The following essay is posted here with the approval of Dr. Kilburg, who has asked that this be widely distributed. Dr. Kilburg's essay is a superbly insightful analysis of the Hoffman Report, the historical context within which it occurred, and the events that preceded and followed the report. Everyone affected by or making decisions in any way related to the Hoffman Report MUST read this incredible essay.
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Eyes That Do Not Wish To See:
APA’s Hoffman Report and Some Implications for Consulting Psychology
An Essay by Richard R. Kilburg
A Very Short Vignette
Combat boots tread carefully and quietly on cold, stony ground. A squad of U.S. special forces troops wearing their uniforms with appropriate insignia, equipped with light arms, infrared eyes, helmet mounted cameras, and more than a century of fighting experience between them flit from shadow to shadow on the way to the target house. It nests among others in a small village in remote mountainous country.
26,000 miles above, in geostationary orbit a Department of Defense satellite aims cameras and antennae to the spot orchestrating the mission with local, regional, and global command centers. At 400-600 miles up, another satellite has real time infrared video of the positions of the troops relative to the target house. The lieutenant leading the raid along with his two sergeants receive real time feedback on their positions in meters. That global positioning system comprised of 24+ satellites circling at about the same height but in different orbits provides instantaneous updates of their movements. At 5000 feet, unmanned drones providing air cover circle overhead. Specially equipped and noise suppressed Blackhawk helicopters wait for a signal from the lieutenant to extract the team in the valley below.
After a long, quiet walk and an even more silent stalking of the house, a simple hand signal launches the home penetration from three sides by six soldiers. Four others stand watch around the house. Everyone in the house sleeps silently. The surprise is complete. Men, women, and children are quickly and quietly separated into different rooms. The men are examined carefully by flashlight. Two are selected. Their hands are bound, eyes covered, mouths taped. They are quickly led outside.
Fifty yards away, the two helicopters touch down lightly. The troops sprint with captives in tow. Screams now erupt from the village. Lights flash everywhere as people rush into the night. Twelve men scramble onto the copters and fly away before anyone in the village realizes they were there. Four hours later, the two men from the village have been fed and allowed to use the bathroom. They are on a plane to an unknown destination. Eight hours after that, the eldest of the two men, a distinguished looking person with a long beard and deep tan on his face and hands is led into a small room. He is seated in a reasonably comfortable chair and restrained lightly. Monitors for all of his major biological rhythms are attached by two guards. Sound and video systems are double-checked and started. The guards withdraw to the corners of the room. The door opens and a trained interrogator enters carrying a thick binder. He sits down, introduces himself by his first name, and calls the other by his full formal name. The process begins.
Outside of the room in a monitoring booth a small team of specialists assess everything that happens. One of them, a psychologist with very special training in these forms of interrogation, leans forward, watching the screens. Beside him is a translator. The beginning is very important. It starts with a declaration of the legal framework and auspices under which he had been captured and the purposes of the proceedings. Simple, direct questions spoken with respect begin.
“Is this your name?”
“Were you born in …?
“Did you attend Madras in…?
Simple questions, easy to answer yes or no to them. Easy to remain silent as well. So much of the story can be read in just this way. Chapter two begins, the first day after capture.
Psychologists in National Security Interrogations: A Very Quick Review
On Friday, August 7, 2015, the Council of Representatives of the American Psychological Association voted 156 to 8 – seven abstentions and one no – to prohibit their members from participating in National Security Interrogations. It took approximately thirteen years for this vote to take place. The purposes of this essay are not to tell this story in detail. It has and will be told repeatedly elsewhere.
