Key conclusions of the Hoffman report

Below are some of the key findings of the Hoffman report, an independent review of the American Psychological Association’s ethics guidelines and allegations made against APA. The report concludes that APA failed to challenge and legitimized the “enhanced interrogation” techniques authorized used against terror suspects during the Bush administration. Gerald Koocher, DePaul’s current Dean of the College of Science and Health, served as president-elect of APA in 2005 and president in 2006, the time of these allegations.

Background:

  • In the months following 9/11, President George W. Bush authorized the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” on detainees.
  • Memos written in 2002 by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel to the CIA defined torture in a very narrow manner. Acts could only be considered torture if “the effect was similar to the pain of a ‘serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function or death,'” according to the Hoffman report, which quotes these memos. 
  • In 2003, Defense Department attorneys wrote a report concluding that a U.S. law barring torture was inapplicable to individuals abroad, and could be justified “in order to prevent further attacks.” 

PENS proceedings:

  • In 2005, the APA Presidential Task Force on Ethics and National Security (PENS) finalized a report providing ethical guidelines “to psychologists who work with classified information in national security-related settings” and outlining their role in these circumstances.

Hoffman Report findings:

  • APA officials “colluded” with high-ranking Department of Defense (DoD) officials to have APA issue loose ethical guidelines that did not constrain DoD existing interrogation methods. As a result, the PENS guidelines put in place by APA officials were virtually identical to internal guidelines in place at the DoD. 
  • While APA officials may not have had definitive evidence of torture, the report finds that they did have “strong reason to suspect that abusive interrogations had occurred” and strategically avoided confirming those suspicions. 
  • APA officials were motivated by a developing DoD policy, which would determine whether and how deeply psychologists could be involved with intelligence activities. APA also wanted to protect its public image and appear engaged in ethical issues due to ongoing negative media coverage. 

[box]Read: DePaul dean implicated in torture report [/box]

View the full Hoffman report below or from the American Psychological Association.