Consult: Jose Rivas


A Military Intelligence, History, and Psychology Consultation

with Lawrence Rockwood

December 7, 2008

80-minute teleconference

Transcribed by Jean Maria Arrigo

Corrected by Lawrence Rockwood


Teleconference Participants:  Jean Maria Arrigo, Ray Bennett, Martha Davis, Joe Gorin, Jancis Long, Lawrence Rockwood, and Stephen Soldz


Note:  The transcript has been streamlined a bit.


Teleconference Consultation with Lawrence Rockwood on

"Psychological Treatment of an Abu Ghraib Whistle Blower"

ARRIGO:  Let’s start with introductions now.  Captain Rockwood, I think most people [on this call] have read your case narrative on our workshop website, but why don’t you say a few words to reorient us.  Then let’s go in the order Jancis, Martha, Stephen, Joe, and Ray.


ROCKWOOD:  Okay.  Captain Lawrence Rockwood.  I was the officer court-martialed in 1995 for conducting an unauthorized human rights survey of a Haitian prison in September 1994, under the US invasion.  I’ve written a book on just war theory and development, and the relationship between US military doctrine and human rights — I published my PhD dissertation [in history] as a book. [1]  I am also used as an international expert on military doctrine and torture.  I am currently working as a nurse in a PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] psychiatric unit at the VA [Veterans Administration] in Tacoma, Washington.


ARRIGO:  This is very special for us to have somebody who’s taken this kind of anti-torture role in the military, plus is in the field of psychology, plus is a military historian.  Three consults in one.

LONG:  I’m Jancis Long.  I’m a clinical psychologist.  I’m currently president of Psychologists for Social Responsibility.  And I am very interested, not only in the torture issue, but also in doing harm in one’s professional work. 


DAVIS:  Martha Davis.  I’m a clinical and research psychologist and did research on interviews of all different types.  But mostly what brings me to this table is my research on criminal confessions and my involvement with the protests of the APA (American Psychological Association) endorsement of detainee-interrogation psychologists.  Recently I’ve finished a documentary called Interrogation Psychologists, which is now available on the internet.[2]

SOLDZ:  I’m Stephen Soldz.  I’m a clinical psychologist in Boston, although I actually spend more time doing research and teaching these days.  I’ve been very active in the movement to get psychologists out of the interrogations business [].  I’ve done extensive writing on that.


GORIN:  Joe Gorin.  I’m a clinical and neuropsychologist.  I do a lot of work with survivors of torture and all kinds of abuse, which is a lot of what got me interested in this.


BENNETT:  Ray Bennett, Interrogator Emeritus from the United States Army, retired as a CW4 [Chief Warrant Officer 4] in 2006.  I’m generally here for comic relief and to throw off the Bell curve and to be the subject-matter expert on interrogation policy of the army.


ARRIGO:  Captain Rockwood, what we usually do is to carry on on our topic until 15 or 20 minutes before the end.  Then I check in with everybody to see if they have last questions of you or comments.

     Our first business, I think, is to look at the Sam Provance case.  We’re interested, in all of this, how psychologists, one way or another, have been involved in the interrogation problem.  We’ve had to go pretty far institutionally from the interrogation setting to get a handle on this.  Our concern with Sam Provance was, when he was sent to Germany how he was treated as a whistle blower.  I wonder if you could give us any insight into that.


ROCKWOOD:  I think one thing that is critical in his case, it appears that he was directed against his will into psychotherapy.  Of course, in the military, in sensitive areas of government service, this is always an administrative problem for an individual.  In the military, most everyone needs to maintain a clearance, if they’re in sensitive positions, and also have clearances reinstated.  And those individuals have to address the problem of filling out a security questionnaire saying, "Are you under a psychiatrist’s treatment?"  So there’s always that administrative concern.  You can have a top secret clearance, probably, with a treatment background, but it’s certainly an issue.  If it’s tied to other issues, that could cause an administrative problem.

     And the second issue with him, of course, is that he accepted an Article 15, which soldiers are often coerced into accepting.  I was a counselor in the army before I was a counterintelligence officer.  I always counseled soldiers who were not guilty not to sign an Article 15, but it’s very difficult for soldiers to resist that pressure.


ARRIGO:  Could you explain that more, an Article 15?


BENNETT:  Before you do that, Lawrence, if I could just make a point of order on the first issue, where you said Sam Provance had been forced into psychiatric treatment, as I remember Sam’s own narrative, it was a self-referral because of all the pressures he was feeling.  Now the other points that you made about how being under a psychologist’s or a psychiatrist’s care can adversely affect your military career are, of course, true, and security clearances, etcetera, etcetera.  But the initial going to the mental health clinic was a voluntary self-referral.


ROCKWOOD:  Okay.  Thanks for that clarification.


BENNETT:  No problem.


ARRIGO:  We were concerned there that what he was looking for was private counseling from a psychologist.  He wanted to understand what he was going through.  Their idea was to drug him up—he had to take drugs for it [but actually refused] — and they put him in a group with Vietnam veterans who didn’t have much patience for a whistleblower.


BENNETT:  Absolutely.


LONG:  Could you explain what Article 15 is?


ROCKWOOD:  Article 15 is called nonjudicial punishment.  It’s an administrative action that is offered to a soldier who is being considered for a court martial, which is a judicial action.  An Article 15, in reality, is not technically a statement of guilt.  Administratively it’s really a statement of guilt.  A soldier is liable to punishment, to having his career ended.  Soldiers usually sign an Article 15 [because] the penalty is less than that they could receive at a court martial.  That’s a coercive element that soldiers face when they have to make the decision whether to voluntarily sign this administrative action.


DAVIS:  Do you agree with the comment that the estimate of the court martial decisions is 90% in the army’s favor, so that, when faced with the prospect of a court martial, it’s like being faced with a death penalty anyway?  As I remember, there was a 90% rate of the army getting the decision it wanted.  So when you counseled people not to do it, were you talking with them in the context of 90% convictions, so to speak?


ROCKWOOD:  Was the 90% number you’re talking about across the board for Article 15s and court martials?


DAVIS:  I don’t know what that meant.  I remember the 90%, but I don’t know 90% of what.  It just seems it was pretty compelling, like saying to somebody, "If you don’t do this you’re going to get the death penalty."  Am I exaggerating the 90%?


