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APA Wants James Mitchell, Psychologist Who Helped CIA Torture, Stripped Of His License

Waterboarding

ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS   07/10/10 06:01 PM ET   AP

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Psychologists in the United States have been warned by their professional group not to take part in torturing detainees in U.S. custody.

Now the American Psychological Association has taken the unprecedented step of supporting an attempt to strip the license of a psychologist accused of overseeing the torture of a CIA detainee.

The APA has told a Texas licensing board in a letter mailed July 1 that the allegations against Dr. James Mitchell represent "patently unethical" actions inconsistent with the organization's ethics guidelines.

If any psychologist who was a member of the APA were found to have committed the acts alleged against Mitchell, "he or she would be expelled from the APA membership," according to the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press. APA spokeswoman Rhea Farberman confirmed its contents.

The letter is the first of its kind in the board's history, Farberman said.

"The allegations put forward in the complaint and those that are on the public record about Dr. Mitchell are simply so serious, and if true, such a gross violation of his professional ethics, that we felt it necessary to act," Farberman said.

Mitchell is a retired Air Force psychologist who participated in the 2002 CIA interrogation of detainee Abu Zubaydah, according to a 2008 Senate Armed Services Committee report on the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody. Mitchell is not a member of the American Psychological Association.

Interrogators in Thailand subjected Zubaydah to severe cold, food and sleep deprivation, confinement in a narrow box and, with Mitchell participating, a simulated form of drowning known as waterboarding, according to the complaint filed with the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists.

"Regardless of what legal categories these techniques fall within, one conclusion is clear: a psychologist who helps inflict such cruel and shocking abuse on a defenseless human being would appear to have violated basic standards of conduct of the profession," according to the complaint by Northwestern University law professor Joseph Margulies and filed on behalf of a Texas psychologist.

"Obviously, I'm not free to discuss any work I may have done for the CIA," Mitchell told the AP. He called the complaint libelous and said it is "riddled throughout with fabricated details, lies, distortions and inaccuracies."

Sherry Lee, the Texas board director, said complaints are shielded under Texas law and she could not comment.

The APA is monitoring similar filings in Ohio and New York made Wednesday against psychologists who oversaw detainee interrogations at Guantanamo Bay, but has no plans to back those efforts.

The accusations against Mitchell are "at a level of seriousness and credibility that we think is different than any other allegations against other psychologists that we know of," Farberman said.

The San Francisco-based Center for Justice & Accountability filed a complaint against Dr. John Leso with the New York Office of the Professions, alleging professional misconduct. Leso led a behavioral science consultation team at Guantanamo in 2002 and 2003.

The complaint said Leso developed abusive interrogation techniques based on Army survival methods. Those methods, "Survive Evade Rescue and Escape" or SERE, teach soldiers how to withstand physical and psychological abuse they might face if captured by the enemy, according to the complaint against Leso.

In a second complaint, Harvard University's International Human Rights Clinic alleges that retired Army Col. Larry James observed abusive interrogations and didn't do anything to stop them.

The complaint says James, dean of professional psychology at Wright State University in Dayton, oversaw abuse at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba in 2003, 2007 and 2008 when he served with the base's Behavioral Science Consultation Team.

The complaint against Leso says he is stationed at Fort Rucker, Ala. He could not be immediately reached. Messages were left Wednesday and Friday with the fort's public affairs office. James has declined to comment. The Ohio board declined to pursue a similar complaint filed against James in 2008.

Boards in California, Louisiana and New York have rejected similar complaints in the past. But new sources of information, such as the 2008 Senate Armed Services Committee report, provide details that make the new complaints stronger, said Kathy Roberts, staff attorney with the Center for Justice & Accountability.

In 2008 the APA voted to ban its members from taking part in interrogations at the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and other military detention sites where it believes international law is being violated.

The APA has also condemned the use of sexual humiliation, allegations of which are included in both the James and Leso complaints.

As a result, the Harvard clinic expects the APA to follow suit with those complaints, said Deborah Popowski, of the clinic.

