American Psychological Association Vote Approves Resolution on Detainee Interrogations

November 2, 2008
Volume 25, Issue 13

After months of controversy and pressure from colleagues and the media, the American Psychological Association (APA) has voted on a resolution stating that psychologists may not work in settings with or take part in consultation of detainee interrogations operated overseas by the CIA, including Guantanamo Bay.

After months of controversy and pressure from colleagues and the media, the American Psychological Association (APA) has voted on a resolution stating that psychologists may not work in settings with or take part in consultation of detainee interrogations operated overseas by the CIA, including Guantanamo Bay. However, according to a Q&A posted on the APA’s Web site, this resolution will not become part of the Ethics Code and, thus, will not be enforceable.


Kenneth Pope, PhD, and Thomas Gutheil, MD, first wrote to Psychiatric Times about the allegations against the APA regarding interrogations in “The American Psychological Association and Detainee Interrogations: Unanswered Questions” (July 2008, page 16). Their article sparked a response from the APA (“Detainee Interrogations: American Psychological Association Counters, but Questions Remain,” Psychiatric Times, September 2008, page 54) in which Stephen Behnke, JD, PhD, APA Director of Ethics, clarified the APA’s stance and asserted, “psychologists all share the same goal: to end torture and abuse and to safeguard the welfare and human rights of everyone with whom we work.”

On September 17, members of the APA voted for a resolution (8792 in favor versus 6157 against). The referendum states that psychologists may not work in settings where “persons are held outside of, or in violation of, either international law (eg, the UN Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions) or the US Constitution (where appropriate), unless they are working directly for the persons being detained or for an independent third party working to protect human rights.” The APA’s bylaws require that the policy be implemented at the next annual meeting in 2009 although it is not clear if the APA will enforce this new referendum.

Gutheil called this a “promising shift in awareness of the problem” and noted that the APA needs to clarify how it intends to enforce this new referendum.

[To read the original exchange please visit, www.PsychiatricTimes.com.]