PsySR Call fo Annulment of PENS Report

Dear HumanDHS Friends

Along with twelve other human rights organizations, Psychologists for Social Responsibility has officially endorsed a statement calling for the annulment of the American Psychological Association’s 2005 “PENS Report.” Despite evidence that psychologists were involved in abusive interrogations, the APA’s PENS Task Force nevertheless concluded that psychologists play a critical role in keeping interrogations “safe, legal, ethical and effective.” And although the Report itself is the product of a process that was illegitimate in many ways, today it continues to be an influential and authoritative guiding operational document within psychology and the national security establishment.

The text of the call for annulment, spearheaded by the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology (of which I am a member), is pasted below, along with the list of signing organizations and a partial list of individual signers.

Those PsySR members interested in signing on can do so at Please also consider sharing this message with other listservs and with colleagues who might be interested. Thanks.

Best Regards,

Roy Eidelson

A Call for Annulment of APA’s PENS Report

Over the decade since the horrendous attacks of 9/11, the world has been shocked by the specter of abusive interrogations and the torture of national security prisoners by agents of the United States government. Although psychologists in the U.S. have made significant contributions to societal welfare on many fronts during this period, the profession tragically has also witnessed psychologists acting as planners, consultants, researchers, and overseers to these abusive interrogations. Moreover, in the guise of keeping interrogations “safe, legal, ethical and effective,” psychologists were used to provide legal protection for otherwise illegal treatment of prisoners.

The American Psychological Association’s (APA) 2005 Report of the Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security (the PENS Report) is the defining document endorsing psychologists’ engagement in detainee interrogations. Despite evidence that psychologists were involved in abusive interrogations, the PENS Task Force concluded that psychologists play a critical role in keeping interrogations “safe, legal, ethical and effective.” With this stance, the APA, the largest association of psychologists worldwide, became the sole major professional healthcare organization to support practices contrary to the international human rights standards that ought to be the benchmark against which professional codes of ethics are judged.

The PENS Report remains highly influential today. Negating efforts by APA members to limit the damages – including passage of an unprecedented member-initiated referendum in 2008 – the Department of Defense continues to disseminate the PENS Report in its instructions to psychologists involved in intelligence operations. The Report also has been adopted, at least informally, as the foundational ethics document for “operational psychology” as an area of specialization involving psychologists in counterintelligence and counterterrorism operations. And the PENS Report is repeatedly cited as a resource for ethical decision-making in the APA Ethics Committee’s new National Security Commentary, a “casebook” for which the APA is currently soliciting feedback.

Equally troubling, the PENS Report was the result of institutional processes that were illegitimate, inconsistent with APA’s own standards, and far outside the norms of transparency, independence, diversity, and deliberation for similar task forces established by professional associations. Deeply problematic aspects include the inherent bias in the Task Force membership (e.g., six of the nine voting members were on the payroll of the U.S. military and/or intelligence agencies, with five having served in chains of command accused of prisoner abuses); significant conflicts of interest (e.g., unacknowledged participants included the spouse of a Guantánamo intelligence psychologist and several high-level lobbyists for Department of Defense and CIA funding for psychologists); irregularities in the report approval process (e.g., the Board’s use of emergency powers that preempted standard review mechanisms); and unwarranted secrecy associated with the Report (e.g., unusual prohibitions on Task Force members’ freedom to discuss the Report). These realities point to the impossibility and inadequacy of merely updating or correcting deficiencies in the PENS Report.

We the undersigned organizations and individuals – health professionals, social scientists, social justice and human rights scholars and activists, and concerned military and intelligence professionals – therefore declare that the PENS Report is illegitimate. We call upon the American Psychological Association to take immediate steps to annul the PENS Report. At the same time, in our own efforts, we aim to make the illegitimacy of the PENS Report more broadly known within our communities.

Organizational Signers

Coalition for an Ethical Psychology

Bill of Rights Defense Committee

Center for Constitutional Rights

Center for Justice and Accountability

International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School

Massachusetts Campaign Against Torture

Network of Spiritual Progressives

New York Campaign Against Torture

Physicians for Human Rights

Program for Torture Victims

Psychologists for Social Responsibility

Veterans for Peace

Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

Individual Signers (listed affiliations are for identification purposes only)

Roy Eidelson, PhD, Past President, Psychologists for Social Responsibility; Associate Director, Solomon Asch Center for Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict, Bryn Mawr College

Jean Maria Arrigo, PhD, APA PENS Task Force Member, Project on Ethics and Art in Testimony

Michael Wessells, PhD, APA PENS Task Force Member, Professor of Clinical Population and Family Health, Columbia University

Stephen Soldz, PhD, Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis; Past President, Psychologists for Social Responsibility

Steven Reisner, PhD, Candidate for APA President; Clinical Assistant Professor, NYU Medical School; Faculty and Supervisor, International Trauma Studies Program, New York City

Brad Olson, PhD, President-Elect, Psychologists for Social Responsibility

Bryant Welch, PhD, Program Director and Professor of Psychology, California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco, CA

Trudy Bond, PhD, Independent Psychologist; Steering Committee, Psychologists for Social Responsibility

Philip Zimbardo, President, American Psychological Association (2002); Professor Emeritus, Department of Psychology, Stanford University

