Dear School Psychology Community,
As you may now know, a report commissioned by the Council and Board of the American Psychological Association has revealed that some APA leadership and staff members, as well as members of governance, worked with the Department of Defense and the CIA to allow for the use of torture. This “collusion” (as it has been described in the independent report) even involved influencing an APA policy document (i.e., Presidential Task Force on Ethics and National Security document; PENS) so that behavior that would have been deemed unethical was no longer so. Even more troubling is the contention that these actions were taken with the ultimate goal of financial and political benefits to psychologists.
Although the report indicates that only a few individuals were involved, the damage to psychology and to all psychologists—to us—is profound, as is the damage to APA. As school psychologists and the representatives of the School Psychology community on the APA Council, we want to assure you that we will work with our colleagues to begin the process of restoring trust in psychologists—a process that we suspect will take a long time—and we will do out best to ensure that “protection of the public” returns to its pride of place in APA’s decision making.
Thanks for your attention,
Tammy L. Hughes
Frank C. Worrell
Division 16 Council Representatives
The email below was sent to all APA members this morning. Please note that Stephen Behnke’s contract was terminated (as some of you have inquired). Also, the Independent Report, APA Press Release, and Initial Recommended Actions can be found here. The New York Times article regarding the report can be found here.
The APA Board of Directors commissioned Mr. David Hoffman of Sidley Austin to do a thorough and independent review related to allegations of a relationship the APA and Bush Administration related to the use of abusive interrogation techniques during the War on Terror. The report was recently received confidentially by Council who were in the process of providing recommendations to the Board when it was leaked to the New York Times. We had planned on a public release this coming week after Council’s input, but we have now posted the complete report on the APA website along with a press release that includes the Board’s initial recommendations. The supporting documents will be made available on our website this weekend.
The conclusions of the Independent Review report are deeply disturbing. Mr. Hoffman found evidence of an ongoing pattern of collusion between a small group of APA representatives and the Department of Defense. The Hoffman report states that the intent of the individuals who participated in the collusion was to “curry favor” with the Defense Department, and that may have enabled the government’s use of abusive interrogation techniques. As a result, the 2005 PENS report became a document based at least as much on the desires of the DoD as on the needs of the psychology profession and the APA’s commitment to human rights. Mr. Hoffman did not find evidence of collusion with the CIA or in the 2002 change to our Code of Ethics.
The Hoffman report clearly writes a difficult chapter in our organization’s history. We sincerely apologize for the actions, policies and lack of independence from governmental influence detailed in the report. Our members, our organization, our profession, and the public expected and deserved better. We have announced a series of corrective actions related to policies and procedures to strengthen our organization and demonstrate our commitment to ethics and human rights.
We realize it is a lengthy document, but encourage you to read the full report. Although the Executive Summary thoroughly overviews the findings, the specific details that provide the background (emails and interview data) are in the actual document. Reading the full document will help you to better understand how Mr. Hoffman came to his conclusions.
As troubling as the findings are, it is important that they have come to light so we can address them in a systematic and thoughtful way. As a result of the report, there will be significant changes in the organization, in terms of both policies and procedures. Dr. Stephen Behnke is no longer an employee of APA as a result of the findings in the Hoffman report, and other personnel actions are under consideration.
APA as an organization is a tremendous force for good in the world. Our members and our staff include so many talented, committed, and ethical psychologists. Our task now is to use what we have learned to ensure that something like this can never happen again, to return to a focus on our core values in everything we do, and to work to regain the trust of both our members and the public.
The months ahead will be very challenging for the association. We have much work ahead of us to address the findings of the report and to move toward healing. Nothing will ever undo what was done in the past, and we cannot deny that it is a stain on the honor of “Psychology,” but we must and we will return to our roots to rebuild a new organization of which all of us can be proud. With your patience, support and engagement, we truly believe that we can come through this painful time an even stronger organization.
Drs. Nadine Kaslow and Susan McDaniel
The APA Independent Review’s Special Committee