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Positive Illusions and the Necessity of a Bright Line Forbidding Psychologist Involvement in Detainee Interrogations

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The authors commend Costanzo, Gerrity, and Lykes (2007) and their cogent summary of a number of ethical and scientific considerations relevant to evaluating the proper role of psychologists in national security interrogations of so-called “enemy combatants.” From their careful analysis they derive a series of recommendations for the American Psychological Association (APA) and other psychology-related associations, all of which are quite powerful. While supporting these recommendations, the authors also argue that the logic and evidence presented by Costanzo et al. imply, in current legal, political, and organizational circumstances, that psychologists should play no role in the interrogations process. The authors propose that a “bright line” should separate the profession of psychology completely from national security interrogations. The argument is based partly upon ethical considerations, on the practical knowledge available for documenting psychologist participation in interrogations as members of the so-called Behavioral Science Consultation Teams (BSCTs) at Guantánamo, evidence from other locations and sources, and equally upon the social psychological research regarding the interrogation process so adroitly summarized by Costanzo et al.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis

Publication date: December 1, 2007

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