Steven Reisner, a New York psychologist who brought the complaint against Leso, urged the APA to support an investigation, saying the case was similar to the Mitchell complaint.

Zubaydah was arrested in Pakistan in March 2002 on suspicion of being a top al-Qaida official. He was the first detainee subjected to Bush administration-approved harsh interrogation techniques, which included waterboarding, slamming the suspect into walls and prolonged period of nudity.

Zubaydah later told a military tribunal he suffered physical and mental torture and nearly died four times. Zubaydah claimed that after many months of such treatment, authorities concluded he was not the No. 3 person in al-Qaida as they had long believed.

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HUFFPOST SUPER USER
dlo2
MS RN
12:27 AM on 08/01/2010
Dr Huggins: can you comment on the Rand/CIA/APA meeting in 2002 with a woman who is now in the Administration's service? The APA has apparently several licensed members who need severe sanctions or stripping of their licenses for their participation in planning or being part of torture. What is being done and why is this woman (http://www.antifascistencyclopedia.com/tag/rand-corporation) in Washington still?
09:15 PM on 07/13/2010
I fought hard to keep Obama from becoming president...though I knew he wasn't ready to be president, I quietly thought that as intelligent as he was it wouldn't take long for him to hit his stride and thought he would do well.....wrong...he just doesn't have it..
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HUFFPOST SUPER USER
GerryOregon
10:32 PM on 07/11/2010
To the proponents of torture in US policy that have blogged on this article.

Americans are number one, dah! We good and proud, dah! We invade Iraq resulting in deaths of one million Iraqi civilians cause we protect them from Saddam Hussein and stuff, dah! Americans are God's chosen and we don't do wrong, dah! We torture people because they evil and we are good, dah!
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HUFFPOST SUPER USER
hans sulu
Thanks to CU this space for rent
12:32 AM on 07/12/2010
As Americans we need to stand up to a higher standard. As Regan said we need to be a beacon to the world. I seem to remember being told that we invaded Iraq to stop Saddam's WMDs. Afterwards we heard, well we need to save Iraq from Saddam. Under that logic we should have invaded North Korea. They have been developing Nuclear Weapons and 3 million people starved to death in one years time in North Korea. As for your argument we torture because they are evil? Please explain that to the Chinese Weigers who were sent to Gitmo because the Chinese Government wanted to get rid of them. Or to the Afghan taxi driver who was killed the first night he was an enemy com-patent.
As I said we are Americans and need to held to a higher standard. When a doctor starts developing methods that most experts say is torture what next? The doctors oath says do no harm.
02:14 PM on 07/12/2010
You can always move a few hundred miles north...maybe where you belong
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HUFFPOST SUPER USER
MontanaBlue
The revolution starts now. — Steve Earle
09:24 PM on 07/12/2010
Dissent is the highest form of patriotism. Maybe you should move.
10:24 PM on 07/11/2010
Lots of luck with that, APA.

Texas, eh?

That sort of thing, and worse, is a way of life amongst a good many Texans, you should know.

