Consult: Peter Gumpert


April 6, 2009

90-minute teleconference

Transcribed by Jean Maria Arrigo, with corrections by Martha Davis, Jancis Long, and Stephen Soldz

Edited by Ray Bennett

Reviewed by Peter Gumpert

Teleconference Participants:  Jean Maria Arrigo, Ray Bennett, Martha Davis, Peter Gumpert, Jancis Long, and Stephen Soldz

Note:  The transcript has been streamlined a bit.

Teleconference Consultation with  Peter Gumpert on

“Psychologists and U.S. Coercive Interrogations”

LONG:  Hello, Peter.  [My name is Jancis Long.] I’m a clinical psychologist.  I’m currently President of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, and I’m a member of the Casebook team.  I’ve developing an interest, through the whole torture issue, in professional ethics, not just psychologists, but mostly medicine.

DAVIS:  I’m Martha Davis.  I’m a clinical and research psychologist.  I’m on the steering committee of WithholdAPAdues, and I’ve been working on this for three years or so.  I did a documentary called Interrogation Psychologists.  I’m interested particularly in the forensic psychologist’s role in all of this because of my research in forensic psychology.

BENNETT:  I’m Ray Bennett.  I’m a retired Army interrogator, after 22 years in the field.  I joined the Casebook team in reestablishing the good name of interrogation [laughter] — “rehabilitating,” that’s the word I was looking for — rehabilitating the reputation of interrogation.  I came to this group, and they tolerate me mainly for comic relief, for moral support, and I also serve as the subject-matter expert on interrogation, and on the military environment.

ARRIGO:  As well as keeps the web site and does all the work that needs to be done around confidentiality.

     I’m Jean Maria Arrigo.  I’m the initiator of the Casebook project because I was a dissident member of the 2005 APA President’s task force to put out guidelines for psychologists involved in interrogation.  We were supposed to come up with a casebook.  We did not come up with a casebook, so PsySR is now doing the casebook here. 

     I’m a social psychologist, and I’ve been trying to help military intelligence professionals of conscience deliver — well, to support their moral voices.  That’s how I got together with Ray.

GUMPERT:  I’m Peter Gumpert.  I’m a clinical psychologist.  I actually left APA many years because I had concerns about the organization and I never went back.  So my experience with APA is quite old.  I also have a history as an academic social psychologist, organizational psychologist, and as a researcher.  And I have a very strong interest in professional ethics, particularly in recent years surrounding clinical work and the maintenance of privacy and the intrusion of third parties into clinical relationships.

SOLDZ:     Well, I think it’s relevant, Peter did organizational consulting for many years.  One of his big clients was one of the companies that does a lot of defense-related work, so he knows that culture and the culture of classified information, dealing with government agencies and stuff.

GUMPERT:  Yes, right.

ARRIGO:  Stephen, take us into the middle of it.

SOLDZ:    Peter, let me just back up a little bit in terms of the background of the project. The PENS task force said that it was ethical for psychologists to participate in interrogations.  And they were supposed to clarify these issues with the casebook.  Jean Maria fought valiantly for that and they said “Sure, sure” — that was in June of 2005 — and the casebook has never appeared, despite the APA Council ordering them to work on it forthwith. 

     A year-and-a-half ago, they said, “Oh, we put it aside because the policies were always changing.  But we think we’re settled now what the policies are, so we’re really going to  work on it now —

GUMPERT:  “We’ll start working together ” — 

SOLDZ:  So presumably it will never come out.  The presumption is it will never come out. There’s some discussion about it happening.  But our concern is that even if they do it, it’s going to be such things as:  “Psychologist sees someone being water boarded.  What is the ethical thing to do? Report it up the chain of command.”  So it’s not going to deal with the subtleties of it.

     So we started doing it.  And it quickly became clear that it’s not a classic ethics casebook, where you have some briefing on what is the right thing to do and you can play with the vignette.  We were recommended to do that, to make anonymous vignettes, by an ethicist we consulted.  The problem is that a lot of the real dilemmas involve aspects of interacting with the intelligence system that people probably will not believe unless we document them.  It would be hard to be taken seriously.  So we felt that we had to ground this deeply in actual practices and document those practices, as opposed to discuss abstract principles. 

SOLDZ:    As we’ve pursued this, what’s become clear is that a lot of what we’re focusing on are systems and organizational issues. 


SOLDZ:    It’s sort of the interface of systems and organizational issues, because the systems and organizational issues make it unlikely that someone is going to do what the ethics manual suggests that they’re supposed to do.


SOLDZ:    And this is brought home by that fact that among health professionals there are no whistleblowers to speak of.  One partial whistleblower is really it for all health providers for the entire War on Terror and the various interrogation abuses.