ROCKWOOD:  I would have guessed it was higher in court martials.  You have to take into account that, of soldiers offered court martials, how many of those are offered in a sensitive situation, like how many times they’re offered when a person truly knows he’s guilty.  It makes a lot of sense [not] to put yourself under the greater penalty of a court martial.


DAVIS:  So in his case, he was ill advised to do it.  And his case is so special, you think he would have had a fairly decent chance in a court martial situation?


ROCKWOOD:  As far as appellate actions, you can appeal an Article 15, but the statistic for successful appeals is almost nil.  You’re appellate recourse in a judicial action is always greater.


GORIN:  An Article 15, if I understand right, is something you voluntarily, in theory, accept.  Is that right?



      In my situation, I was offered an Article 15, and I refused to accept it.  I chose to take the court martial action.


ARRIGO:  Could we maybe go back to the therapy issue?  You’re actually treating people for PTSD now, in that kind of setting?




ARRIGO:  Is there individual therapy given, or why would he automatically be assigned to a group that was hostile?


ROCKWOOD:  Well, I don’t know whether there was intent to assign him to such a group.  Of course, both in the military and in the VA, we do have a high patient ratio.  Using group therapy assists you in handling higher numbers.  Where I work, everyone who is admitted on the ward is encouraged to attend group sessions as well as individual sessions.  Where I’m working, I think it’s a much less derogatory setting to deal with PTSD.  It’s not negatively looked up by the coordinators from the program where I’m working now, as for soldiers while they’re still in the military. 


SOLDZ:  Is yours an inpatient unit?


ROCKWOOD:  Yes, it’s an inpatient unit.


SOLDZ:  Provance was treated as an outpatient at that point.




ARRIGO:  We’re concerned about army psychologists putting a whistle blower into a group therapy situation.


ROCKWOOD:  Knowing my situation, my command sent me to a psychiatrist, trying to marginalize my credibility.  I think that if I were placed in that type of a group setting in the installation where I was court martialed, I would pretty much expect it would be a hostile, non-supportive situation.


ARRIGO:  Is this something that the psychologist would reasonably be expected to be aware of?  Or are people making these assignments without this awareness?


ROCKWOOD:  That’s a hard question to ask.  I try to put myself in the situation.  If I were his counselor, would I have recommended him to go into a group?  I guess that would depend on my knowledge of the group he’s going into.  There are so many things that are intangible, that would be involved in someone’s decision to put him in a group.  Certainly, if someone was hostile to him, they could put him in a group for illegitimate rather than legitimate reasons.


ARRIGO:  Well, the psychologists were there as the hostility unfolded, and didn’t do anything [to relieve it] according to Sam, just sat back.  I don’t know how much scope of action the psychologists have.


[A teleconference line is dropped.]


DAVIS:  My impression was that the group psychologist himself was so passive.  I don’t know whether you’re asking the question, Jean Maria, whether that was hostile passivity, but he sounded like a terrible group therapist.  He was just letting them go at each other and not doing anything in the sessions.  So he had to get out of those sessions because the guy wasn’t competent, on top of everything.


SOLDZ:  That was certainly the sense that Sam portrayed.  Also, keep in mind, a lot of the hostility he described was not around the whistle blowing.  Some was, but there a lot of other issues, hostility around his not taking drugs.


ROCKWOOD:  Lawrence Rockwood [re-enters the conference call].


GORIN:  Hostility around what?


ARRIGO:  His not taking drugs and the other people taking drugs.


LONG:  Or medications.


ARRIGO:  They were telling him it wasn’t a serious case if weren’t on medication.

      Well, maybe this is an imponderable, so let’s go onto the second thing for now.  One thing that was really interesting to me from your account of your earlier work as a mental health counselor, Captain Rockwood, was the power that you had, even with the small amount of training you had at that time.  And you said that people with even less training were making big decisions about officers’ careers.


ROCKWOOD:  I became a counselor in the late 1970s.  During the Vietnam era, to be a mental health counselor, basically people had a degree.  During the period I joined the military, people just had to have a high school education.  I was in a responsible position where a psychiatrist was deferring to my decisions and judgment, whether someone should remain in the military or be separated from the military, making decisions that affected people at a much greater rank than I had.  For my rank and experience, my position gave me a lot of authority for someone with that little background.


SOLDZ:  How much experience did you have at that point?


ROCKWOOD:  When I joined the military, I just a high school education.  I got a degree in psychology while I was a counselor.  While I was a counselor I was getting a degree.  My experience was my military training, which was, in total, about eight months long.


LONG:  Did you get specific training as a counselor?


ROCKWOOD: Yes.  You first received three months’ training as an army medic.  Then you received an additional six months’ training for, at that time, what was called a Behavior Science Specialist.


DAVIS:  Why do they call it "Behavior Science Specialist"?  Do you know?  That term keeps coming up in different contexts, and it’s such a puzzle to me. 


ROCKWOOD:  Well, there were two MOSs [Military Occupational Specialties].  There was also a Psychiatric Specialist for people who worked inpatient.  The Behavior Science Specialist worked more in an outpatient setting.  They worked in a mental health section of a division.  You had a clinical psychologist and a social worker in a division under a psychiatrist, and you’d probably have about seven or eight counselors under them.


DAVIS:  But when you had to decide whether somebody was suicidal and should be hospitalized, that would be comparable to somebody who was like a police officer or a teacher on the outside who sees that somebody’s in stress and refers them to a psychiatrist for a complete evaluation about that.  Is that correct?


ROCKWOOD:  I would do a suicide evaluation, and usually I would have to consult with a psychiatrist, for a psychiatric referral if he needed to be hospitalized, which, in my situation, was automatic.  I never had a psychiatrist say, "No, I disagree with your finding." 

     Of course, in the military I had more options than most counselors.  I could put someone who was slightly suicidal — I could put them under guard in their barracks.  You could not do that to a civilian.  So you had more options in dealing with clients than a normal counselor working in a civilian clinic would.


ARRIGO:  Could you do this on your own authority, or did the psychiatrist have to sign off on everything?


ROCKWOOD:  The psychiatrist would have to sign off if I was sending someone to a hospital.  I would have to get a confirmation from the psychiatrist.


GORIN:  What if you were making a decision about somebody’s career, a fitness to be in the service.  Did you need the psychiatrist to sign off on that?


