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Soldz, S. (2008). Healers or Interrogators: Psychology and the United States Torture Regime. Psychoanal. Dial., 18(5):592-613.

(2008). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 18(5):592-613

Healers or Interrogators: Psychology and the United States Torture Regime

Stephen Soldz, Ph.D.

United States abuses at Guantánamo and other detention centers, including the CIA's “Black Sites,” have a long history. In the Cold War period, the CIA pursued an extensive research program on “coercive interrogations,” which became codified in torture manuals used to train Latin American military leaders who utilized torture against their populations. Also during the Cold War, the U.S. military developed the Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape (SERE) program to train U.S. military personnel in resisting torture. When the U.S. government turned to torture after 9/11, they turned to SERE psychologists to develop their interrogations strategies. This occurred, first at the CIA secret Black Sites, and then at Guantánamo and elsewhere. Psychologists helped develop, implement, and standardize U.S. torture techniques. The American Psychological Association (APA), rather than oppose this use of psychologists, provided cover for U.S. interrogation abuses. They formed a task force on Psychological Ethics and National Security—stacked with a majority of members from the military-intelligence establishment, several with possible involvement in abusive interrogations. This task force supported psychologist participation in detainee interrogations. Various APA antitorture statements since then have not changed APA's pro-participation stance. As a result, a movement of psychologists arose to oppose these APA policies.

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