GUMPERT:  That’s amazing.

SOLDZ:    There are many attorneys.  There are many interrogators.  There are many MPs [military police], but there aren’t psychologists, and there aren’t other health providers.   There are institutional and probably cultural factors that are dealing with that.  So we’re hoping to elucidate the whole broad range of issues.  If you’re going to form an ethics policy here, here are the whole broad range of issues you have to pay attention to. 


SOLDZ:    So part of that has to do with the APA and our belief that they have become complicit in these abuses, that they played their role in make it possible for the abuses to continue, and in deflecting public opposition and professional opposition to that.  So one of the things we were thinking about in talking to you is structural and organizational issues and how to think about [them] if one were to try to reform the APA and its relationships with the military. Our sense is that the APA is corrupted by a very longstanding and close relationship with the military. [So if we agree that] it is appropriate for [the APA] to have relations with the military, what needs to be done to make sure those relations do not become dominating and corrupting to an inordinate degree? That’s really our broad set of questions around that.

GUMPERT:  Major questions! I must say that I found the article written by [Frank] Summers [on the history of the relationship between the APA and U.S. defense agencies] extraordinarily illuminating.  And I think that it goes way beyond this issue of being corrupted by the military, or in particular, military intelligence. 

SOLDZ:    My article, “Closing Eyes to Atrocities,” delineates what I view as the APA’s mode of denying its complicity; Frank Summer’s article; then yours and Jean Maria’s article [“APA Denunciation and Accommodation of Abusive Interrogations—A Lesson for World Psychology”], illuminating different aspects of these issues.

GUMPERT:  Very fine papers, by the way.  Let me compliment all of you on these.

     Did you take a look at what I sent to you?  [See Appendix below:  “APA — Characteristics and Significant Influences,” by Peter Gumpert.]


GUMPERT:  Okay.  What I was trying to say there was that there are thematic system characteristics that get involved.  If APA has been dependent, highly dependent on government, and in particular DoD, its thematic structure would begin to reflect that of the client organization.

DAVIS:  When you say thematic structure, could you explain that a little bit?

GUMPERT:  Yes, for example, the military relies on a fair amount on the notion of hierarchy, obedience, power, and stuff like duty and the rightness of the mission.  As you get into DoD you get really much more involved with secrecy and classified information, and people corralling information from others.   So these characteristics would sort of leak into the APA hierarchy, it seems to me.  If I remember correctly about APA, there is a great gulf fixed between the circle of people who control the APA and its membership.


GUMPERT:  In some ways that’s not so different than the difference between the officer class and the enlisted class in the Army.  It’s a real distinction between the two.  It seems to me not at all unexpected that the members of APA are sort of — they contribute by their membership and their money, but they’re not taken very seriously beyond that.

SOLDZ:    Think of the APA as having three levels, which is the membership, I would say maybe Council members, who are about 180, and then the upper leadership, staff and Board members and maybe a couple of others who really make the decisions.

GUMPERT:  Yes, the policy makers, the decision makers, the people who control the organization, and who are in some sense permanent parties.

ARRIGO:  We know how the hierarchy works in the military, or at least we think we do.  You know, the officer fitness reports, and so on, the presidential appointees, and so on.  But it isn’t as clear to us in the APA how this done.  At least it isn’t done with the same legitimacy.

GUMPERT:  Oh, right. 

I don’t know exactly how to say this, but it seems to me that the process of selecting leaders to be in that inner circle contributes both to the separation and to the hierarchy and to the orientation to obedience to higher-power people in the government, and so on.  I have the impression that APA leaders love to hobnob with government officials, and they take a kind of — It’s a legitimization.  And if you look at the position that APA has taken toward the managed care insurance system, it has the same flavor.

ARRIGO:  Could you say more on that?

SOLDZ:    Peter was the leader in fighting the encroachment of managed care on psychology, we should say.  He founded an organization, the American Mental Health Alliance, that tried to create an alternative to managed care.  I was a board member of that.

GUMPERT:  The psychology inner circle would have viewed the insurance industry as a source of money and legitimacy and so on for psychologists, and the ethics issues certainly were not salient for them.  And the ethical issues are major.

ARRIGO:  So would you say that the kinds of processes in this whole torture issue are similar to the processes in managed care and —  What’s the other issue, Stephen?

SOLDZ:    Drug privileges.

GUMPERT:  Oh, yes.  It’s the kind of search for approval by people who are in power and have some kind of ability to dole out money, either to the organization or to “psychology” as a profession.  So the impulse is to join whatever that group is and to be in compliance with it and to please it.   If DoD is a client — and of course DoD is a client — then they would tend to behave that way, to behave with obedience and to treat them as people of high power, and to want to join their ranks somewhere.