I am a psychologist member of APA and have been since 1973. I have worked in the central office of the Association, as a faculty member in three universities, as a privately and institutionally practicing psychotherapist, as a consultant to a wide variety of organizations, including several branches of the Federal Government, and have over forty years of management and leadership experience. I am widely published in several areas of psychology and perhaps best known for my work on leadership and executive coaching. The purposes of this essay are to examine a number of issues related to the passage of the Resolution by APA using various methods including: metahistorical deconstruction, decision making and cognitive biases, great power analysis, the contemporary views of terrorist warfare of Philip Bobbitt, and the psychodynamics of shame and sado masochism to raise a series of questions about the potential long term consequences for the nation if psychologists are withdrawn from these positions at the penetrating edges of the security operations of the U.S. armed and intelligence services. Finally, I will examine briefly several possible implications of the Resolution and its anticipated aftermath for consulting and other domains of general applied psychology.
The opening case vignette is an attempt to create a visceral example of the type of geopolitical and geo-military operations in which the government of the United States has increasingly found itself managing after the Korean war in the 1950’s. During the past seventy-five years, the boundaries between nation states and other politically active organizations have substantially blurred and differentiated (Bobbitt, 2001, 2009). Allies change sides depending on the circumstances. Protracted military operations are very often conducted without formal declarations of war or the engagement of the associated international legal frameworks within which warfare is supposed to be engaged. Terrorist organizations participating in all manner of mayhem, including institutionalized slavery, bombings of non combatant populations producing mass casualty events, and uses of chemical and biological weapons are owned and operated by governments or are supported by corporations, wealthy private interests, criminal enterprises, or entrepreneurially driven radical and anarchist groups seeking to have impacts on various aspects of the global society and economy. Private corporate armies are now formally employed by many nations as extenders of their political and military policy initiatives and infrastructures. These organizations are almost too numerous to count.
Against this backdrop of increasing global anarchy, the attacks of 9/11 on the United States, the subsequent military and covert operations conducted around the world by the Department of Defense and the various security branches of the U.S. Government and its allies, the wholesale capture and imprisonment of governmentally denied combatants and supporters, and the vast global network of dark or black combatants, operational psychology slowly came into existence. It should come as no surprise to any of us. As one of my dear APA colleagues, Meredith Crawford, one our discipline’s best military psychologists, put it to the Board of Professional Affairs back in the early 1980’s, “psychology does its best work when it sticks its nose into other peoples’ business.”
The Hoffman Report
The Hoffman Report is named after a partner of the Sidley Austin Law Firm headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. It has offices in eighteen other cities, including Washington D. C. The Sidley firm was hired by APA’s Board of Directors and a small Special Committee it appointed to lead this effort subsequent to a resolution adopted on November 12, 2014. The Special Committee Members were Drs. Nadine Kaslow, Susan McDaniel, and Bonnie Markham, all three trained in clinical psychology. The Report was delivered to them on July 2, 2015 after approximately eight months of effort by the seven members of the Sidley team. The document was 542 pages long and was accompanied by six binders of associated information documenting some of the footnotes and other items referenced in body of the narrative. To be fair, at the outset, APA’s Special Committee chose to call this document the Independent Report. In reality, it was no more independent than a research project sponsored by any corporate entity. The Hoffman team was directed in each and every measure it took by the Special Committee. In this essay, I have chosen to call it the Hoffman Report for those reasons.
According to the Executive Summary of the Report, the purpose was to review the events associated with decisions made by the Association concerning the Ethical Code of the organization as it was applied to national security interrogations of non uniformed detainees held in various sites around the world by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the U. S. Department of Defense (DoD. Allegations had been made by members of the Association as well as James Risen, (2014), a New York Times reporter, that the CIA, DoD, and other government entities wanted “permissive ethical guidelines so that their psychologists could continue to participate in harsh and abusive interrogation techniques being used by these agencies after the September 11 attacks on the United States. APA member critics pointed to alleged procedural irregularities and suspicious outcomes regarding APA’s ethics policy decisions and said they resulted from this improper coordination, collaboration, or collusion. Some said APA’s decisions were intentionally made to assist the government in engaging in these enhanced interrogation techniques. Some said they were intentionally made to help the government commit torture….The specific question APA has asked us to consider and answer is whether APA officials colluded with DoD, CIA, or other government officials “to support torture” (Hoffman, 2015), (P.1).
