Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Mitchell and Jessen are in the news again

I've mentioned these two before. Here's a clip from the latest article to feature Mitchell and Jessen, titled, Interrogation, Inc. -- 2 U.S. Architects of Harsh Tactics in 9/11’s Wake:
They had never carried out a real interrogation, only mock sessions in the military training they had overseen. They had no relevant scholarship; their Ph.D. dissertations were on high blood pressure and family therapy. They had no language skills and no expertise on Al Qaeda.

But they had psychology credentials and an intimate knowledge of a brutal treatment regimen used decades ago by Chinese Communists. For an administration eager to get tough on those who had killed 3,000 Americans, that was enough.

So “Doc Mitchell” and “Doc Jessen,” as they had been known in the Air Force, helped lead the United States into a wrenching conflict over torture, terror and values that seven years later has not run its course.
The whole thing is worth a read. Although I didn't find anything earth shatteringly new, it made for a reminder of professionals can use and abuse their expertise, doing considerable damage in the process. Last April I said the following about an ABC report on Mitchell and Jessen:
What they have done is expose not only Mitchell and Jessen as crucial architects of the torture practices at Guantánamo Bay, but as charlatans who misrepresented their expertise in interrogation - and guess who got to pay for it. They are not to be revered as heroes. They were not merely "working for their nation" and just "doing their job" any more than Adolph Eichmann was when he orchestrated his part of the Nazi genocide of Jews and Poles at Auschwitz.
A few days later, with regard to the same ABC article I said:
Surely the psychologists featured most recently in one of Brian Ross' reports shouldn't be the only ones under fire for their criminal actions. I've been on record for quite a while now of advocating that those who have crafted and signed off on the "legal" justification of torture should be punished, as should those in Congress who enabled these perps. Similarly, those in professional organizations such as the American Psychological Association who chose to look the other way while members of their organizations participated in torture, or who in one way or another collaborated with torturers should face appropriate repercussions - at bare minimum they should never be allowed to hold positions of influence within their professional organizations ever again.
Not only should those highest in the chain of command be appropriately sanctioned for whatever role they played in perpetrating torture, but there should be some major changes in the structure of our government's organizations to prevent such abuses from happening again. I've been very skeptical regarding Obama's and Congress' willingness to take on that particular challenge. As for the American Psychological Association, it's been in need of a major shake-up of its leadership for a long time. The organization is too cozy with the military establishment, and many of its leading members too hooked on the perks that come with that cozy relationship to objectively analyze the role that psychologists have played in creating the conditions under which torture occurs, much less accurately assess the ethical implications of involving psychologists in the perpetration of torture. I am equally skeptical regarding the APA's willingness to take on the challenge of facing its particular ethical demons, even though many among the rank and file of its members appear to be truly willing to do so.

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