ARRIGO:  Can you tell us about the flow of money?  I don’t understand whether the people who are sort of serving as lobbyists to Homeland Security, whether they’re getting money for their own projects or just high salaries.  Does the flow of money enter into this at personal levels?

GUMPERT:  I have no idea.  Stephen, have you every looked into that at all?  The lobbyists, that’s another group.  Those are presumably hires, right? 

SOLDZ:    They hire a lot of lobby firms, including, interestingly, a lot of money to [John] McCain-associated lobbying firms. But they also have on their staff people, like the Director of the Science Directorate, [who] is really a lobbyist.  A lot of their top staff are really lobbyists.

DAVIS:  I think if we tracked Susan Brandon, who was the APA senior research scientist, who got as high as the White House Office of Science and Technology, she went from the APA to one year at NIMH [the National Institute of Mental Health], then the White House in '04, and appeared to move to the MITRE Corporation in '06.

GUMPERT:  Oh, interesting.  So she joined the revolving door, between government and lobbies.

DAVIS:  And she kept at it all the way through that — and she’s got a Yale University appointment — so all the way through that she was working to arrange all this stuff with APA.  She was almost as active as she was before, with APA.

ARRIGO:  She sat in on the [PENS] task force.  She was one of the unacknowledged people who sat in.

SOLDZ:    There was some reason to believe that she had intel[ligence] connections.

DAVIS:  You know, Stephen, I’d like to follow that line because, you know, Peter,  you’re making a picture.  I see it as a Venn diagram, where there’s a larger circle here, that is, wherever the money is, and the power is, APA’s ingroup will go.  And it’s sort of more generic. The Science Directorate People and the Ethics Committee Director, who spent three years defending this military policy, they seem military- and DoD-connected. In other words, are we over-reading into this, when it’s actually a generic problem, and they’ll do it no matter what, as long as you have the money and you have the power?  Or whether there is a really quite special, literal connection. I’m of the opinion that [a policy-making APA member, if not on the CIA payroll], is being short-shrifted by the CIA because they should be paying him.  Because everything he did, and does to this day, is exactly to support the CIA [enhanced interrogation practices involving psychologists].  So I think it’s not paranoid to think that it’s quite literal.  But maybe we are too small-minded.

SOLDZ:    I have heard from people with intel connections that they control the APA, but I can’t confirm it.

DAVIS:  Well, it’s a little like, “If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it’s a duck.”  And even if it isn’t literally a duck, it’s functionally a duck.

GUMPERT:  It’s a duck in effect.

     And I think it’s not either/or, I think it’s both.  Both direct connections with CIA and the other intel organizations, and also this much broader tendency to be involved with and to emulate those in power. 

SOLDZ:    It’s the culture that Peter’s pointing to that makes it easy for a small group of people to pull this off, without anyone stopping them.

GUMPERT:  Or without even very many people being aware that it’s going on.

LONG:  If you want to understand a culture, you must be looking for who is getting what out of what.  What is APA getting out of being the lackey for the CIA?  I’m not saying that necessarily they are.  But if they’re very closely tied with all these power systems, what does an organization as an organization get out of it?

GUMPERT:  Well, quite possibly, in a material sense, research grants.  I don’t know to what extent there are contracts directly to the organization or to some of its members.

SOLDZ:  Supposedly there’s five million dollars in direct contracts. But I don’t know where it is.

DAVIS:  Direct contracts to the APA?

SOLDZ:  From the DoD, for training or something.  I couldn’t find it, but I’m not at all an expert in how to track that down.

LONG:  The other half would be, what does the CIA get out of it?  Well, I understand what PENS was for, and why they wanted to whitewash torture. But in a longer, deeper, cultural sense, why does the CIA need the APA?

SOLDZ:  Well, why does the CIA control the National Student Association and just about every organization —

LONG:  Well, I think there they were spying.

GUMPERT:  Spying in some cases, and using in others.

ARRIGO:  Peter, we need some help in how to approach this. 

GUMPERT:  Approach it in what sense?

ARRIGO:  In our casebook.

GUMPERT:  One of the things that’s important here, it seems to me is a kind of pathological certainty about the rightness of these action.

LONG:  It’s in a bullet at the end.

GUMPERT:  If I remember my own experience with some of these organizations, there’s a kind of sense among people who work with them, or for them, that they’re doing the right thing.  I think this is a genuine conviction, in part, even though there may be corrupting influences and so, I would bet that a fair proportion of the APA people who are involved in this really think it’s the right thing to do.

DAVIS:  Yes.  Stephen, don’t you feel that way?  I think that’s right.

SOLDZ:    Well, I assume so.  But I can’t tell what the different parties actually think they’re doing.   Who knows the whole picture?  Who’s convinced themselves that the psychologists really aren’t the torturers, for example?  And this nonsense that they’re keeping things safe.  I don’t know who believes what.

