For Immediate Release
(Cambridge, MA) Physicians for HumanRights (PHR) called on the Department of Defense Inspector General toinvestigate revelations in Salon.com that Dr. Martin Seligman may haveimproperly received an over $30 million "no-bid” contract from the Pentagon.
Dr. Seligman is a professor at the University ofPennsylvania and a former president of the American Psychological Association(APA). Since 2008, there have beenallegations that Dr. Seligman may have played a role in the reverse engineeringof the military’s "survival, evasion, resistance, and escape” (SERE) tactics,which were the basis of the Bush-era torture program.
"These allegations demand an immediate investigation by thePentagon’s Inspector General,” stated Frank Donaghue, the CEO of PHR. "After over five years of revelations,the American people still don’t know the whole story of how healthprofessionals aided the use of torture. It is time for the nation to fully know what role Dr. Seligman and otherpsychologists may have had in this illegal and unethical program.”
Dr. Seligman is the second past president of the APA to belinked to the psychologists implicated in the abuse of detainees in US custody. In 2007, the Spokesman-Review newspaperin Spokane, WA, reported that Dr. Joseph P. Matarazzo, who was APA president in1989, served on the board of Mitchell Jessen and Associates, the contractpsychologists who allegedly tortured detainees for the CIA.
"The APA has failed in its responsibility to hold both itsmembers and its leadership to the highest ethical standards,” saidDonaghue. "Its soothing pressreleases and resolutions are no longer enough to address this scandal. The APA needs to authorize atransparent and independent inquiry to determine what role, if any, APA membersand leaders had in the Bush-era ‘enhanced’ interrogation program. The credibility and integrity of theprofession of psychology depends on it.”
Since 2005, Physicians for Human Rights and its partnershave been campaigning for the APA to amend its 2002 version of its ethics codeand to rescind the 2005 APA presidential task force report on PsychologicalEthics and National Security (PENS), which endorsed an unethical role forpsychologists in interrogations. While the APA has made some reforms to its positions, PHR is continuingto call for a full investigation of how and why the APA took the positions itdid on psychologists and interrogations.
"The evidence shows that psychologists were more thancomplicit in CIA and Pentagon abuse of detainees — they were central to theprogram,” said Nathaniel A. Raymond, director of PHR’s Campaign AgainstTorture. "Psychologists designed,supervised, researched, and legitimized the use of torture on prisoners in UScustody. Without these healthprofessionals, the systematic abuse of detainees could not have happened.”
That abuse allegedlyincluded illegal human research and experimentation on such prisoners, asdocumented in PHR’s June 2010 report, Experiments in Torture: Human Subject Research and Evidence of Experimentation in the ‘Enhanced’ Interrogation Program, the first peer-reviewed analysis of such evidence.The research was apparently used to insulate interrogators from potentialprosecution and to standardize the use of torture.
In response tothe systematic infliction of psychological and physical torture by US forces,PHR's Campaign Against Torture seeks to restore the US commitment againsttorture, to ensure humane treatment of detainees, and to protect US healthpersonnel from complicity in mistreatment and harm.
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.