Leading Psychologists Backed CIA U.S. Torture Program

Jose Florez

Some of America's leading psychologists have received backlash following the release of a report detailing an extremely unethical CIA torture program.

According to a 542-page report -- obtained by the New York Times and released on Friday -- top officials of the American Psychological Association (APA) collaborated with the Central Intelligence Agency and the Pentagon to initiate unethical, immoral torture tactics.

The torture programs primarily surfaced during the Bush administration -- right after the terrorist attacks on September 11. In addition, the ethics director along with some of the association's top officials, kept the association's ethics policy in line with the Defense Department's interrogation policies, while both aiding and protecting the CIA's interrogation program, the report concluded.

Among the many unsettling documents in the report, one specific document details how the association's ethics office "prioritized the protection of psychologists -- even those who might have engaged in unethical behavior — above the protection of the public," it said.

The report also found that two former presidents of the APA were once on the CIA advisory committee. One of them even gave the CIA advice on how sleep deprivation did not count as torture.

The group's public policy statements were coordinated by the association's ethics director, Stephen Behnke, along with a top military psychologist. The report also says that Behnke received a Pentagon contract to help train interrogators without informing the association's board.

The detailed-report, made public by the New York Times, came to light as a result of a seven-month investigation by David Hoffman, a Chicago lawyer working with the firm Sidley Austin.

However, on Friday, the American Psychological Association issued an apology following the release of the investigation report.

Disturbingly, some of the members of the APA lured the Defense Department to employ in torture techniques during Bush's administration's war on terror, the New York Times reports.

Strong reactions from past association board members followed after the unveiling of the report. Dr. Nadine Kaslow, a former president of the association's board and chair of the independent review's special committee, told USA Today just how tragic the report was for her.

"I was extremely sad and disturbed and concerned (by the report). But if you don't know what the truth is, then you can't change."

During the 1950s, lasting all the way until 1973, the CIA, along with some of the top psychologists and psychiatrists in the world, engaged in a secret operation called "Project MK Ultra."

Unwitting participants would endure psychological torture, in the form of verbal and sexual abuse, isolation, sensory deprivation, and hypnosis, which would be used to alter the mind state. LSD, among other dangerous drugs, were used involuntarily as part of one of the most illegal human experiments ever.

One Canadian psychiatrist, Dr. Donald Ewen Cameron, thought he could cure schizophrenia by using psychological torture, thus rewiring the brain. His experiments included the use of LSD and electroconvulsive therapy at "forty times the normal power." Participants included randomly selected individuals from the public. Meanwhile, some experiments went on to kill unwitting participants.

Astonishingly, all psychologists and psychiatrists who aided the CIA during MK Ultra, were shielded from any criminal indictment and all documents pertaining to the "mind control" program, were destroyed.

[Photo Courtesy: John Moore/Getty Images]