DAVIS:  Let me ask you this way.  If it could be framed in the “Oh, those [psychologists that are involved with or support abusive interrogation], we have to counter them for our own professional well-being, and we, being on the side of the angels, we are going to do things the right way, and research the right way, we have a mission, because we in fact know what’s been going on”, then they could rationalize it that way or believe it that way?

GUMPERT:  Oh, sure.  I agree with that.  And even the departures from the ethical code would be seen as correct and right.

BENNETT:  I’m going to jump in here and pontificate on this for a few seconds. 

     I think is “pathological” is too strong a word, in that it conveys a certain condition that makes them prone to do it by default, almost.  To a degree, that’s correct.  But when we say that these folks believe what they’re doing is right, it’s not out of a sense of kind of deductive logic but that they’ve been told that it’s right, and they don’t question that.  It’s very like much like military folks, like you said, that it’s a culture of duty, obedience, etc., etc.  And part of that is necessary in order to have an effective military.  So when the order comes down, you just do it.  It’s not that you have a belief that the order is right.  You just don’t think about it at all.  You just do it.

GUMPERT:  Ray, I agree with that, but let me just qualify it a little bit.  The psychologists would have to find some way to justify what they’ve done.  At least a little bit, they have to struggle with the ethical considerations that they’re involved with when they do this.

ARRIGO:  I want to bring up another observation by Ray, and this has to do with the psychologists’ rationale.  At Guantanamo we supposedly had the worst of the worst of the terrorists.  But the people who were brought in to interrogate them were reservists, without much experience.  So if you were a psychologist looking at this, that would stand out for you quite dramatically, I think, that disparity.  So one of the puzzles we have here is the psychologists somehow — Forget the moral issues, just the incompetence issues, how can it be?

SOLDZ:    Well, you have psychologists who know nothing about this actually feeling that they know much more than -

GUMPERT:  - than the interrogators, yes.

SOLDZ:  The person in charge, early, was [Brigadier] General [James E.] Mitchell, who was in artillery.  As far as we can tell, he was brought in because he would follow orders and do as he was told.  He had never seen an interrogation and knew nothing about it and refused to talk to those, like [former U.S. Navy psychologist Michael] Gelles, who at least knew something about it.

ARRIGO:  So, Peter, what we’re trying to understand is a system that overrode what would be fairly elementary observations by a psychologist.

GUMPERT:  What kind of observations?

ARRIGO:  Well, as I told, Ray’s observation that we have supposedly the worst of the worst, you know these high-value interrogatees, who are being interrogated by these people of little training or experience. It doesn’t make sense.  A psychologist who’s on site should see something that simple.

BENNETT:  It’s not that the interrogatee has inordinate amounts of psychological reserve that the interrogator can’t draw upon, or something like that.  My objection to those reservists being used is just that they were very junior, very inexperienced people, going up against high-value targets.  Those high-value targets draw a lot of attention to themselves, and people want results.  And that’s where the breakpoint was, the pressure point was.  That these people wanted results.

GUMPERT:  Right.  So if the word comes down from Cheney’s office that whatever it is isn’t good enough, then special efforts are exerted to improve the amount of information you get from these —

ARRIGO: Why doesn’t the BSCT [Behavioral Science Consultation Team] psychologist say, “Well, the first thing is we need an interrogator with experience”?

GUMPERT:  I don’t know. Maybe it’s flattering to be in the position of educator.

DAVIS:  I think that was true.  But, as far as we know, there were two phases.  The first phase was, there were a lot of experienced interrogators there from different services.  There were detectives from New York.  There were FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigation] interrogators —they were senior — and getting whatever, and actually releasing a lot of people they saw were, “What are they here for?”  And then the word came down from on high, and then they threw all these people out.  And then they had to get people who obeyed them.  And who better to obey them than young reservists?  Maybe that’s over-simplifying it, but it seems to be almost a two-phased process, which was really related to who you could get to do the dirty work.  And I agree that the psychologists that they brought in were self-selected [and] flattered to be training these neophytes, to be following the orders.  I may be over-simplifying here, but there really was a year when there were a lot of experienced interrogators, or maybe half a year.

BENNETT:  It wasn’t a separate phase though.  They were there concurrently, at the same time.  And, for example, the FBI agents, who did professional interrogations and who threw a lot of people out or identified people who should be released, those people were weeded out.