Stephen N. Xenakis, MD, Brigadier General (Ret), U.S. Army

Nathaniel A. Raymond, Former Director of the Campaign Against Torture at Physicians for Human Rights

Leonard Rubenstein, Senior Scholar, Center for Public Health and Human Rights, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health

Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor (ret.), Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Robert Jay Lifton, Lecturer in Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School/Cambridge Health Alliance; Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry and Psychology, The City University of New York

Manfred Nowak, Professor for International Law and Human Rights, University of Vienna; Director, Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights

David Remes, Appeal for Justice; Guantánamo habeas attorney since 2004

Gerald Gray, LCSW, Co-Director, Institute for Redress & Recovery, Santa Clara University School of Law

Morton Deutsch, Past President, APA Divisions 8 (Society for Personality and Social Psychology), 9 (Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues), and 48 (Peace Psychology); Professor Emeritus, Psychology and Education, Teachers College, Columbia University

Nora Sveaass, UN Committee Against Torture; Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Oslo, Norway

Steven H. Miles, MD, Professor of Medicine and Bioethics, University of Minnesota

George Hunsinger, Professor of Systematic Theology, Princeton Theological Seminary

Vincent Iacopino, MD, PhD, Senior Medical Advisor, Physicians for Human Rights; Adjunct Professor of Medicine, University of Minnesota Medical School; Senior Research Fellow, Human Rights Center, University of California, Berkeley

David DeBatto, former US Army Counterintelligence Special Agent and Iraq war veteran

Buz Eisenberg, Chair, International Justice Network; Attorney for Guantánamo detainees since 2005

Michael Ratner, President Emeritus, Center for Constitutional Rights

Vince Warren, Executive Director, Center for Constitutional Rights

Susan Opotow, Past President, APA Division 9 (Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues); Professor, City University of New York

Richard Wagner, Past President, APA Division 48 (Peace Psychology); Professor Emeritus, Bates College

Marc Pilisuk, Past President, APA Division 48 (Peace Psychology); Professor Emeritus, University of California; Professor, Saybrook Graduate School and Research Center

Ethel Tobach, PhD, Past President, APA Division 48 (Peace Psychology); American Museum of Natural History, New York

Joseph de Rivera, Past President, APA Division 48 (Peace Psychology); Research Professor, Clark University

James Coyne, PhD, Director, Behavioral Oncology Program, Abramson Cancer Center and Professor of Psychology, Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

Luisa Saffiotti, PhD, President, Psychologists for Social Responsibility

Jancis Long, PhD, Past President, Psychologists for Social Responsibility

Frank Summers, PhD, President-Elect (as of January 2012), APA Division 39 (Psychoanalysis); Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and the Behavioral Sciences, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University

Alice Shaw, PhD, President, Section IX, APA Division 39 (Psychoanalysis for Social Responsibility)

Jules Lobel, President, Center for Constitutional Rights; Bessie McKee Walthour Endowed Chair Professor of Law, University of Pittsburgh Law School

Bernice Lott, Professor Emerita of Psychology and Women’s Studies, University of Rhode Island

Ruth Fallenbaum, WithholdAPADues Steering Committee

Dan Aalbers, WithholdAPADues Steering Committee

Anthony Marsella, Past President, Psychologists for Social Responsibility; Emeritus Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Hawaii

Ghislaine Boulanger, PhD, WithholdAPADues Steering Committee

Jean L. Hill, PhD, President-Elect, APA Division 27 (Society for Community Research and Action); Professor of Psychology, New Mexico Highlands University

Joseph Margulies, Attorney, MacArthur Justice Center, Clinical Professor, Northwestern Law School

Martha Davis, PhD, Visiting Scholar (ret.), John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York

Kristine Huskey, Director, Anti-Torture Program, Physicians for Human Rights; Guantanamo detainee habeas counsel (2002-2011)

Scott Horton, Columbia University School of Law

William P. Quigley, Professor of Law, Loyola University New Orleans

Rabbi Michael Lerner, Editor, Tikkun Magazine; Executive Director, The Institute for Labor and Mental Health

Scott Allen, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, School of Medicine, University of California, Riverside

M. Brinton Lykes, PhD, Professor of Community-Cultural Psychology, Boston College; Co-Founder, Ignacio Martin-Baro Fund for Mental Health and Human Rights

David Luban, University Professor in Law and Philosophy, Georgetown University

Jeffrey S. Kaye, PhD, Clinician, Survivors International, San Francisco

Sibel Edmonds, Founder & Director, National Security Whistleblowers Coalition (NSWBC)

David Sloan-Rossiter, Boston Institute for Psychotherapy; Massachusetts Institute for Psychoanalysis

Stephen R. Shalom, Department of Political Science, William Paterson University

Andrea Cousins, PhD, PsyD, Massachusetts Campaign Against Torture (MACAT), Northampton, MA

Lynne Layton, PhD, Assistant Professor of Psychology, Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School

Deborah Popowski, Clinical Instructor, International Human Rights Clinic; Lecturer on Law, Harvard Law School

(Names of additional signers and the link for signing on are available at

Note: An accompanying background report, available at, provides additional detailed documentation in support of this call for annulment.

Roy J. Eidelson, Ph.D.
President, Eidelson Consulting
Past President, Psychologists for Social Responsibility

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *