Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?


Op-Ed: Psychologists, psychiatrists, the military and the CIA

The report discussed in a New York Times article shows the APA secretly supported and cooperated with the G.W. Bush administration to provide both legal and ethical justification for torture of prisoners captured in the war on terror initiated after the 9/11 attacks.

The report uses newly disclosed emails that it argues show that the group acted to keep psychologists involved in the interrogation program just when the Bush administration was trying to salvage the program after the release back in 2004 of photos showing extensive abuse of prisoners by US military personnel at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The use of psychologists and psychiatrists by the military has a long history often involving association with universities as well.

A military staff study in May of 1951 recommended that “a major contract be awarded to a recognized educational institution to provide for the formation of an Army Human Resources Research Office, which would have primary responsibility for conducting research in the areas of training methods, motivation and morale, and psychological warfare” (Department of the Army, 1951). A contract was signed with George Washington University on July 31, 1951 with Dr. Meredith Crawford assuming the directorship of HumRRO or the Army’s Human Resources Research Organization. As the Wikipedia entry on the APA notes: A year after the establishment of Human Resource Research Organization by the U.S. military, CIA began funding numerous psychologists (and other scientists) in the development of psychological warfare methods under the supervision of APA treasurer Meredith Crawford. Donald O. Hebb, the APA president in 1960 who was awarded the APA Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award in 1961, defended the torture of research subjects, arguing that what was being studied was other nations’ methods of brainwashing.
Not only psychologists were recruited by the CIA but eminent psychiatrists as well. The Project MKUltra was the code name of what is often described as the CIA mind control program. The program consisted of experiments on human subjects sometimes without their knowledge or consent. It was developed by the CIA and was intended to develop drugs and procedures to be used in interrogations in order to obtain confessions through mind control. The program was quite extensive: The scope of Project MKUltra was broad, with research undertaken at 80 institutions, including 44 colleges and universities, as well as hospitals, prisons and pharmaceutical companies.[10] The CIA operated through these institutions using front organizations, although sometimes top officials at these institutions were aware of the CIA’s involvement.

One participant in the program was Dr. Ewen Cameron: Donald Ewen Cameron (24 December 1901 – 8 September 1967) …was a Scottish-born psychiatrist who served as President of the Canadian Psychiatric Association, American (1952–1953) and World Psychiatric Associations, the American Psychopathological Association and the Society of Biological Psychiatry during the 1950s. Notwithstanding his high professional reputation, he has been criticized for his administration, without informed consent, of disproportionately-intense electroshock therapy and experimental drugs, including LSD, which rendered some patients permanently comatose. Some of this work took place in the context of the MKUltra mind control program.

Note the high positions Cameron held. Cameron’s work was in part based upon the ideas of Donald Hebb, the former head of the APA who defended torture of prisoners. Alfred McCoy writes: “Stripped of its bizarre excesses, Dr. Cameron’s experiments, building upon Donald O. Hebb’s earlier breakthrough, laid the scientific foundation for the CIA’s two-stage psychological torture method,” which refers to first creating a state of disorientation in the subject, and then second creating a situation of “self-inflicted” discomfort in which the disoriented subject can alleviate their pain by capitulating.[48]

The authors of the new report conclude that the APA secretly worked with the CIA, the White House, and the Department of Defense to create an APA ethics policy on national security organizations which fit in with the legal guidance, then classified, that authorized the CIA torture program. The APA has since changed its policy after many of its own members and others were critical of what was going on.

Written By

You may also like:


Hanukkah is an eight-day “festival of lights” that takes place during the winter, oftentimes at or around the same time as Christmas.


Omicron, first discovered in southern Africa, represents a fresh challenge to global efforts to battle the pandemic.


Trump promised to "drain the swamp" of corruption in Washington, but instead opened his very own quagmire on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Tech & Science

Hemophilia gene therapy research at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has recorded a significant breakthrough.