DAVIS:  Exactly.  I spoke with somebody who was an experienced interrogator and wouldn’t allow himself to be quoted, but he was very experienced and was dealing with a high-value guy.  But he was very early, and he was only there briefly.  He wasn’t kicked out, but he was just there briefly.  I think that Cheney and them literally came down on it and changed the system, said, “We don’t want competition.  We want Army to be in control of it.  We want CIA to be in control of it.  Kicked out DIA [Defense Intelligence Agency.]  Kicked out the experienced reservists.  Kicked out the FBI.  Kicked out the Navy.  And then they kicked them all out, in time though, didn’t they, Ray?  After a time, they were not there. 

BENNETT:  That’s right.  Either they were kicked out or not invited back.  Or, as in the case of the FBI, their home agency pulled them back. 

SOLDZ:  The FBI was there well into 2004.  It’s also a little more complicated because with the few high-value people, the CIA was involved in some way.  And we don’t know that much about — Just like at Abu Ghraib, there were the private contractors and there was the CIA, and then you had the ordinary people copying what the big guys do.  So there’s a complex pattern at Guantanamo, and the CIA part is still not told.

GUMPERT:  Well, it’s not very much that I can say.  You guys are talking about history that you know a lot better than I do.  What I’ve been thinking about is your casebook.  It seems to me that one of the things that ought to be in it is some kind of reference to the subtle pressures that people are under, the sort of cultural pressures.  Because, you know, if you’re living down there at Gitmo, or if you’re in one of those closed institutions, your reality is determined by what’s immediately around you.  In some way, you lose contact with the much broader context when you lived in, who knows what, Indianapolis or whatever.  So you might really do things at Guantanamo that you would not do in other contexts.

ARRIGO:  What about people who were on staff on APA?  That’s not exactly a closed institution.  But they seem to have had their perspectives almost unified in the wrong direction.

GUMPERT:  Oh, yes.  That makes sense to me.  They’re in a kind of closed group.  Their reference group is the people that they work with.  And I think it becomes very difficult to go against the group.

LONG:  I would be very interested in hearing whether you’ve come across cases in your organizational work and, particularly with this one —I imagine there must have been conflicts set up within people, between their professional status and the work that they were doing there, even though the culture there was to do what you were told to do, and some people really believe they were doing right and others kind of go along that they’re doing right — I would be interested if you’ve come across cases of how people have handled the conflict when it first comes up, between the job and the professional training.

GUMPERT:  As a clinician, you know that it depends on who you are.  There are some people who manage the conflict very well by walling themselves off from aspects of the conflict that are uncomfortable.  That is probably part of the self-selection that goes on.  If you’re a psychologist and you are recruited to take part in this, what does that mean, that you accept the recruitment and you’re willing to spend a year at Guantanamo doing interrogations? 

DAVIS:  We were told that you need battlefield experience, which Guantanamo counts for, to get a promotion.  So if you want to get up the ladder, you have to go to places like this.

GUMPERT:  Sure, you have to go where you’re sent.  That’s true.  But if you’ve selected yourself into that system to begin with — I may be way off — but perhaps you’re just a little bit prone to being compliant and not too conflicted about things that make you uncomfortable.

LONG:  They would be compartmentalizing quite a lot.  Among the people we’ve talked with, chaplains have been able to put the religious and ethical help that they were giving into a separate compartment from the system in which they were working.


ARRIGO: [Looking] at the organizational structure of APA, would you imagine, from this type of structure, falling out the types of problems that we had?  Is that one of the hazards of having that kind of structure, or not?

GUMPERT:  Yes, I think so.  It makes sense to me that it is.  Whenever you have a kind of insulated structure, you create an inner group.  You create and “us versus them”:  “We are the people who really know.  They don’t understand.  They don’t know.”

LONG:  One thing I would say about Council, they are arguments on the Council.  There were factions on Council that were trying to make the denunciations of torture better, quite heavily, and also who would have liked to see the Moratorium happen at a time when it did not happen.   I’m saying that Council is not completely unitary, that people are working from different positions in all this. 

ARRIGO:  So, Peter, do you know, is there another structure — We would like to make some proposals in the Casebook, suggestions.  So what are the minimal changes you could make in the structure that we have to open it up and make the kinds of problems we’re seeing difficult to occur, as opposed to trivially easy?

SOLDZ:    Let me just say there are two elements.  One is the internal APA structure and the second is the nature of their relationship with the government.

GUMPERT:  Yes, that’s right.

     If you look at Frank Summers paper, in the early days of APA it might really have made sense for APA to do what they did in order to establish a foothold and become a viable organization.  One could argue that.  But that’s no longer necessary.  This is a huge organization, and it really doesn’t need those kinds of ties anymore, in order to continue to be viable —

LONG:  to have influence —

GUMPERT:  Yes, exactly right.  They don’t have to have special influence in government, or in the military, and so on.  It’s an unnecessary thing.  And it’s probably concluded, in part, for the benefit of the inner circle, that likes to be in positions of intimacy with powerful people or powerful organizations.