The Report’s principal findings were based extensively on the Hoffman Team’s close examination of the activities of the 2005 APA Presidential Task Force on Ethics and National Security or “PENS” and subsequent related policy deliberations by APA governance. The PENS Report contained 12 clarifications of the guidelines that were adopted by APA’s Council of Representatives in August of 2005 as additions to the Ethics Code. The Hoffman team’s “investigation determined that key APA officials, principally the APA Ethics Director joined and supported at times by other APA officials, colluded with important DoD officials to have APA issue loose, high-level ethical guidelines that did not constrain DoD in any greater fashion than existing DoD interrogation guidelines. We concluded that APA’s principal motive in doing so was to align APA and curry favor with DoD. There were two other important motives: to create a good public-relations response, and to keep the growth of psychology unrestrained in this area.” (P. 9). The findings of the Hoffman Team were extensive in many related domains. Of special interest to consulting and other general applied psychologists was the emphasis on Ethical Standards 1.02 and 1.03, repeatedly and deliberately referred to in the Report as the Nuremberg defense. Those standards provide guidance to psychologists about how to proceed when they perceive that the APA Ethics Code may conflict with laws, in the case of 1.02, and organizational policies, procedures, and processes, in the case of 1.03.
The Hoffman Team provided several caveats to their Report and findings including: their lack of psychological knowledge and comprehension of how APA is organized and works, their limited powers of investigation, their lack of appropriate security clearances to obtain crucial information, the length of time that had passed between the key events and their inquiry, and how more information could have been obtained. They then stated their report simply reflected a summary of their knowledge on the topic at that moment in time, and that their descriptions of the actions and potential motives of government officials could “be seen not as necessarily complete, definitive descriptions, but as a summary of our best effort to find facts and draw conclusions based on the time we have been provided and the evidence we have been able to review.” (pps. 5-6). Despite these caveats, the Hoffman team then stated, “after actively investigating this matter for nearly eight months with a team of six attorneys and conducting investigative activity that we think is fairly characterized as thorough, we have been able to reach conclusions about most of the key issues under dispute based on the extensive evidence we have reviewed” (P. 6).
Although it might be possible to word these statements in an even more paradoxical fashion, the juxtaposition of the caveats with the definitive statement of the clarity of their findings imposes on any critical reader of the full document a heavy burden of managing a state of substantial disbelief and simultaneously embracing the professional encouragement that the Hoffman team was really able to determine the exact factual nature of what had transpired on these matters within the APA over the previous thirteen years. Like all historical or fictive narratives, the Report requires a type of suspension of disbelief in order to enter into an extended dialogue with it. Unfortunately, I believe most readers forgot the caveats and accepted the Hoffman Team’s description of their investigation as thorough and their declaration that the conclusions they drew were accurate.
Of additional historical note, as of this writing, the 2016 APA Board of Directors has recently re-contracted with Mr. Hoffman to determine whether their deliberations and findings had fallen short in three explicit areas:
- the extent to which he considered the DoD policies at issue in writing his Independent Review;
- the extent to which those DoD policies are relevant to the issues, findings, and/or conclusions addressed and reflected in the Independent Review; and
- whether any modifications of the Independent Review are warranted in light of the DoD policies. (APA, 2016).
As a result of first leaking the Report to “Critics” and probably through them to James Risen of the New York Times and then publishing it on line, APA’s Board of Directors, in consultation with an undetermined and largely undisclosed number of confidants, proposed a Resolution to the Council of Representatives at its August, 2015 meeting (APA, 2015). The document contained nine statements of rationale, conventional Whereas findings that have historically often provided the substantive explanation for the organization’s formal adoption of positions, policies, initiatives, or principles. Without going into the details of the nine declarations, of crucial concern to the rest of this essay is the fact that eight of the nine statements of rationale either directly reference United Nations declarations and policies or actions of the government of the United States in response to those documents. Ironically, the second Whereas states, “APA policy dating back to 1985 “condemns torture wherever it occurs” and “supports the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UN Convention against Torture” (APA. 2015). That statement of historical fact alone makes any critical reader wonder about the true motivations, goals, and desired outcomes of the critics of the PENS Report and their allies in APA Governance.