ROCKWOOD:  No.  I would send that document to the individual’s commander.  It would not necessarily, during my time, have to be signed off by an officer [the psychiatrist].  I could send the evaluation through the commander with my recommendation whether this person is worth the investment to keep him in the military, or whether he would be better served as a civilian being treated by the VA.


ARRIGO:  How do you feel about the competence of people doing this at your rank?  Possibly you folks were better than PhDs in clinical psychology.  I don’t know.  But how do you look at it now?


ROCKWOOD:  I haven’t worked as a Behavior Science Specialist in a number of decades.  What I have heard is that now for counselors the amount of training of the average Behavior Science Specialist, I think it’s probably higher now than in my time.  I don’t think they’re required to have a bachelor’s degree. 

     The army was the only service that had someone with my rank making those decisions.  In the air force and the navy people became counselors after they had been in the military and they had more rank.  They were usually starting as junior noncommissioned officers.  They weren’t enlisted men.  The army was unique that they put enlisted men making that decision whether a master sergeant should remain in the military or not, or recognize him for separation.


ARRIGO:  One of the things that has surprised me in all of these revelations about BSCT [Behavioral Science Consultation Team] psychologists is that we don’t seem to hear anything about their subordinates, in enlisted ranks.  Do you have any speculations about that?


ROCKWOOD:  Yes.  I think one of the things you’re looking at if you’re a clinical psychologist in the army — and, I think, to a certain degree in the other services also — you’re a specialist on a team.  A division would have a psychiatrist, a clinical psychologist, and a social worker.  They’d be located maybe at different place with different people under them, but they were part of an interdisciplinary team that was headed by a psychiatrist..  [Still headed by a psychiatrist? I think so.]  Except for the psychiatrists that are attached to a medical command — those not mainly in the out-patient situation — I think many of them find themselves in that situation.  Being a clinical psychologist, you’re just one component of the behavioral specialist section. 


ARRIGO:  But what about their subordinates?  Why don’t we hear about them?


ROCKWOOD:  I think for the same reason that when you watch a TV show about doctors you don’t see any nurses.  [laughter]  A lot of the work that’s done is done by subordinates. 

     I was amazed, when I was a counselor, how much was just deferred to us, as far as decision making on individual — Officially, you know, if you read how things are supposed to be, of course, people were technically under the treatment of a clinical psychologist or a psychiatrist when they’re seeing a counselor.  But in reality the decision is being made by a subordinate. 


ARRIGO:  We don’t hear about any of these at Guantanamo Bay, for example.


DAVIS:  We do hear there were what I call "psych techs," assistants to the psychologists and psychiatrists who would do things like making daily mental status trips around to the cells.  And they’d go through this little ritual, "Did you sleep well?  Did you — "


SOLDZ:  Those psych techs are part of the mental health department, not the BSCTS. 


DAVIS:  Right.  We don’t hear that the BSCTs had them.


SOLDZ:  They definitely had these — In the original plan a BSCT had a psychiatrist, a psychologist, and two mental health assistants — I forgot what their exact —


DAVIS:  The mental health assistants would be equivalent to the Captain’s —


SOLDZ:  Or something like that, yes.  They had to be of some professional classification of that nature.  I don’t have the exact term in front of me. 

      So these folks existed, but Jean Maria’s absolutely right, I’ve never seen a single mention anywhere.


DAVIS:  So the only description we’ve heard of their behavior is the descriptions of those who were serving in the medical services, checking the detainees’ mental status.


ARRIGO:  Captain Rockwood, we’re concerned about a psychologist being used to discredit dissidents —


ROCKWOOD:  Right. —


ARRIGO:  And you were the target of this, too.  But when you were a Mental Health Counselor, did you or any of your co-workers at that level, were you ever drawn into something like that?


ROCKWOOD:  When I was with clientele, I was always very careful what I told them when they voluntarily were seeking treatment, that confidentiality was very, very limited, and there is no guarantee anywhere that seeking mental health treatment doesn’t have possible negative consequences.  I think that’s true not just in the military.  That’s also true society-wide.  But it’s much more true in the military.

     Of course, in my situation, I knew very much the example of another counterintelligence officer who was discredited because he was under psychiatric treatment.  That was the case of Maj. Eric Buckland.[3]  He was the counterintelligence officer who reported overhearing the Salvadorans admitting at a function that they had carried out the murder of the Jesuits, in 1989, I believe.  I was aware of his case.  The fact that he was under psychiatric care was used to discredit him.  He’s a person who hasn’t done anything to come public.  I think he’s almost disappeared to history.  He’s someone who was under psychiatric treatment.  I think the person deserves extremely high honor for what he did.  He initiated the process of a revolution and the coming down of a dictator’s government, forcing the military down there to accept elections.  He was a person who I think was relativized [marginalized] because he was under psychiatric treatment.


ARRIGO:  You said he was under psychiatric treatment at the time, but it wasn’t as though he were put under treatment or sent for diagnosis, as you were, because he had been a dissident.


ROCKWOOD:  The most information you can find on him is a UN document on the truth commission that was published in ’92, at the time that the Salvadoran officers were being court martialed.  It doesn’t address his being under treatment.  But working at WHINSEC [Western Hemisphere Institute of Security Cooperation), you know, the old School of the Americas, people who knew of him, the first thing out of their mouth, they would say, "Oh, yeah, he had mental health problems, after he had reported what he had reported.


DAVIS:  You mean he was successfully discredited.


ROCKWOOD:  He was successfully discredited. 


LONG:  Captain Rockwood, I would be interested, when you were being trained to be a counselor, what kind of rules were given, (1) in terms of ethics, whether there were any kinds of things that were supposed to be confidential or whatever it was, in terms of the people you were counseling, and (2) what you told about whether and when you should report things from your patients that you heard.


ROCKWOOD:  Yes, I was trained that I could never tell a patient that there’s absolute confidentiality.  I would have to explain to the patient the types of things I would have to report, which is:  suicidal intent, homicidal intent, and the inability to function in his military position.  Those are areas where his command has the need to know.


ARRIGO:  What about sexual improprieties?  Did you have to report them?


ROCKWOOD: Not while I was a counselor.