Does the name James Byrd Jr. ring a bell? Hmmm?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_of_James_Byrd,_Jr.
09:27 PM on 07/11/2010
Hopefully they are serious and will follow through with vigor.
It is about time the medical profession takes torture seriously as a total breach of trust, ethics and legality.
09:37 PM on 07/11/2010
Actually if you check your history, the American medical has always taken torture seriously just as U.S. presidents had prior to Baby Bush.
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HUFFPOST SUPER USER
Tuigim
The perils of benefactors...
12:35 AM on 07/12/2010
The American medical has always taken torture seriously just as U.S. presidents had prior to Baby Bush?
Did they speak up against SERE, SOA, the propping up of dictators in Latin America and the training of their soldiers in torture techniques, the effects of prolonged solitary confinement in American jails etc etc etc?
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06:43 PM on 07/11/2010
The tortures thought up by the Cheka under Lenin were sadistic and original. But, alas, these civil servants (the worst was a atheist Jewess) had terrible nightmares...the ghosts of their victims came with tales of a just God. In order to improve the job performance of these people, it was decided to import Freudian psychiatrists from Vienna to soothe the consciences of the torturers with authoritative scientific refutation of any superstition. It was deemed cost effective, as training new torturers was expensive and even then, there was a shortage of applicants.
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HUFFPOST SUPER USER
MarcEdward
likes all cats more than most people
09:28 PM on 07/11/2010
That is creepy
09:47 PM on 07/11/2010
Don't believe everything you read. Larger truths covering smaller lies permeate the web.
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HUFFPOST SUPER USER
TazoWolf
Med student, Colorado
03:37 PM on 07/11/2010
Good move by the APA. There is no place for torture ANYWHERE. It's proven ineffective, and all it teaches is more hate. Cheney should be forced to undergo the methods he approved, just so he knows what it's like... then be jailed for his war crimes which ARE a violation of Geneva Convention.

