Psychologists Honor Anti-Torture Whistleblower. Government, Now It’s Your Move.

Last week, the principal governing body of the American Psychological Association formally honored one of its members, Jean Maria Arrigo, for blowing the whistle on the association’s collusion in the Bush administration’s torture programs.

The distinction, given during the APA’s annual convention in Toronto last week, reads:

“We honor you for your resolute commitment and tenacity in advocating for peace, human rights, and ethical behavior. We honor you for your unwavering courage in opposing torture, despite efforts to discredit, isolate, and shun you, in orchestrated movements by those in positions of power.”

The honor comes on the heels of a scathing report published on the APA’s involvement in the Bush-era torture programs. That report details a vicious smear campaign launched against Arrigo after she spoke out against the APA enabling torture and in defense of human rights.

That honor has been a long time coming.

Arrigo was appointed in 2005 by the board of the APA as a member of an internal panel known as the Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security. The formation of the task force was prompted by a by a front-page New York Times article discussing psychologists’ roles in physically and psychologically coercive interrogations at Guantánamo and in other U.S.-run detention facilities in Iraq. Tasked with issuing ethical guidance for psychologists in interrogation settings, the panel, working in close collaboration with the Department of Defense, gave a greenlight to psychologist involvement in national security interrogations.

Jean Maria Arrigo Plaque

Arrigo raised concerns and objections both during panel meetings and repeatedly thereafter, sounding the alarm over the panel’s close ties to the military and its failure to ensure psychologists wouldn’t be facilitating torture. The so-called Hoffman Report confirms Arrigo’s worst fears, providing extensive detail on the extent of the collusion between the APA and the military and the lengths that APA officials went to in order to allow psychologists to participate in the U.S. torture programs. 

The 542-page report documents the efforts senior APA officials took to cover up their unlawful actions, including maligning and personally attacking Arrigo’s character when she voiced her concerns about APA’s facilitation of torture and took them public. In one example in 2007, APA board member Gerald Koocher publicly dismissed Arrigo’s concerns, stating that they were influenced by her “personal biases,” “troubled upbringing,” and the purported suicide of her father — who was alive when Koocher wrote the letter. 

The APA’s recognition of Arrigo’s principled stand against torture is welcome.  (The association’s also decided last week to ban its members from participating in any national security interrogations.) But this apology, on behalf of the leadership of a professional organization, stands in stark contrast to the U.S. government’s failure to honor the public servants who said no to torture in the name of human rights and our laws and values. These men and woman — from within the government, the military, and the CIA — stood up against their own powerful leaders who were bent on leading the country astray. Their roles in exposing torture and their valiant efforts to stop it have yet to be acknowledged. To date, only the torturers — not the officials who opposed torture — have been honored.

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This, of course, is to say nothing of what is owed to the hundreds of men and women who were victimized when the U.S. government chose to torture them in military prisons and CIA “black sites” around the world. It is these victims and survivors, more than anyone, who deserve not only an apology, but a full explanation of what was done to them and compensation so that they and their families can obtain some measure of rehabilitation.

Only then can we as a nation ensure that history doesn’t repeat itself.   

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It is well and good to honor the whistleblower...really. However, to NOT sanction those who participated in torture is not OK. Those who participated, and those within the APA who voted to continue to work with the CIA, should be exposed publicly, lose their licenses to practice, and some of them should be indicted along with the torturers. This will not happen of course, but know that the APA only took action when it was forced to, and they have not sanctioned anyone. Too little too late as far as I can tell, and I have been a mental health professional for over 3 decades. I am disgusted by the APA.


I was a licensed Psychologist from 1993 until 2009....I was convicted of downloading child pornography, and consequently can no longer practice....I am not disputing this consequence, as I have assumed full responsibility for my actions. However, it peeves me to no end that these psychologists can get away with what is a grievous violation of APA ethics....endorsed and protected by that arrogant holier-than-thou organization. I am now considering applying for reactivation of my license, as I can provide evidence of fitness and rehabilitation, sufficient to allow me to practice once again. I am sickened by this breach in the APA standards, and wish to challenge them, vis a vis my restoration of my previous status


Sounds like the above anonymous comment is a plant from APA, imputing that those exposing APA are pedophiles

Daniel Jordan, ...

Dear Jean, you worked hard and long on this and deserve much credit. Congratulations for staying with it and achieving a great outcome.


Democracy Now published a transcript of their news, Aug 10, 2015: No More Torture: World’s Largest Group of Psychologists Bans Role in National Security Interrogations. In this transcript, Larry James states:

LARRY JAMES: Good morning, Dr. McDaniel. Larry James from Division 19, Society of Military Psychologists. Gosh, I get it. Abuse, human rights, no torture - who's going to disagree with that? But I'm worried about second-, third-order effects, unintended consequences. So, I need to know: Does international law supersede US law? Because if the answer to that is yes, this has dire negative consequences for all federal employees, particularly in the VA and the department of homeland defense.

2 things:
1. International v US law, and
2. that he is pointing to and in fact admitting the "dire consequences" for people on US soil, "all federal employees, particularly in the VA and the department of homeland defense."

1. We must be acutely aware of how lawmakers could try to supersede US law over international law. Where could this be done? Could the TTIP be the location? If so, this secret document must be shared to those it will effect. This is an issue of human rights.

2. The "dire consequences for ALL federal employees" - points out something is not right here at home. This something has to do with the topic of the article "Banning Torture". This needs to be thoroughly investigated, because it is possible that bringing people to justice from the foreign black sites would only begin to scratch the surface of all the people involved in these kinds of activities abroad as well as at home.

If torture was being done secretly in America, wouldn't now be the time to look into this? If prosecutions take place only for the Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib sites, then will the people that James clearly points to be allowed to go free and their activities covered up?


I left a comment here congratulating Dr. Arrigo. The comment never appeared anywhere. Perhaps this is the reason:


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