Law and Disorder Radio – Medical Professionals Complicit in Torture – Vince Warren on Guantanamo – Hosts: Heidi Boghosian, Michael Steven Smith & Michael Ratner – Produced by Geoff Brady

Law and Disorder Radio


From Attica to Pelican Bay – by Michael Ratner

Inmates of Attica Correctional Facility v. Rockefeller (PDF)

Clergy Sex Victims Demand Justice – CCR Lawsuit

People Living in Poverty at All-Time High

Law and Disorder Show – Troy Davis – July 2, 2007





 Medical Professionals Complicit in US Torture Policy

As many listeners know, health professionals were front and center and complicit in the US policy of torture. The torturers relied heavily on medical opinion. Medical professionals provided sanitizing and rationalization for the infamous torture memos. During waterboarding procedures, a doctor would be present.  Psychologists were directly involved in the supervision, design and execution of torture at US military and intelligence facilities. This is a violation of state laws and professional ethics. These “health professionals” that were involved with torture still hold their professional licenses to practice.  Meanwhile a legal battle continues against the Louisiana Psychology Board for refusing to investigate professional misconduct allegations against Dr. Larry James. He’s a retired US Army Colonel and high-ranking adviser on interrogations for the US military at Guantanamo Bay.

We talk more about this case and the breach of ethics in the medical profession since 9/11 with Dr. Stephen Soldz, former president of Psychologists for Social Responsibility. Stephen is a psychologist, psychoanalyst and public health researcher in Boston. He is also co-author of PHR’s report Experiments in Torture.

Stephen Soldz:

  • Psychologists played a central role. There were 2 professions: one was lawyers, the other, less well-known, was psychologists. It turns out that it was psychologists that designed and implemented the enhanced interrogation torture program, who monitored it, who trained others in it and who researched it and provided all the legal protection.
  • It’s believed that it was psychologist James Mitchell who was present there, who was in charge.
  • There’s the CIA program that was for so-called high value detainees in CIA custody in various secret prisons called black sites. This is where the psychologists were central, they designed the whole thing.
  • There was a black site at Guantanamo where a few people were held at various points.
  • Guantanamo was technically under the military control, not CIA control.
  • The CIA: like I said the psychologists designed this stuff, it was quite brutal. Forcing people to stand, shackling them up, with their arms out, naked in cold air. For 7 days at a time.
  • Being forced to stand day after day is extraordinarily painful. Think about having to do that without using the toilet, with liquid food being forced into you. They at times used small boxes where a person could neither stand or sit.
  • The boxes were banged on at times, they would throw people against walls, with special devices around their neck supposedly to protect them from permanent damage. There were various slaps that were authorized.
  • The American Psychology Association has an ethics code and it’s binding on all members. Not all psychologists are members, but all the states base their own ethics code for licensed psychologists upon that of the APA; some mandate it exactly, some adopt their own.
  • The CIA and military insist that the psychologists that do this stuff be licensed by the state.
  • Many of them are APA, so the APA ethics are intimately involved here.
  • The APA equivocated and formed a task force. They said that psychologists had an obligation to keep interrogations “safe, legal and effective.” This language it turns out was taken from the Bush torture memos at the Justice Department. The task force was dominated by the military.
  • They claim to be resolutely against torture, they make statement after statement. Psychologists shouldn’t be safety officers.
  • In all 3 states, lawyers have joined my colleagues to force the APA board to do their job. The board doesn’t have the leeway to dismiss claims of torture without clearly investigating them.
  • Larry James later served at Abu Ghraib after the scandals there, he claims to have been the person who cleaned it up.
  • He admits that he observed abuse by other people and didn’t report it to the commanders.
  • He’s now out of the military and the Dean of the School of Psychology at Wright State University in Ohio.
  • It’s rather sad, instead investigating what did or did not happen, they attack those who raise issues about Colonel James.
  • Physicians For Human Rights / When Healers Harm

Guest – former President of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, Stephen Soldz, is a psychologist, psychoanalyst, and public health researcher in Boston, and was a co-author of PHR’s report Experiments in Torture. He is the Director of the Center for Research, Evaluation, and Program Development at the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis. He was Adjunct Assistant Professor of Psychology (Psychiatry) at Harvard Medical School, and has taught at the University of Massachusetts Boston, Boston College, and Boston University.

 Guantanamo Bay and Offshore Prisons

The Obama administration has allowed the Bush policy to continue, allowing for the use of torture, rendition and secret prisons. We talk about the ongoing practice of torture, secret sites and Guantanamo Bay. There are 3 groups at Guantanamo. The first is two dozen people that are genuinely Al Qaeda. The second group shouldn’t have been there in first place–around 200 of them will be sent home. The third group are refugees who are from countries with horrible human rights records.




Attorney Vince Warren:

  • What role do the people play in order to stop this? “We are at war to make war” is what the public has bought into. By using the war paradigm, the president seized power that belonged to Congress, seized power that belonged to the Courts and seized power that belonged to the people.
  • You can’t be at war with the “concept” of terror.
  • Prior to 9/11 when terrorism would happen, there was an investigation, an indictment, prosecution and if there was a case, they were to be convicted.
  • As of 2011, more people in Guantanamo have died than have been referred for criminal charges.
  • We shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking that this was a genuine reaction to a tragic event.
  • These are aggressive wars that are based on lies, without any legitimate security threat–that’s a crime.
  • The other piece since 9/11 is the interesting double-speak. Torture and aggressive war become justifications since 9/11.
  • The Bush Justice Department said that the law simply does not just apply to the President, when he’s acting as Commander In Chief. It doesn’t matter if Congress passed a law that we expect the President to be bound by, the Justice Department said he could ignore it if it didn’t fit in to what he wanted to do.
  • That led to the Bush lawyers counseling him that he could ignore a law that said torture was illegal or could ignore a law that says the government can’t wiretap without a warrant.
  • President Obama talked very big about ending torture and about ending these policies.
  • What is happening now in the United States is that local police forces, immigration forces, private contractors are colluding and conspiring to infiltrate political movements and largely peaceful political movements – in order to “uproot the terrorist.”
  • Of course there are no terrorists there, what there are are people who have a very vibrant and credible claim.
  • Myself and a number of other human rights people went to a meeting with President Obama in May 2009. I was shocked at how President Obama completely understood the legal issues we were raising.
  • The very next day he essentially came out with a preventive detention scheme. An indefinite detention scheme in Guantanamo.
  • What really troubled me is that he knows. He knows precisely what the right thing to do is.
  • This thing is not going to fix itself.

Guest – Attorney Vince Warren, Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), a national legal and educational organization dedicated to advancing and defending the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Vince oversees CCR’s groundbreaking litigation and advocacy work which includes using international and domestic law to hold corporations and government officials accountable for human rights abuses; challenging racial, gender and LGBT injustice; and combating the illegal expansion of U.S. presidential power and policies such as illegal detention at Guantanamo, rendition and torture.