The Current

Pentagon sparks debate on use of psychologists in interrogation

The American Psychology Association has banned its members from participating in any Military or CIA interrogations. But now the Pentagon wants them back. Is this a legitimate need? Or a lie they tell themselves?
The Pentagon wants psychologists to end their ban on playing a role during interrogation because psychologists' code of ethics will be needed during future matters of national security. (Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images)

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Last week, news broke that the Pentagon is urging American psychologists to end the ban on its involvement in interrogations. 

The American Psychological Association, or APA, voted in the summer of 2015 to ban psychologists from any involvement in national security interrogations. It came after a report alleged that psychologists working for the CIA and Pentagon's interrogation programs after 9/11 were used to protect the government from legitimate accusations of torture.

The Pentagon says psychologists are needed to ensure interrogations abide by professional and international ethical standards.

Anne Speckhard agrees. She is a psychologist and the director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism. To Speckhard, the ban is offensive. She sees psychologists as necessary to help make sure interrogations are ethical and effective by being present and applying their existing professional standards. 

Psychologist and activist Steven Reisner is quite concerned about the role psychologists are expected to play in national security interrogations.  He is a founding member of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology and a member of the American Psychological Association Council of Representatives - though he does not speak for the association.

Reisner has fought hard for the policy to prohibit psychologists from being involved in national security interrogations and helped craft the new APA policy.

This segment was produced by The Current's Shannon Higgins.