values.

President Obama acknowledged this week that Guantánamo needs to close because in his words it’s “inefficient” and hurtful to our “international standing.” Words are not enough. He must match his words with actions.

It is the responsibility of all people of conscience to urge President Obama to close Guantánamo, now. I hope you will join me to do so.

REFERENCES
http://ccrjustice.org/get-involved/action/GTMOHungerStrike2013
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/04/29/obama-s-catastrophic-guantanamo-failure.html
http://tv.msnbc.com/2013/04/13/hunger-strike-at-gitmo-we-are-dying-a-slow-death-here/
http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/homeland-security/294843-president-obama-must-act-to-close-guantanamo
http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2013/05/01/obama-can-close-guantanamo
http://ccrjustice.org/learn-more/faqs/GTMObyTheNumbers

The New Normal for African-American Voter Turnout

As election law changes threatened access to the ballot box this year, African-American turnout operations strengthened.

By Leslie Watson Malachi

Leslie Watson Malachi

In 2008, for the first time in our history, African Americans voted at the same rate as white voters.

We spent the next four years hearing that that high turnout was a fluke. "Experts" told us we would lose our enthusiasm. We’d be daunted by new voting laws. We’d want to protest marriage equality. We’d think our votes don’t count.

Those "experts" were wrong. African Americans turned out to vote in record numbers on Election Day, many of us waiting in long lines and going through plenty of red tape to do so. One of these determined voters was a 100-year-old "Church Mother" in imageElmhurst, New York who didn’t want any favors and stood in line and in solidarity with her fellow citizens.

This happened not just because our enthusiasm lasted, but because our organization strengthened.

African-American communities had strong voter turnout operations long before there was an African-American man on the presidential ballot, with many of them centered around the Black Church.

These turnout operations are there for a reason: Ever since the process toward full citizenship of African Americans began with the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, politicians and others have been trying to stop us from exercising the hard fought, hard won right to vote.

This year, the attacks on our voting system were intentionally suppressive. Elections officials in Ohio and Florida, for example, cut back on early voting hours, resulting in long lines at early voting locations and on Election Day — primarily in African American communities. Politicians from Pennsylvania to South Carolina tried to implement Voter ID laws, which disproportionately disenfranchise African Americans, other minorities, and the poor. Around the country, election law changes big and small threatened access to the ballot box.

In response to these attacks, African-American turnout operations developed and strengthened. I personally worked with 1,100 pastors in 22 states across denomination and faith traditions through our nonpartisan African American Ministers Leadership Council VESSELS program, to ensure that our congregations had both the skills and the will to vote.

We not only preached to our congregations about the importance of voting, we organized to make sure every person in our communities had the information and access they needed to vote. Reverend Tony Minor of Cleveland and Elder Lee Harris and Pastor R.L. Gundy of Jacksonville worked in diverse coalitions to organize early voting and an Election Day rides-to-the-polls hotline to help those in need get out to vote.

In Detroit, Bishops Allyson Abrams and Diana Williams recruited youth and young adults to share with people on the streets the importance of voting. Reverend Michael Couch of Philadelphia educated and motivated people who had served time for felonies and their families about getting their voting rights restored.

Reverend Barry Hargrove of Baltimore visited local barbershops on the weekends and registered voters while they got their hair cut. Reverend Charles Christian Adams in Detroit and Reverend Patrick Young in New York along with many others turned their fellowship halls into polling sites. Sister Jackie Dupont Walker in Los Angeles and Reverend Isaac McCullough in St. Louis used radio, email, and social media to spread the vote.

The civic engagement structure that African-American churches have built is here to stay. Next year, there will be municipal, state, and special elections, as well as ballot initiatives. It might be perceived as an "off year" for some, but for those of us who have been called to serve at such a time as this, it is "another year" to ask at every opportunity, "Are you registered, are you ready to vote?"

Pundits and politicians alike have tried to write off the African-American vote. But as every woman, man, youth, and elder of my community knows, we’ve come too far, seen too much, stood too long, felt "sick and tired of being sick and tired" too often, and fought too hard to turn back now.


Minister Leslie Watson Malachi is the director for African-American Religious Affairs at People For the American Way. www.pfaw.orgDistributed via OtherWords (OtherWords.org)