LONG:  I think we should think, as we’re brainstorming like this, to think of the APA as not simply being so powerful — It’s trying to be powerful.  I think that psychologists have quite a few inferiority feelings and weakness feelings, in regard to psychiatrists, for one thing.

GUMPERT:  Oh, I think that’s right.

LONG:  In terms of money and ability to influence.  And one of the things they’re trying to do is to say that psychologists are as good as anybody else.

GUMPERT:  And better than some.

LONG: And all mental health people are very liable to be put down as sort of “softies” or “crazies”, or whatever.

GUMPERT: Exactly. And that, I think, is what has been behind the medicalization of psychology and psychotherapeutic treatment. They want to be doctors.

LONG: Or they want to be as powerful as doctors. And as scientific as doctors.

GUMPERT: Oh, yes. More so, if possible, right?

ARRIGO:   We’re looking for some hint for what we could ask to be different, either in the internal structure of in the relationship with DoD, CIA, with the security institutions, something practical that we could highlight.

GUMPERT:  I will give that some thought, and I’ll try to write something that’s on the structural side and send that to you in the next few days.  But I must say that I’m not optimistic, that there really is a kind of organizational DNA that is going to be very difficult to change.

DAVIS:  Can I say that I think that the weak spot is the fact that in the last ten, maybe fifteen years, according to the key reports from people in governance, was that the shift that was palpable was from the governance by psychologists who were by either merit or by election — the Ethics Committee was made up from people who actually determined the decisions.  And in the last ten or fifteen years, the paid staff of the APA has taken over.  And the committees become rubber stamps of the paid staff.  So the weak link here, maybe the question is, how do you say that this is a breakdown in the way that it’s supposed to be working, and not make it look like an interpretation but to actually prove that that’s the way it’s going?  If this handful of staff, especially the Director of Ethics and the CEO and some of these ... didn’t determine everything — They’re the gatekeepers, they’re the definers, they’re the deciders, they’re everything.  If they could be challenged and thrown out, and this topsy-turvy arrangement flipped back the way it’s supposed to be in the bylaws, you would break their connection to the CIA and the DoD — Because if you bring someone in whose just an expert in ethics, then they’re not likely to be CIA members.  If it went back to the way it was traditionally, there would be more chance for this marriage between the APA and the CIA to be divorced.

SOLDZ:    I’m not sure I agree with that. 

     But on the structural side, [it has been argued that] one of the key changes was doubling the size of Council, making it unwieldy, so that no real decisions could be made. 185 people is just too big.  When there were like 80 or 90, they could have real discussions and would have more power. 

DAVIS:  And to make a few people totally in power.  Do you agree the paid staff has all the power?

SOLDZ:    Well, I can’t decide whether it’s the staff or maybe it’s the Board.  It’s not clear if the staff is doing their thing or whether the staff is doing what the Board wants.  So I wouldn’t take a position there.

GUMPERT:  One thing the staff does do, Stephen, it seems to me, is to provide continuity, because they probably stay on longer.

SOLDZ:    They seem to represent the same circle, even if they aren’t always the same people.  Military psychology is always strongly represented, and - 

DAVIS:  Forensic psychologists.

DAVIS:  So they may be in tandem, then.

SOLDZ:    [An argument has been made] that the staff were being scapegoated by the Board, that it’s the Board’s policy, and the staff were being used to cover for them.

GUMPERT:  What about the membership on the Board?  Is that a kind of rotating, closed circle?

SOLDZ:    Yes.  You get onto the Finance Committee, and then you get onto the Board.  Either before or after, you a chance at the presidency.  The Finance Committee is another crucial juncture, though.

DAVIS:  But the Science Directorate if very important, and that’s a paid staff position.

SOLDZ:    Obviously the directors are very important, and Bryant may, in some sense, downplay the staff, because he clearly had a policy-making role as Director of the Practice Directorate. 

ARRIGO:  Peter, I wonder whether you could comment on the potential of [APA] committee members who don’t know anything to be exploited.  In the case of the PENS task force, a lot has been made of the six people on our ten-member task force who were in the employ of the military intelligence service.  But our chairperson at that time was the Vice-Chair of an Ethics Committee, not a regular staff member, and unless that person was under deep cover, as far as I could tell, she knew nothing about the matter at hand, zero.  My opinion, just looking at things on the surface, was that this person was much more effective than any of those individual people with ostensible ties to the military in driving us on a course that was very accommodating of the military, and to secrecy on the task force, and to our not being able to produce a casebook, and all of that.  Because this person was the one who opened or closed the door, the one who would say, “Now the discussion is closed,” or “Now we’re going to vote on secrecy,” and on who would speak, and so on. 