     I did have a situation when I was a counterintelligence officer, I was a special security officer, and I had a soldier who had an ethical situation that they wanted to seek counseling from a minister.  I set up a top-secret counseling session for that soldier.  That soldier’s commander relieved her from her duties [see Rockwood's oral history] because she requested that assistance.  She didn’t request seeing a psychiatrist.  She requested seeing a priest.  Taking that action against her was very improper, because you want soldiers to seek assistance.  And the assistance was provided in a top-secret manner.  I set up, basically, a top-secret confession on encoded lines with the priest of a national security agency.  For months I was very much involved in trying to get her out of that situation and back into her job.


DAVIS:  Did it work?


ROCKWOOD:  I was successful, but the soldier was finally disaffected and did not remain in the military.


DAVIS:  By personal choice?


ROCKWOOD:  I finally got her reinstated after a number of months.  She felt her working conditions were untenable.  She felt that people didn’t trust her.  When it came time for her to reenlist, she decided not to reenlist.  If she did not have that experience, I can’t guarantee that she would have reenlisted. But most of the people at that time in her MOS, 85% or 90% reenlisted.  The bonus was so lucratively high for her specialty.


ARRIGO:  What would commanders be looking for from a psychologist if they were going to disqualify somebody, to say they were not functional in their job?  What would the psychologist tell him that would give him that purchase on it?


ROCKWOOD:  Part of the process if a person getting a diagnosis under the DSM IV [Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV].  That’s what would impact a soldier. 

      In my situation, my command was very, very eager for an evaluation of me to show that I acted out of emotional pressure.  My emotional health was in question.  It wasn’t just a Soviet-type — There’s probably good and bad intent.  The good intent is, if a soldier is given a diagnosis, you don’t really have to proceed against him.  In many cases that strongly, as far as punitive action, because you’re taking administrative actions that are usually nonjudicial.  It can be other motivations besides malice. 

      I think, in my situation, they wanted me discredited, and they were extremely disturbed when the psychiatrist refused to go along with that.


SOLDZ:  Did they exert any pressure on the psychiatrist to come up with the correct conclusion that they wanted?


ROCKWOOD:  I think they could.  It my case, the psychiatrist who evaluated me, and completely cleared me, was not directly in our command.  He was in a [unintelligible] command.  I saw a second psychiatrist who was extremely hostile, who was under the command of the general officer who was my court martial convening authority.  I think there is command pressure.  What’s considered provable command influence in the military is really ridiculous in the military.  Basically, to prove command influence, someone has to overhear a general telling a subordinate to something inappropriate.  A wink isn’t good enough.  The superior has to be blatantly idiotic to do something that would be verifiable command influence.

     So I think there is definitely command influence, especially if the psychologist is in the command of the officer that wants to take that kind of action against a soldier.


SOLDZ:  How strong is that command influence?  What could be done if the psychiatrist or psychologist wasn’t easily following the directions?


ROCKWOOD:  Well, in the military you’re rated by your superior and you’re rated by the superior of the officer rating you.  So, in many cases, if you’re — In the situation where I worked, where the people were under a division, if you were a clinical psychologist you worked for the division psychiatrist, who’s your rater, the commanding general would be your senior rater.  Depending on how competitive your career field is — When I was in the military, to get promoted, you had to walk on water.  If someone said, "He walks on water but he gets his feet wet," that meant, "Throw the guy out of the military."  You would look at the report and say, "This guy walks on water."  But administratively people know that if it’s under that super-glowing rate, that person doesn’t have a career anymore.  The person’s really in a bind because technically the report can look wonderful, but it can be a career-ending evaluation, without anything derogatory mentioned in the report.


DAVIS:  What was the cue or the message that said this is a career-ending evaluation? 


ROCKWOOD:  In an evaluation, every phrase has another meaning.  Commanders don’t have to put down something derogatory in a report to end a subordinate’s career.


DAVIS:  But you need to know how to decode it?  To a layman it would sound very positive.


ROCKWOOD:  Right.  Exactly.  To a layman it would sound very positive.  But someone in the personnel system and at the level of command that decides who gets promoted and who doesn’t, they can see, "Yes, this commander is not that enthusiastic about this individual because he didn’t include this phrase, so we know this commander is not [unintelligible] this individual.


ARRIGO:  When would somebody who was sent to a psychologist get somebody in the same command, and when would he get one in a different command?


ROCKWOOD:  That would depend on the command structure.  In Gitmo [Guantanamo Bay] I’m not positive about the command structure.  The individuals involved in interrogations were not in the MEDDAC [US Army Medical Department Activity], is that correct? 


DAVIS:  Not in the medical, no.


SOLDZ:  In the later stages at least, the head of the BSCTs reported directly to the commander of Gitmo.


ROCKWOOD:  So they would have been under that command influence undoubtedly.  If they were in a MEDDAC and the commander was not in that MEDDAC, of course, they have a little bit more independence from an adverse evaluation from that command.


ARRIGO:  Could you request that a psychologist not under the same command do the evaluation?


ROCKWOOD:  I don’t know about that.  That never came up.  In my situation, I was lucky.  My major evaluation was done by an officer not in the command, which was good.  Even though I knew every answer to not appear that I needed to be given a DSM IV diagnosis, if I was evaluated by the psychiatrist that was in my command, I think I probably would have received a DSM IV diagnosis, maybe just II, which is code word for derogatory diagnoses.


ARRIGO:  One of the things that we’re looking for in this casebook is to be able to make recommendations about institutional procedures or arrangements that will lead to fairer and better outcomes.  Suppose we said that people should always be able to have a psychological or psychiatric evaluation by a health professional outside of their command.  Could this run in the military?


ROCKWOOD:  Yes.  That could be.  I’m not sure that there isn’t a precedent of doing that.  I was never aware of a precedent of doing that.  But that would be difficult to do. 


GORIN:  Well, how does the chain of command work?  Aren’t the medical people under the medical chain of command?


ROCKWOOD:  No.  I think, in the situation we were talking about, these people could be senior-rated by someone that is not medical.  They would be senior-rated by someone in a forces command billet.  The division psychiatrist is rated directly by the division commander, which is a two-star general.  The clinical psychologist would be rated by the psychiatrist and senior rated by the commanding general, if he’s in that garrison forces command and not in the MEDDAC.


DAVIS:  Guantanamo would be on that model?


ROCKWOOD:  Right.  The psychologists that were dealing with the interrogations were not under the MEDDAC command.


SOLDZ:  Yes, the interrogations definitely were not.