Personally, I really liked the contrast shown between CIA torture and more acceptable interrogation methods in the "Criminal Minds" episode "Lessons Learned, involving a bio-terror event planned by a Guantanamo detainee.
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SarcasticFringehead
Mute Nostril Agony
03:24 PM on 07/11/2010
The Bush administration changed America from the "Shining city upon a hill," into the "Shining city upon a hill with a dungeon in the basement."
I'll never forgive them for that.
America now has the same moral authority as a tinpot banana republic.
Thanks George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.
02:16 PM on 07/12/2010
What has Obama made us....the disco in the sky? the rib-shack on the blvd? the abortion mill on the avenue?
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cigi
02:54 PM on 07/11/2010
It will never happen here in Texas, Teabag Heaven and Right-Wing Crazy Land!
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okim5150
I only drink to make you more interesting
05:24 PM on 07/11/2010
Tell that to Sheriff James Parker.
06:36 PM on 07/11/2010
ouch
02:50 PM on 07/11/2010
When Obama REFUSED to do anything about the use of torture by the Bush gang,! I decided he will NOT be getting my vote in '12 !
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MarcEdward
likes all cats more than most people
03:38 PM on 07/11/2010
Give up - the Republicans will run somebody worse.
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HUFFPOST SUPER USER
reasonshouldrule
03:44 PM on 07/11/2010
Obama outlawed the use of any kind of torture going forward. That's better than vengeance, even though I wish he could have gone after the Bush "gang" too.
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HUFFPOST SUPER USER
MarcEdward
likes all cats more than most people
04:16 PM on 07/11/2010
Torture was already illegal
What Obama did was make it doctrine that Presidents have the option of obeying the law or now
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Frenbar
In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king
07:03 PM on 07/11/2010
We call it "Justice" in this country, not vengeance.
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hans sulu
Thanks to CU this space for rent
01:33 PM on 07/11/2010
Anyone remember Hannity saying that waterboarding was not torture? And then someone challenged Hannity to be waterboarded for charity. Hannity said he would do it, yet a year later no waterboarding. At least Mad Cow put his money where his mouth was and did it. Afterwards Mad Cow said it was torture, and Hannity had the stones to say to him it was not torture. It is easy to say that if you have not had it done to yourself.
Doctors and Psychologist take an oath to do no harm. This Psychologist needs to have his license pulled.
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MarcEdward
likes all cats more than most people
04:37 PM on 07/11/2010
Hannity believes torture works because it'd work on him.
He's a coward
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okim5150
I only drink to make you more interesting
05:28 PM on 07/11/2010
Mancow said it was torture. At least he had the courage to see for himself. The other right wing media personalities and torture apologists are cowards.
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01:26 PM on 07/11/2010
good call APA
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satanlite
Liberal blogger
01:49 PM on 07/11/2010
x2
HUFFPOST SUPER USER
Red Herring
Retired Miner, living in third world
12:10 PM on 07/11/2010
The real danger to America is that these people are circulating in society and in a lot od cases no one knows who they are and what they are capable of. As Micheal Moore said" I do not fear blacks, hispanics and muslims, what I fear are white men in suits". How right he was.
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satanlite
Liberal blogger
01:50 PM on 07/11/2010
Casual acts of violence and secluded atrocities permeate our suburban and rural landscape.
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cigi
02:56 PM on 07/11/2010
The Biggest Terrorists of ALL! Micheal is Spot On! Howard Zinn had this all figured out ages ago.
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MontanaBlue
The revolution starts now. — Steve Earle
09:41 PM on 07/12/2010
Oh, how I miss Howard Zinn ...
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11:54 AM on 07/11/2010
I hope everone realizes this is not news. It has been public for quite some time. Water boarding someone 182 tmes, sensory deprevation, inducing psychosis and altered states of conciousness, repetitive mock executions, are to use up a person and is pretty gratifing to some folks.Does't have much to do with information. I fear that this behavior has now become toleratable and mainstream. The soft core sado machochism in the " reality shows" to harder core snuff scripts of Jack Baer have reset the threshold of acceptavle behavior.
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MarcEdward
likes all cats more than most people
12:10 PM on 07/11/2010
It's disgusting to see the same people who gripe about gun rights because "it's in the constitution" at the same time ignore torture. But it's MORE disgusting to see lefties who ought to know better saying "we have to trust Obama" or "we cannot look backwards".
Obama is a professor of constitutional law and now as President he refuses to uphold the law.
As bad as Cheney IMO.
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cigi
03:01 PM on 07/11/2010
I have to say your post bears a whole lot of creedence. We have let America War Criminals, including Bush and Cheney to continue to live among us all. They engineered and promoted two wars built on lies. Iraq was the BIG LIE, but they kept Afghanistan going too, all for whatever they thought they could control as far as the Natural resources of that region...natural gas and everything under the earth that is valuable. Obama's tendency to say "we must look forward" is a cop out as if you never admit your mistakes and resolve those issues that made them possible in the first place, then our Nation continues to stumble forward, not move honorably. We have wronged a lot of folks in the world as a country, validating those wrongs in our Nation's "interests and National Security". It has merely been in the interests of those who profit from all of this...follow the$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$.
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06:04 PM on 07/11/2010
So what are you doing about it? Threatening to vote for someone worse I suppose. Or maybe you won't vote at all. That way you can pretend your hands are clean. Well they aren't. This was done in all of our names. Just because we despise it, and don't support it doesn't mean we get to pretend we are somehow beyond blame. I write letters demanding action. I rarely get an answer. Maybe if a few million more did the same, something would change. I'm open to better suggestions. Whining about how it is the job of someone else to fix it for me because I voted for him is not a reasonable response. This happened because there is no accountability. To expect one man to change that is beyond infantile. I'm not excusing Obama. He doesn't need to be so willing to bend over. However, expecting that to change with nothing other than a threat of non-support would be laughable if the consequences for this nation weren't so dire. Don't demand more responsible behavior from the president in his constitutional duty to this democracy than your willing to show in your own as a citizen. That is simply wrong on too many levels, and is a large part of how we got here in the first place. America is spoiled, and we want big people to fix all our problems for us, and tell us it won't cost us anything. As Charlie Brown would say...Good Grief!
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11:53 AM on 07/11/2010
It's not just the people who were hired to involve themselves in such tortures that need to be punished. How about punishing the guys who made them do it (Bush, Cheney, Rumsfield)? If we are still torturing in these ways our present administration should also be held accountable.
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MarcEdward
likes all cats more than most people
12:11 PM on 07/11/2010
There is no good reason on this earth that Bush and Cheney walk free.
If you went on television and boasted about a murder you committed, I guarantee you'd be in jail right quick.
But to Obama, the laws only apply to regular Americans, not people who are so respectable like himself and his cousin Cheney.
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MontanaBlue
The revolution starts now. — Steve Earle
09:47 PM on 07/12/2010
You are so right, MarcEdward. Sad to say.