The Resolution then went on to rescind the fifth and sixth paragraphs of APA’s 2013 “Policy related to psychologists work in national security settings and reaffirmation of the APA position against torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.” as follows:
- APA defines the term "cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment" in accordance with the UN Convention Against Torture as “other acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment which do not amount to torture as defined in article 1, when such acts are committed by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity" or with the U.S Constitution or other domestic law.
- This definition continues to evolve with international legal understandings of this term as defined by the UN Committee Against Torture, UN and regional human rights tribunals (e.g., the European Court of Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights), or other international legal bodies (e.g., the International Criminal Court) based on legal findings and jurisprudence. When legal standards conflict, APA members are held to the highest of the competing standards.
- In addition, this definition extends to all techniques and conditions of confinement considered torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment under the UN Convention Against Torture; the Geneva Conventions; the Principles of Medical Ethics Relevant to the Role of Health Personnel, Particularly Physicians, in the Protection of Prisoners and Detainees against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; the Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners; or the World Medical Association Declaration of Tokyo.
A number of other specific changes were made to the 2013 Resolution as well and commitments were made to have APA communicate immediately and routinely to various agencies of the Federal Government about the resolution and APA’s ongoing commitments to expose and oppose any violations of the UN Convention Against Torture. In addition, commitments were made to review and revise the procedures related to the conduct of Ethics Investigations and other operations by the APA Ethics Committee. By implication, another significant revision of the entire APA Code of Ethics and Standards (APA, 2010) may well be set in motion.
This very brief overview of the Report and the Resolution is provided for readers who may be unfamiliar with those documents. I can only urge everyone to read the originals for a fuller comprehension of what happened in the Summer of 2015 and to draw your own conclusions. From this point on, I would like to assume that readers have at least a passing familiarity with those artifacts and with the actions undertaken by APA and others. In the remainder of this essay, I would like to focus on the primary purposes and levels of analysis I outlined above and on their implications for the country, consulting, and other general applied psychologists.
The Hoffman Report (2015) which the Sidley team labeled as “Report to the special committee of the Board of Directors of the American Psychological Association: Independent review relating to the APA ethics guidelines, national security interrogations, and torture,” began with an abbreviated effort to selectively outline what the Sidley team clearly thought were aspects of APA’s history relevant to the charge they were given. Specific sections were provided covering the early history of psychology, the world wars of the 20th Century, psychology and national security during the cold war of the 20th Century, psychology and the military after the cold war, and a short overview of APA’s advocacy efforts to attain prescriptive authority for licensed psychology. Not included was any mention of the extraordinarily complex, subtle, and extensive relationships with perhaps the majority of the other branches of the U.S. government. Anchoring the opening of the Report in these historical explanations, the authors then explored the history of the 2002 Ethics Code revision, APA interactions with the CIA and DoD: 2001-2004, APA’s initial counterterrorism response: September -November 2001, relationships with government agencies: December 2001-February 2002, etc. The organization of the Report is justifiably seen by any objective reader as an effort to place a number of selected events and detailed exchanges by members of the APA Central Office staff and APA governance in a chronological order with the specific intent to create a narrative that supported the conclusions that the Sidley team had reached as a result of its 8 months of effort.
The Introduction to the Report described the documents that were available and reviewed, the fact that 167 interviews were conducted (although no formal records of those interviews were kept or made public and only highly selective statements and conclusions were presented in the Report based on those interviews), and six associated volumes of emails, memos, and other correspondence were released on line with the Report itself. In short, I think it is safe to conclude that the Report can be critically examined through the conceptual lens of history because its structure, narrative voice, supporting documentation, and conclusions all depend on the reader’s acceptance of the Sidley team’s rendering of this material in such terms.