DAVIS:  But it looks like in Guantanamo the medical services was under the commanding officer, of course.  Maybe the senior eval would be under that but the — They both were under the commanding officer, but the psychologist who was a BSCT was directly under the commanding officer.


ROCKWOOD:   Right.  The person who is in the MEDDAC, the general rank officer is also in the MEDDAC.  So that senior rater is probably not down at Gitmo at all.  He’s probably at whatever base the MEDDAC command is.  Maybe it’s his senior rater is at Walter Reed [Army Hospital, Washington, DC] that’s the commander at Walter Reed or another army MEDDAC.  They’re not rated directly, that’s outside of that MEDDAC command, all the way up to the two- or three-star general level.

     Now, of course, there’s no guarantee.  You could be at a MEDDAC and you could get a transfer six months later and you’re working for the guy that you didn’t give him what he wanted.  You’re not in the MEDDAC anymore and this guy’s your boss because you’ve been transferred, and that’s another aspect of command influence.  But it’s not as direct.


SOLDZ:  We have circumstantial evidence of some type of influence.  The command influence is more indirect in that, at least as far as reports go, we have no reports of any of the mental health staff at Guantanamo reporting any abuses.  Apparently, rather systematically they avoided giving diagnoses like PTSD.  Half the detainees there are given Axis II diagnoses [i.e. developmental and personality disorders].  A clinical psychologist who served there presented a very nice little table:  there’s no PTSD at Guantanamo. 


ROCKWOOD:  I think it's probably more severe at Guantanamo.  But I think there’s also an aspect of that that’s military-wide.  Soldiers that should be getting a PTSD diagnosis are getting an Axis II diagnosis.  With the detainees, that situation seems to be more severe, by what you’re saying.


SOLDZ: Independent evaluations from released detainees have found near-universal PTSD symptomatology.


ARRIGO:  So our question is about how it is the psychologist who’s deployed there would come up with these false diagnoses.


ROCKWOOD:  One of the things we’re talking about is setting in place how someone outside that chain of command review an Axis II diagnosis so that there would be another step of review for Axis II diagnoses.


ARRIGO:  Do all of the psychologists just fold?  I mean, can you expect a psychologist in a position like that to absolutely go along with the command? 

     Some people have said to us that psychologists would be selected into those situations who were willing to go along, as opposed to just the pressure being so strong.


ROCKWOOD:  In all assignments, you have a situation in which some people volunteer for an assignment, and some people are involuntarily directed, not volunteering.  What level of people were being assigned based on them volunteering for positions rather than being directed?  But I would think, if most of the ones that are there have volunteered for the position, I would think you would have a different command environment than if you had people that don’t have that in common, that they’re volunteering to do this kind of thing.


ARRIGO:  Stephen, or does anybody know whether they volunteered or not?


SOLDZ:  Don’t know—


LONG:  Whether they volunteered to be at Guantanamo?


SOLDZ:  At Guantanamo, the only account we have is Larry James in his book [Fixing Hell],[4] who claims that —  I forget how [Major John Francis] Leso ended up there from Walter Reed.  Then it was the responsibility of other Walter Reed departments to replace him.  Whether that’s the case, or there may be some other factor which he’s hiding that went on, there seems to have been a very strong Walter Reed connection to there. 


DAVIS:  We know from [army veteran counterintelligence operative] David DeBatto that — this is a general comment he made — that to get promoted you have to go to battlefield operations, and Guantanamo counted as that.  So you have incentive to go.


ROCKWOOD:  That’s a very good point.  Just because someone’s volunteering, I wouldn’t want to say they’re going down there because they want to rough up a detainee.  There’s certainly other motivations that could be responsible for the person volunteering.  That’s very true.


DAVIS:  But there might be processes which would self-select or select out those who might be more independent thinking.  The fact that you want to have a promotion so you go to a place like that doesn’t — You could probably be very cooperative, right?  Because you know that your whole career is depending on your performance.


ROCKWOOD:  And I also believe that, to accept that assignment, they have to have a top-secret compartmentalized clearance.  That’s also a factor.  I would think most clinical psychologists don’t have — They might have a top secret clearance, but they don’t have this specialized top-secret compartmentalized-information-type clearance.


ARRIGO:  What does it take to get that?


ROCKWOOD:  It takes a very thorough, thorough background [check].  Chances are, if you pass the background, it’s far easier if you’re someone who don’t have a psychiatric background, if you’re someone, basically who’s — I hate to say it — conservative. 

     When I got my top secret clearance I had to write a three-page report on what the National Organization of Women (NOW) was. If someone was in the NRA [National Rifle Association], they didn’t have to write three pages explaining what this organization called the NRA is.  But if it’s something that is outside the conservative world view, it’s more scrutinized.  Unfortunately, social engineering is still part of getting those top clearances.


DAVIS:  You were supporting NOW so you had to explain that?


ROCKWOOD:  Yes.  I joined NOW for a very brief period of time, but you had to explain all your affiliations with nongovernmental organizations.


DAVIS:  I see!


ARRIGO:  What kinds of things would keep people out?


ROCKWOOD:  Well, one of the things, I was a practicing Buddhist.  And I was told by people doing my clearance:  "You know, we’d love to cross you off because you are a Buddhist, but we can’t because there was a colonel somewhere in the army that was a Satanist.  He had a clearance."  The background checkers actually said that to me:  "We’d love to be able to scratch you out just for being a Buddhist."  But I got my clearance anyway.


ARRIGO:  What other kinds of things?  Apart from belief, actual behavior?  Drunk driving tickets?  Having an affair?  Being a folk dancer?  [Laughter]  What would it take? 


SOLDZ:  No folk dancers!


ROCKWOOD:  No folk dancers!  DWIs [driving while intoxicated] we could work with.  But folkdancing, I don’t know about.


GORIN:  Too much!


SOLDZ:  How long does the process take?


ROCKWOOD:  When I received mine, it took a year.


SOLDZ:  Because that raises an interesting question.  The BSCTs that we know of were clinicians.  And this stuff happened quickly.  John Leso was a junior clinical psychologist at Walter Reed.  How in the world did he get the security clearance?  Why did Larry James have one? 


