Ethics Torture and Psychological Issues Term Paper

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Even though the order promised prisoners would receive humane treatments, the Bush Administration said that Geneva Conventions was not applicable to them (Goldsmith, 2012, p. 39).

The Detainee Treatment Act, sponsored by Senator John McCain sponsored the Detainee Treatment Act, states that "no court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider…an application for a writ of habeas corpus filed by or on behalf of an alien detained by the Department of Defence at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba." President Bush allowed the bill following a statement saying that he will interpret the bill " in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President to supervise the unitary executive branch, which will assist in achieving the shard objective of the Congress and the President of protecting the American people from future terrorist attacks" (Worthington, 2006, II-6).

Part 6 -- What is the appropriate ethical professional response of the military psychologists or psychologist consultants if U.S. Policies and Interrogation Practices are in violation of International Law or Human Rights?

Human rights are defined by the APA as rights to which all humans are entitled. In response to the violations of such rights during some of the 20th century, the international community established some basic laws that were meant to transcend other documents and provide a way to structure the issue. In a special vote, APA members approved a resolution that prohibits any psychologist from working in "detainee settings in which international law or the Constitution of the United States is violated" (Martin, 2008, par. 1).

The 2005 Task Force Report noted that psychologists have a professional responsibility to society as well as the individaul. Ethically, they must assist in protection our nation and innocent civilians from harm, which at times means they must assist in extracting information. However, modifications and referendums put in place indicate "it is a clear violation of professional ethics for a psychologist to have played a role in the torture of CIA detainees" (American Psychological Association, 2009, par. 1). In addition, the central paradigm of a pscyhologists role, they are required to let their supervisor know of conflicts in ethics, and/or to document these conflicts for the APA. The standards require the psychologist to make known their commitment to the Ethics Code, take reaspoable stepts to resolve the conlifct, and, while acting in the law, strive to perform their duties ethically. In fact, in a letter dated June 21, 2010, the Senior Policy Advisor and the Ethics Office Director of the APA wrote to Jeh Charles Johnson, the Department of Defense's General Counsel outlining the new ethical standards and noting, [W]e emphasize APA's poisition that it is not permissible for psychologists to have any involvement in abusive interrogations or to work in unlawful detention settings that violate the U.S. Constitution or international law…. The APA Ethics code makes it clear there is no defense under the Code for violating a detainee's human rights (Garrison & Behnke, 2010, par. 3).

Part 7 -- How would the military/secret service culture of interrogation affect the ability of the consulting psychologist to locate and adhere to ethical principles, practices and boundaries?

In essence, a member of the APA cannot really work in a military or secret service culture of interrogation as a consulting psychologist. Whether the use of strong interrogation tactics is legal or not, they do violate several International principles of human rights, and are therefore unacceptable to APA members. An APA member may, though, act as a consulting psychologist act to counsel service personnel or in the direct form of human rights and/or mental health for detainees. The issue is that the psychologist may not use their professional role to aid in any interrogation method that might be construed as illegal or inhumane (Behnke, 2007, p.4)

Part 8 -- Are there any biases in the APA Task Force Report on the Role of Psychologists in Interrogation of Military Detainees?

Reading just the 2005 document, it appears that the Task Force Report was designed to give professional psychologists who work for the military or CIA a way to justify their actions -- follow APA ethics and also assist in aggressive interrogation techniques that would ostensibly safeguard the country. We find that the APA Board of Directors declared a state of emergency and voted to approve this report. APA's president issued a press release indicating that the policy had been approved by the APA Council of Representatives, when it was never submitted. Certainly, this indicates clear bias and a rush to approve a document that was not in line with the majority of members, and was subsequently revised (Zakaria, 2011, par. 5, 7).

Part 9 -- if there is a conflict between international law and U.S. law that has an impact on the ethical standards for the practice of psychology, which course should be followed?

Essentially, in settings that violate either International law or the U.S. Constitution, professional psychologists are limited to three roles: 1) working directly for the detainee, 2) working for an independent third party that protects human rights, or 3) providing treatment to military personnel. The gist of the matter surrounds deciding if, in fact, laws have been violated and under what authority this is defined. If the psychologist believes laws have been violated, or there is substantiated proof from a neutral agency, then the ethical rules of conduct from the APA apply prior to participation in any semblance of an illegal act (American Psychological Association, 2009, para. 7-8). This is clearly a gray area, and even recent meetings of the APA find no true 100% consensus on the subject. In fact,

The APA's work [is] respectful of the importance and complex of the issue and was intended to provide ethical guidance to its members and send an unambiguous and emphatic message to the public: The world's largest association of psychologists recognizes the valuable and ethical contributions of its members involved in work related to our nation's security and forcefully condemns and will not tolerate torture (Laurence & Matthews, 2012, p. 62).

Philosophers, religious scholars, and other legal or professional people have defined in a variety of ways ideal sets of moral beliefs and principles. The following are different method which came from an early age and modern principals of ethics. Philosophers developed ethical decision making and an understanding of ethics within the context of decision-making. For instance, "It is hoped that what happens between people can be accounted for by discussion or reasonable negotiation of what should happen (or what actually occurred" (Cottone, 2001, p.79). Individuals use moral reasoning and moral philosophy to form ethical judgments and fix into place their view of ethical behavior. In reality, the therapist individually describes their reactions in reasoning as a method of behavior and place to apply moral reasoning within situational contexts.


Aalbers, D., (2012, April). Letters: Psychological Ethics and National Security. Retrieved from

American Pscyhological Association. (2010, February 10). APA Amends Ethics Code to Address Potential Conflicts. Retrieved from

American Psychological Association. (2001, October 1). APA Ethics Committee Rules and Procedures. Retrieved from

American Psychological Association. (2009, April 22). Saying it Again. Retrieved from

American Psychological Association. (2010, February 24). Ethical Code Amendment. Retrieved from

American Psychological Association. (2012, January). Ethics Committee. Retrieved from

American Psychological Association. (2012, January). General Principles of Ethical Code of Conduct. Retrieved from

American Psychological Association Presidential Task Force. (2005, June). On Psychological Ethics and National Security. Retrieved from

Bassiouni, M. (2010). The Institutionalization of Torture Under the Bush Admnistration: Is Anyone Responsible? New York and London: International Specialized Book Service Inc.

Behnke, S. (2007, Septmebr 21). Statement of the APA on Psychology and Interrogations. Retrieved from

Cottone, R. (2001). A Social Constructivism Model of Ethical Decision Making in Counseling. Journal of Counseling Development, 79(1), 39-45.

Garrison, E., & Behnke, S. (2010, June 21). Letter to General Counsel - U.S. Department of Defense. Retrieved from

Gerguson, K., & O'Donohue, W. (Eds.). (2003). Handbook of Professional Ethics for Psychologists. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Goldsmith, J. (2012). Power and Constraint: The Accountable Presidency After 9/11. New York: W.W. Norton.

Hersh, S. (2007, June 25). The General's Report. Retrieved from the New Yorker:

Laurence, J., & Matthews, M. (Eds.). (2012). The Oxford Handbook of Military Pscyhology. New York: Oxford University Press.

Martin, S. (2008, November). Members Say No to Psychologist Involvment in Interrogations. Retrieved from

White, T. (2009, March). Ethics Toolbox. Retrieved from Center for Ethics and Business and Loyola Marymount University:

Worthington, a. (2006, February). Police State USA and Big Brother's Most Cool Tool. Retrieved from U.S. News and Policies:

Zakaria, F. (2011, November 21). Are the APA's Detainee Interrogation Policies Ethical and Effective? Retrieved from Nation of Change:[continue]

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