Thus, the history itself is essential to understanding what the Report was intended to do by APA’s Board of Directors and Special Committee. This rendering of history by the seven attorneys, none of whom was or is a trained historian, cannot be differentiated from any other forms of evidence or argument presented in the documents. Note then from the outset, that this is by definition a limited history of APA and certain events, activities, and actions of members of APA. Kilburg (2015) also pointed out that the majority of the attorneys who prepared the Report had extensive experience in criminal prosecution and defense, an issue to which this essay will return subsequently. At the outset of this examination of the Report, it is therefore clear that it was embedded in a limited assessment of APA history, conceived, constructed, and written by seven lawyers who are mostly experts in criminal law, who had been instructed by APA’s Special Committee to search for evidence of and reasons for collusion. This is a term of legal significance implying at a minimum illicit action and at its worst criminal conspiracy.
After reading and writing about the Report through the summer of 2015 and noting that the form and substance could be considered as a history of sorts, I asked a client of mine, now a senior executive in a major research university but trained as a professional historian who had achieved significant stature in that discipline, whether there were any standard tools or methods that had been developed by that discipline to analyze histories as an intellectual product. Our conversation referenced the well-known work of Kuhn (1970, 1977) who noted the prevalence of “conceptual, theoretical, and operational paradigms” that guided the conduct of most research activities in human affairs. After some discussion, my client referred me to the work of Hayden White (1973, 1987). What follows in this section of my essay is based on my interpretations of some of the major aspects of White’s incredibly complex and rich frameworks for analyzing and understanding histories as texts with narrative intentions, structures, and motives. I am applying this framework to help illuminate aspects of the Hoffman Report that are deeply imbedded in its narrative forms and structures but were never made explicit for its readers by its authors or any element of APA governance.
In this matter, the Hoffman Report is no different than virtually any other text that is presented to an audience. These underlying and foundational elements of any narrative are left to the author(s) to select and use and then up to the readers to determine first, whether they are effective – does the text do its stated job(s) – second, whether they were chosen and used appropriately – entirely up to the reader to discern and determine – and, third, whether they deliberately and intentionally biased the reader’s reactions and conclusions – also entirely up to the reader to examine. It goes without saying that most histories, indeed, most texts themselves go completely unexamined from these points of view (Anderson, 1995; Gergen, 1991, 1999; McAdams. 1993; White & Epston,1990). In a global sense, readers most often either agree or disagree with what they read. When asked why they have these responses, they very often struggle to provide extensive explanations.
According to White (1973, 1987), histories begin with a chronicle that comprises all of the available information about the people, events, circumstances, trends, conditions, etc. that occurred during a particular period of time. Historians then arrange the chronicle in a form appropriate to their explanatory and descriptive purposes. Most often this structure takes a chronological form. The historian then selects and chooses to tell one or more stories that have beginnings, middles, and ends that arrange the data into a comprehensible narrative that defines/creates meaning for readers. Finally, s/he constructs a hierarchy of meaning and significance out of the data elements selected for the stories that includes as a minimum:
- What happened first?
- What happened next, etc.?
- How, when, and where did those things happen, and who was involved?
- Why did they happen in that way to those people in that time?
- How did it end for those involved?
- What did/does it all mean? What is or was the point?
It should be clear from this summary how useful White’s analytic framework might be to examine virtually any type of narrative or text and that it could help anyone who seeks to further analyze the Hoffman Report in such a manner. However, White did not stop there. He further delineated four additional domains within which such a narrative could be examined. This includes: Frye’s (1957) emplotment schema (the underlying plot of the narrative); Pepper’s (1966) paradigms that discursive arguments about the nature of the world usually take; Mannheim’s (1946) typology of ideologies; and, various types of major rhetorical tropes-figurative words or expressions that describe people, things, events, or places in a non literal fashion. Exhibit 1 presents a succinct summary of this framework.
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