ROCKWOOD:  You can get a temporary one.  They conduct the thing real fast.  In time of war, I’m sure they get a temporary one.  If you’re granted a temporary one, you don’t want to not be able to get the end clearance.  I think the process is speeded up in time of war.  So I would guess that these people could get a temporary clearance in a month of two, rather than a year.  If you were in the position that your job required you to have that clearance, you don’t want, half way through the job, to be relieved of that job because your clearance was not able to be finalized.  That would look very derogatory on your record.


SOLDZ:  Yes.  That would be great pressure in itself.


ROCKWOOD:  So I think that is a career pressure, the existence of high-level clearances like that are very much a nondirect means of command influence people are very much concerned about. 

     Once I had a top secret clearance I stopped joining things.  I didn’t want to write three pages of explanation about what something was.  You change your life because you know what’s on the background investigation form.  You run your life so you don’t have those affirmative answers that make your life more complicated.


LONG:  How often do people with the top level secret clearance have to be reevaluated?


ROCKWOOD:  It might have changed.  In my time it was three years.  It might have been changed to five.  I think it was three.


BENNETT:  Five years.  It’s a periodic review, and it’s every five years.


ARRIGO:  I need to call time here for last questions.  We need to be sort of brief.  Let’s go in this order:  Joe Gorin, Ray Bennett, Jancis, Stephen, Martha, and me.


GORIN:  I’m sort of awe-struck — I don’t know if that’s the right word — at this business about very junior officers having all this power in people’s lives.  How do you understand that now as you look back at it?


ROCKWOOD:  They have a lot of faith in very young soldiers doing a fairly decent job.  I think that in the army you find that more than in the other services.  I don’t know if this is true today.  But I always found it amazing that when I was in my teens I could have such authority over people’s lives who had so much more rank than me.  I’m a rank of E-3 (private first class), and I’m really judging whether an E-8 or E-7 (senior sergeant) has career potential.  I think if I was the E-7 I wouldn’t be very happy with that situation.


GORIN:  Is it still the case?


ROCKWOOD:  I don’t know to what degree it’s still the case for army counselors.  That’d be a very good question to know what would be the training of the Behavioral Science Specialist, if they’re still called that.  What is the background?  What is the average training of these soldiers?




BENNETT:  No questions from Ray.  Thank you for the consult though, Captain Rockwood.


ROCKWOOD:  Thank you.


ARRIGO:  Jancis?


LONG:  I would like to ask you, where in your career, from any piece that you’ve told us about, have officers or people in the command, or psychologists above you, been interested, or talked at all, about soldiers harming other soldiers.  I presume many of the people you’ve counseled have been damaged by others, or they may tell you about victimizing others.  And I just wondered, what is the ethic there?  What is the culture about that?


[long pause]


BENNETT:  We lost him earlier, briefly.  He may be right back on.


ARRIGO:  Oh, you heard that we lost him before?




DAVIS:  At what point did we lose him?


BENNETT:  It was about 15 minutes in.


ROCKWOOD:  This is me.  I got cut off again.  My cell phone is not acting well.  I’m sorry.


ARRIGO:  Did you get Jancis’ question?


ROCKWOOD:  Could you say it again?


LONG:  I would just like to ask, when, in any part of your army experience, did anybody in your chain of command or whatever worry about soldiers victimizing or being victimized by other soldiers?  And what were you supposed to do about the evidence, either that they were hurting other soldiers or bullying them or sexually inappropriate, or being victimized?


ROCKWOOD:  I was told, if the soldier’s being subjected to something that’s illegal, that is something I would report to the command.  But if the command is the problem, of course, it’s another matter.  That would be something I would take up with my superiors.  But it’s very difficult to find a way to deal with a soldier without going to the command in most cases.  So if the problem is the command, that’s the situation you find yourself in.  You don’t have a lot of options not to deal with that commander who might be the problem.


LONG:  You’re saying you would be supposed to deal with that commander?


ROCKWOOD:  Right.  It’s very difficult not to be able to refer the situation to the commander of the soldier.


ARRIGO:  Stephen?


SOLDZ:  This is a biggie, so it may be too big for this, in some sense.  What could be done to increase the likelihood of whistle blowing within the military?


ROCKWOOD:  I think the most important thing is not to have these people disappear, that these people’s stories get placed down.  One of things, it’s difficult when you’re defending someone from whistle blowing, is, whether someone gets promoted or not is not something that happens immediately.  Promotions are delayed.  Even if you’re able to look — who’s being promoted, who’s not being promoted, are whistle blowers being promoted? — that’s problematic because that person may not be promoted for a couple of years, or by the time he’s been promoted he might have been on promotion status for a couple of years.  There’s that time delay that’s a problem in protecting whistle blowers.

     Probably the best way to defend whistle blowers is, I think, people should put them in for an award, for the main purpose of documenting the situation.  You don’t have to be in the military to put someone in for an award.  And awards happen much faster than promotions, and, of course, soldiers can use awards to justify their promotions.


LONG:  You mean army awards, military awards?


ROCKWOOD:  Military awards.  Someone outside the military can put someone in for a military award.  When I was thinking about what we can do for someone like Sergeant Provance, I think that would probably be more effective than people just writing letters to congressmen.  If people were writing letters to congressmen saying, give this guy a soldier’s medal, they might be put down to a Legion of Merit or a Meritorious Service Medal, but just to have that in the works kind of puts the military in a situation where they have to acknowledge what’s going on with the soldier.


SOLDZ:  How does an award get given?


ROCKWOOD:  The award usually is given by different levels of command.  The higher the command, the higher the award to be put in.  That’s when the people putting the soldier in for the award are in the military.  But in the case of Hugh Thompson, the soldier who was the hero at My Lai, who tried to stop the massacre at My Lai, the army only really acknowledged what happened at My Lai when a civilian professor put him in for an award.  And in that soldier’s medal narrative, it put down that he had threatened a superior officer to be shot if they didn’t stop the massacre.  That soldier’s medal action is really the only additional US documentation of what went on an My Lai.  Because I am aware of that case with Hugh Thompson, that’s why I think about that as one recourse to help someone like Sergeant Provance, who I think definitely needs to be put in for a very senior award.


SOLDZ:  What keeps the military from just completely ignoring that?


ROCKWOOD:  Because it’s harder.  I believe that how people outside the military do that, they put that in a request, they petition their congressman or their senator.  So that’s bringing in the information from outside the command from on high.  The commander can’t make it go away because it’s coming from a congressional office.  It’s being forwarded to the command by going through a congressional office, that will send it to the Department of the Army, then it will be coming down the chain, instead of the award going up the chain.