GUMPERT:  So this person was a great recruit for that job.  People who brought this person into that must have known this person and brought him or her into that.

ARRIGO:  [This is] a very lovely person.

GUMPERT:  The kind of collusion that you’re talking about is very common, very common on corporate boards.  I’ve been involved with a number of them.  The “newbies” really go along.  Sometimes they take a semi-leadership position in going along. 

LONG:  They want to identify.

GUMPERT:  And they become good group members.  They go along with whatever the norms are of the group.  Sometimes they act as if they are sort of taking leadership in setting those norms.  This story doesn’t surprise me at all.

LONG:  I will also say from my point of view, from having been in many, many different groups with organizational types, that usually most people come into a group not quite knowing what their role is going to be, especially compared to a military group where it’s laid out very clearly what your role is supposed to be.  And some people, while there’s a tendency to go along in the beginning, when you don’t really know what’s what, or you go on further because you really are trying to be the good boy to get the apple from the teacher, there are usually people who do try to grab things creatively and say, “There seems to be a problem here.  Now what can we do about it?”  And I wonder what happens to those people, in APA, for example.  And then the next level is the whistleblower type.  Do you have stories about those people, the creative people who are trying to do it right?  And those who are trying to do it right to the extent of whistle blowing, which is further along.

GUMPERT:  Yes.  I think what it should tell us is how powerful the forces are that moving this whole system in the direction that it’s been going, and how difficult it will be to turn the ship around. 

ARRIGO:  Going back to the PENS task force, because that’s one of the central issues in our Casebook, is there any good reason for appointing a chair who is completely ignorant of the business of the committee?  Ignorant of the topic.  This person was Vice-Chair of an Ethics Committee, so we’re going to say [there was] some expertise in that.


     From my perspective, when you have a sensitive matter like that, it makes sense to appoint someone from outside the organization altogether as the chair.  If you can have members that can come from other organizations, why can’t you have an outside chair?

BENNETT:  But that’s outside of the organization, which doesn’t address Jean Maria’s question of not having any knowledge of the topic at hand.  I’m just saying that you can be outside the organization but still have knowledge of the topic at hand.

GUMPERT:  Right, you can. Maybe you could have co-chairs, someone who is a well-known professional ethicist, with a real home in a different place.

SOLDZ:  They could have if they wanted to have an ethical thing.  What we’re saying is the person that they appointed had no knowledge of the issues.

     I think that there’s just one other element to the whole business that I think is very important.  And I think it plays a role in PENS.  I don’t think we’ve mentioned it enough, which is the ideology.  They created an ideology to justify all this, which is that psychologists keep interrogations “safe, legal, ethical, and effective,” so the chair was able to justify it.  And she bought, and I think a lot of the Council members bought:  this gives psychologists a special role.  It makes them important.  And it’s an ethical role.  And [the catchphrase of that ideology] appears in the first draft of the report, written at lunch that day, right?

ARRIGO:  Yes, because those words were uttered in that first meeting: “Safe, legal, ethical, and effective.”

DAVIS: That was such a mantra that they keep repeating. [That came] from somebody.

SOLDZ:  That appears at least in BSCT documents — I believe it was in January of 2005, somewhere around in there.  It’s been the official ideology for a long time.  But I think that that ideology is part of creating the framework for people to explain all of the revelations. 

ARRIGO:  I want to go back to Peter’s idea of how to structure a committee like this, with having a chair maybe from the outside.  When we were first asked whether we wanted to have any observers in the room, I asked to have Matt Wynia, who is the director of the American Medical Association Ethics Institute.  My suggestion was not even rejected.  Nobody even responded to it. 

     Who would you imagine for an alternative?  An outside negotiator or mediator? What kind of outside institution could you imagine in this case?

GUMPERT:  I would imagine that a really good group leader would be useful as a consultant to the group.  A group leader or an organizational person who can detect groupthink before it gets out of control.  It seems to me that a group like that should be headed by someone who is very well known or as a person of impeccable reputation and who understands the issues much more broadly than any insider would. 

     Even corporations, when they’re not so happy with what’s going on in management, sometimes go hire a CEO or a chairperson who is completely outside the industry.

DAVIS:  For their independence.

GUMPERT:  Yes.  Who has not been sucked into the current belief system of the group.

ARRIGO:  So what’s the idea, that the person has an integrity to maintain?

GUMPERT:  An integrity to maintain and a reference group outside.  They would be willing to call it if people were not considering important things or being co-opted into a particular position.

ARRIGO:  And how would you get such a person?  I mean, if the person were appointed by the APA Board, we would get what we got.


SOLDZ:    It doesn’t seem hard to come up with various things.  If the membership of PENS had been the membership it should have been, it would have had a different result.

ARRIGO:  I have subsequently felt that there should have been a military ethicist available.

