Psychologists' Participation in Detainee Interrogations

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Psychologists and Detainee Interrogations:

Key Decisions, Opportunities Lost, and Lessons Learned


Ken Pope, Ph.D., ABPP

PLEASE NOTE: A more recent article addressing this topic is available on this site:
The Code Not Taken: The Path From Guild Ethics to Torture and Our Continuing Choices --
Canadian Psychological Association Member of the Year Award Address
by Ken Pope, in Canadian Psychology / Psychologie canadienne (2016).


Involvement in detainee interrogations presented psychologists with a wide span of complex ethical and practical challenges.

Taking a fresh look at the profession's struggles to meet these challenges provides opportunities to learn from the past, to make unexpected discoveries, and to grow and mature as a profession.

In an article in the 2011 issue of the Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, which was published in April, 2011, I brought together primary source documents and other materials, particularly those that have sometimes been overlooked.

The article is "Psychologists and Detainee Interrogations: Key Decisions, Opportunities Lost, and Lessons Learned."

Here's the abstract: "After the 9-11 terrorist attacks, U.S. psychologists faced hard choices about what roles, if any, were appropriate for psychologists in the detainee interrogations conducted in settings such as the Bagram Airbase, the Abu Ghraib Prison, and the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camps. The American Psychological Association (APA) sparked intense controversy with its policies and public statements. This article reviews APA decisions, documents, and public statements in this area, in the context of major criticisms and responses to those criticisms. The review focuses on key issues: how the APA created and reported policies in the areas of ethics and national security; transparency; psychologists’ professional identities; psychologists’ qualifications; ethical-legal conflicts; policies opposing torture; interpretations of avoiding harm; and effective interrogations. It suggests lessons learned, missed opportunities, and questions in need of a fresh approach."

To access this article, please follow this link.

The URL above provides you complimentary one-time access to my Annual Review article for your own personal use. Any further/multiple distribution, publication, or commercial usage of this copyrighted material would require submission of a permission request addressed to the Annual Reviews Permissions Department, email

PLEASE NOTE: This article is from Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, Volume 7, © 2011 by Annual Reviews,



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