ARRIGO:  Now what if the person is already out of the military like Provance?


ROCKWOOD:  In a situation like with Hugh Thompson, he was out of the military about — Let’s see.  He got his award in ’98.  So it was 20 years after, at least 15 years after he left the military that he got the soldiers medal.


SOLDZ:  What is the etiquette here?  Is it any congressman or senator, or is it supposed to be that person’s congressman or senator?


ROCKWOOD:  It would probably be more effective, get the congressman’s attention more if it’s that soldier’s congressman, or that soldier’s senator.  The main thing when you write a congressman, how do you get noticed by the congressman?  It’s not physically possible for them to read every petition, every letter they get.


DAVIS:  Can groups that are outside of that [state] petition the congressman to try the award for Provance or someone?  Could our group push to get an award?


ROCKWOOD:  Yes, you could!  I think any U.S. citizen can do that.  That was the case with Hugh Thompson.  And I think another thing with Provance, that helps him, you can do a wiki on a person.  There’s a wiki on him.  And if people would allow that— If you’ve got a wiki on someone, the military doesn’t have control over the Wikipedia situation. 


[Discussion of Wikipedia Encyclopedia for those unfamiliar with the free, publicly-produced, online encyclopedia at]


ROCKWOOD:  There’s one on Provance.  I’m very interested in writing one on Major Buckland, because no one knows who he is.  I think he is a genuine hero who was never recognized.  For a couple of years, I’ve been thinking about writing a wiki about him.


ARRIGO:  Martha, are we up to your question?


DAVIS:  My question is more — In your situation, it didn’t sound as though there was anybody within the military — We had the impression that one was a little bit safer going to a chaplain than a psychologist.  Who you could trust who was in the army system —


ROCKWOOD:  And I did that.  It’s absolutely true.  And I was getting divorced and I had a top secret clearance.  I was under a lot of pressure.  My command threatened to send me to the division of mental health.  And I got out of it by saying, no, I’m volunteering to go to the chaplain.  Even though I was a Buddhist and there was no Buddhist chaplain, I did not want to be sent to a mental health office because I had a top secret clearance.  By going to the chaplain, I escaped that administrative problem. 


DAVIS:  And that would be even more so for whistle blowing. 


ROCKWOOD:  Right.  Fortunately, in my case, like in My Lai, the chaplain that was there to deal with this — basically these things fall under the chaplain’s area of expertise, because their area involves troop morale.  So all these sensitive things fall under their field of expertise.  There’s a chaplain on the army division commander’s staff who doesn’t do sermons, who doesn’t say mass.  His purpose is to report to that commander on morale issues.

     In my situation in Haiti, the chaplain refused to deal with the situation.  I told him my soldiers had a morale problem because they were interviewing people on the streets of Haiti, and these people were being targeted because they were seen being interviewed.  The chaplain took my report.  But he refused to take the situation to the commander.  Fortunately, I think the chaplains in a particular kind of situation can be useful in these kinds of things, in a way that’s not derogatory to the soldier. 

     Chaplains can talk with much higher level confidentiality than a clinical psychologist can deal with a soldier.


DAVIS:  But if you’re somebody who’s talking about soldiers abusing detainees, that would go under the morale problem.  But in that case the chaplain might not be a source of trust or protection to the whistle blower.


ROCKWOOD: Well, in the case of Gitmo, the chaplain situation is part of the scandal.  They railroaded, to the best of my knowledge — They had a Moslem chaplain there, one of the few in the history of the army, and he was — I don’t know whether he signed an Article 15, but they went after him for such a miniscule security violation, to destroy his career.  So, unfortunately, in Gitmo the whole chaplain issue is part of the scandal.

     The chaplain issue was part of the scandal at My Lai.  The soldiers told the chaplains what was going on.  And the chaplains didn’t take it up the chain of command.  And the same thing with my situation.  The chaplain wasn’t helpful at all.  But technically —

     I’m involved in this thing called JSCOPE, International Society of Military Ethics [ISME, formerly JSCOPE, Joint Services Conference on Professional Ethics], and that’s considered an area of the chaplains’ expertise, these ethical dilemmas soldiers find themselves in.  So chaplains should be a great resource for soldiers.  Unfortunately, the word is should.


SOLDZ:  How many do you think it’s true of?  What percentage of chaplains, roughly?


ROCKWOOD:  I would like to think, to be positive, maybe half of them would be a resource to soldiers, 50-50.  I don’t know of a lot of these situations where the chaplains really stepped in and said:  "This is a command problem, this is an ethical problem, and needs to be dealt with."  I think a lot of times what happens — In my case, my command didn’t want to recognize what was going on with me was unusual.  They wanted to say: "Well, this is just the case of an officer who lost his temper.  He was emotionally wound too tight, and there’s nothing more to it than that."  The command was trying to minimize these things in these ethical-dilemma situations.  The chaplains’ job is to say, "No, this is not a situation that should be minimized."


ARRIGO:  I’m going to ask my question, which in a way comes back to Sam Provance.  I want to explore the possibility of whistle blowers or current dissidents, in the torture regime, which has been now well discredited, actually being rehabilitated militarily.  You know, people have lost their careers, have been thrown out like Provance, and so on.  Would there be any way of doing that, like for Sam Provance?  In wild fantasy, could he ever be reinstated at his rank and function.


ROCKWOOD:  It is possible.  Appeals of Article 15s are very limited.  But if you got the attention of a congressman — There’s really not a way that you can address these things without doing that congressional route.  It’s a long shot, to be honest.

     In my situation, I had over 500 people wrote letters to the President and to the Secretary of the Army, and all they got back was a form letter.  In a situation like My Lai, when it came to letting a murderer off the hook, William Calley, with just seven months, instead of 30 years, for murdering 500 people, that was people were calling their congressman, and the Secretary of the Army took action on his behalf.  When it comes to dealing with someone who really should spend 30 years, the military was influenced by people to make his sentence ridiculous.  Certainly, for a soldier who did something good, instead of murdering people, you’d think it would be easier to get someone at the Secretary of the Army level to take action.


ARRIGO:  Just going back to your award idea, what is the name of the award?  What is it that one would propose?