GUMPERT:  Oh, that’s interesting.

DAVIS:  But you wouldn’t want to add a seventh military person, no matter what.  The misrepresentation was so huge, you would want to even it out with a more heterogeneous representation.

SOLDZ:    I feel that none of them should have been on there because of conflict of interest.

DAVIS:  Yes, they each had a direct conflict of interest.

ARRIGO:  Yes, but military ethics was not represented.

LONG:  It’s quite extraordinary that they didn’t have a military ethicist, given the terms in which they described the reason for PENS beforehand.  It all sounded very good until — But it was surprising, given what they said they wanted to do, that they didn’t even have the appearance of a military ethicist.

ARRIGO:  Ray, can you imagine how that would play out?

BENNETT:  Well, there’s probably a reason why they didn’t have one.

GUMPERT:  Yes, it seems to me that the conclusion reached by that group was virtually predetermined.

ARRIGO:  And what we want to do is to make some proposal, imagining that there will be future task forces for controversial things.  We would like to make some proposal that would give a better chance of an ethical outcome.

SOLDZ:    But in some sense, if we think it was a rigged deal, you’re taking it too seriously.  The proposal, in the first place, would be not to have it be a rigged deal.

ARRIGO:  The proposal is not to have a rigged deal, and what is it that you can put in place —

GUMPERT:  to make sure it doesn’t —

LONG:  I would say, choosing how the panel is going to be composed, is really dependent on how much of a rigged deal it’s going to be.  Because if it’s really not a rigged deal, then this outside person can be evenhanded between two sets of [overlapping speech]....  Each side takes real pressure then.

[The Casebook team thanks the consultant.  Farewells all around.]

Appendix:  APA – Characteristics and Significant Influences

Peter Gumpert, PhD

Here are some relevant principles I have articulated elsewhere:

1.  Both system factors and leader characteristics—and their interaction—strongly influence the way an organization functions and performs. These factors and characteristics most often operate on an unconscious level, even when some aspects of them are recognized and voiced. If the target group is part of or closely involved with one or more larger systems, salient themes and characteristics of the larger systems often have powerful effects on the functioning of the local group.

2.  The characteristics of the system often have a subtle but powerful influence both on which leaders are chosen, and on their leadership behavior.

3.  The personal characteristics of top leaders, middle managers, and informal leaders influence the way the system functions and can have strong effects on its performance. Furthermore, leaders with certain personality disorders or traits have an especially strong and often negative influence on the way the organization functions.

4.  Systems and leaders can exert forces on the group or organization that are cohesive (tending to bring people together) or alienating/isolating (e.g., tending to move members apart or into opposition). For example, if a large system tends to engender destructive processes of intergroup conflict resolution, members of its subgroups are more likely to be competitive (e.g., mistrustful, deceitful, withholding) with one another.

I found the article by Summers on the history of APA very useful in thinking about the characteristics of APA, and the extent to which it is and has been influenced by DoD.

APA’s history (and perhaps its organizational “DNA”) include the following:

•Long-term close connection with government, much of it secret

•Attempts to maximize the value of psychologists to the nation in matters of national security, etc.

•Belief that government can improve the status, lot, and influence of members of the profession (researchers as well as practitioners)

•Dependence on government to supply funding and strength

•Power and influence of great importance – both for the profession and for the inner circle in APA

•Strong interest in becoming and remaining strong compared with like professions (psychiatry, social work), mainly through the legitimacy conferred by empirical research, and through direct work for the powerful

•Wish to ally with the powerful to enhance own strength – “managed care” and “prescription privilege” are examples

•Hierarchy and status as organizing principles

•Isolation between the “membership” and the “inner circle” – recruits to the inner circle are chosen very carefully to include only those eager to comply.  Others told only what they need to know, and are useful to parts of the inner circle’s goals (such as money and membership numbers), but may be held in contempt or disregarded.

•Elected officials are “temporary party” – the inner circle of the bureaucracy remains beyond any slate of elected officers.

DoD thematic influence over APA probably includes:

•Hierarchy – General Officer v. Officer v. Enlisted classes

•Power over others is important

•Obedience to superiors is critical

•Duty: mission, bravery, and sacrifice to protect the nation and get the job done are highly valued

•Pathological certainty about the “rightness” of the mission – tendency not to question

•Secrecy valued:  classified information and the “need to know” principle

•Use of violence as a primary tool

Thematic influence over APA of the intelligence community must also be considered, since they have become major clients of APA. Some DoD themes would be strengthened in this relationship:

•Duty: mission, bravery, and sacrifice to protect the nation and get the job done

•Secrecy valued:  classified information and the “need to know” principle

The personality characteristics of relevant leaders are unknown to me, but probably play a role.