ROCKWOOD:  The highest level of award you can get for a noncombat thing is the Soldier’s Medal in the army.  I think there’s an equivalent in the air force.  And then there’s the Legion of Merit meritorious service medal.

     Now, how you work with awards, when I was an officer, if I thought a soldier deserved a Commendation Medal, I had to put in for a Meritorious Service Medal.  You always have to put in for the next higher one.  They’re going to usually, in the chain, lower it, when it comes to a lower ranking soldier.


ARRIGO:  So what is the benefit to the person who gets this award then, when he’s out?


ROCKWOOD:  Someone in the military is dealing with the facts of the case. 

     There was a movie, about ten years ago, with Denzel Washington.  An officer is appointed to investigate whether this person is worthy of a medal.  They’re dealing with a soldier’s medal.  The person looking at it is conducting kind of an investigation, a positive investigation instead of a negative investigation. 


SOLDZ:  It would mean a lot symbolically to Sam.  It would be a form of that rehabilitation that you’re talking about.


ROCKWOOD:  In my situation, I got lots of awards, but not from the military.  I don’t want to minimize the people — The ACLU gave me a big awards banquet in New York, with hundreds of people, and it was wonderful!  But if you got an award from the military, even though the military didn’t initiate the award, I think for a lot of soldiers, like me, that would have a great deal of symbolic —


DAVIS:  It would be a vindication.


ROCKWOOD:  A vindication.  And if whistle blowers are getting awards, something good is happening.  It brings the contradiction in focus, that these people are being administratively penalized for being whistle blowers. 

     In my case, it was a judicial thing, so I had a much more recourse to appeal.  I went all the way up to the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court decided not to hear the case.  But I made it through two levels of military appeal.  Technically, that’s very rare a case goes that high.


ARRIGO:  So that was a form of affirmation in itself?


ROCKWOOD:  Right, that this wasn’t just an ordinary situation.


SOLDZ:  If one is given an award, then it’s essentially a reprimand to the commanders who were penalizing to you. 


ROCKWOOD:  Yes, it doesn’t let them look good, if they give someone a court martial and someone else is putting them an award for the same thing.


DAVIS:  It sounds like the guy who put the pictures in of Abu Ghraib should get an award —


ROCKWOOD:  Absolutely.


DAVIS:  and Sam should get an award and the abuse [?] would be almost critical.


ARRIGO:  Folks, we’re running way past time.  But we have a plan, I think.  Captain Rockwood, we are very grateful to you.


[Thanks all around.]


ROCKWOOD:  Thank you very much.  I’m glad I could be of assistance.


ARRIGO:  We’ll get back to you with the transcript and next stages.


[Goodbyes all around.]



[1] “Walking Away From Nuremberg: Just War And The Doctrine Of Command Responsibility” by Lawrence P. Rockwood, University of Massachusetts Press, 2007.

[2] Davis, Martha. (2008).  Interrogation Psychologists:  The Making of a Professional Crisis. 

[Video].  [Available at Focus Reframed:, accessed December

15, 2008].

[3] Gruson, Lindsey.  (1990, October 28).  A conspiracy link in priests’ killing.  New York

Times.  [Accessed December 15, 2008, at].  — 

A United States Special Service officer told the F.B.I. in an affidavit he later retracted that he had

prior knowledge of plans to kill six Jesuit priests but made no effort to stop them. The American

psychological operations specialist, Major Eric Buckland, testified that the top Salvadoran military

commander, Col. Rene Emilio Ponce, knew of the army’s plans to kill the priests at least 10 days

before the slayings last Nov. 16 and ordered Lieut. Col. Carlos Aviles to try to stop them....

But Colonels Aviles and Ponce, the armed forces' chief of

staff when the killings occurred, denied the allegations on Monday and dismissed Major Buckland

as ‘emotionally unstable.’

[4] James, Larry.  (2007).  Fixing Hell:  An Army Psychologist confronts Abu Ghraib.  New York: 

Grand Central Publishing.





From: Jean Maria Arrigo

Sent: Dec 15, 2008 6:00 PM

To: Lawrence Rockwood

Cc: Stephen Soldz , Ray Bennett , jancis long , Martha Davis , Joe Gorin



Captain Rockwood,


I was just browsing in your book again when I came across this passage (p. 101) that seems to bear on military obedience and disobedience to the Bush torture doctrine:


The Truman-MacArthur controversy during the Korean War highlighted the issue of military obedience and civilian control of the military from a new perspective.  After being fired as Supreme Allied Commander by President Truman for exceeding his authority, MacArthur articulated a theory of military obedience that extended the range of when it is permissible to disobey orders beyond the Nuremberg principle of not obeying criminal orders.  Allowing a military commander to question civilian authority that went against a military commander's personal assessment of the national interest, MacArthur argued that a soldier's "allegiance and loyalty to those who temporarily exercise the authority of the executive branch of government" should be secondary to his or her allegiance to "the country and its constitution," and that military members must be free to "speak the truth in accordance with conviction and conscience."


Many people associate MacArthur with abuse of military power and unseemly ambition.  But his principle above sounds like just what was needed (or at least what peace psychologists might have wished for) for the military to reject the Bush administration torture regime.  Would you comment on this as an addendum to the consult?


Thanks if you have time for this.


Jean Maria




Date: December 16, 2008 4:53:23 AM PST




Jean Maria

I think MacArthur's statement is very misleading.  As far as I know MacArthur never clarified it leading me to believe he might have regretted saying it.   I think I made it sound too good in my book.  One thing is certain; MacArthur never would have allowed a subordinate to publicly question his policies or authority in the manner in which he challenged Truman.  I think the peace psychologists would really want to stick to the Nuremberg justification; You cannot obey an illegal order without committing a crime, especially as the criminal nature of Bush's torture doctrine is becoming more and more apparent.   MacArthur was not challenging the legality or the morality of Truman's policies, he was challenging Truman's competence as a military leader.  It is may be extremely appealing to challenge the Bush doctrine based on Bush apparent and glaring incompetency in this regard, in an actual  military setting, it places the subordinate in what I feel is a unwinnable setting even if she happed to be, like MacArthur, a five-star general, which no psychologist would be.    And when it comes to disclosing classified information in a whistleblower scenario, I think one find's oneself forced to use the legal principle of justification (you know, the Rockwood defense), the crime being disclosed is greater than the crime of disclosing the classified information. 

Capt Rock