PsySR Calls on U.S. to Support Democratic Change

In light of unfolding events in Egypt, Tunisia, and elsewhere in the Middle East, Northern Africa, and beyond, Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR) has issued the statement below calling on leaders of the United States to stand firmly in support of democratic change. This statement is also available on the PsySR website.

PsySR Calls on U.S. to Support Democratic Change in the Middle East

The rapidly unfolding events in Egypt and Tunisia have stunned and engaged the world. The governments of these countries have long been criticized for their widespread human rights violations, including restrictions on freedom of expression and association, the abuse of state of emergency powers, the imprisonment of dissidents, the use of torture, and the persecution of journalists and human rights defenders. But today we are witnesses to the extraordinary power manifest when ordinary people join together and challenge undemocratic rulers, expressing the seemingly timeless human aspiration to be free of tyranny, oppression, and exploitation.

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A Commitment to Address Poverty and Inequality

Psychologists for Social Responsibility has issued the following statement, developed by PsySR’s Poverty and Inequality Project, in an effort to direct greater attention to these urgent issues from psychologists, other mental health professionals, policymakers, and the general public.

Poverty is the single greatest threat to individual human development and it simultaneously creates profound social disruption in the United States and around the world. Unless institutions and citizens take steps now to reduce and prevent poverty—and the growing inequality that deepens and widens its damaging repercussions—we will face a nightmarish future that can be measured in untold numbers of destroyed lives, communities, and institutions.

Poverty and inequality are responsible for adults often being too stressed to parent well; inadequate access to nourishing food, clean water, and sanitation; dilapidated housing, homelessness, and dangerous communities; schools unable to educate children to read, write, and think for themselves; conflict, crime, and violence; few work opportunities and low pay for jobs that do exist; daily struggles to manage personal, family, and financial chaos; and risks for premature birth and early death. All of these consequences contribute to the developmental damage that results from limited access to the basic resources that nurture us. Ultimately, poverty and inequality engender hopelessness, helplessness, and misery, and they tear at the social fabric of families and communities.

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Shocking New Report: The CIA Performed Human Experiments on Prisoners Under Bush

Stephen Soldz

Over the last year there have been an increasing number of accounts suggesting that, along with the CIA’s "enhanced interrogation" torture program, there was a related program experimenting with and researching the application of the torture.

For example, in the seven paragraphs released by a British court summarizing observations by British counterintelligence agents of the treatment of Binyan Mohamed by the CIA, the first two of these paragraphs stated:

    It was reported that a new series of interviews was conducted by the United States authorities prior to 17 May 2002 as part of a new strategy designed by an expert interviewer….

    BM had been intentionally subjected to continuous sleep deprivation. The effects of the sleep deprivation were carefully observed. [emphasis added]

The suggestion was that a new strategy was being tested and the results carefully examined. Several detainees have provided similar accounts, expressing their belief that their interrogations were being carefully studied, apparently so that the techniques could be modified based on the results. Such research would violate established laws and ethical rules governing research.

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PsySR Statement Opposing U.S. Military Escalation in Afghanistan

psysrbanner2In response to President Obama’s early December announcement, PsySR has issued the following statement opposing the proposed U.S. military escalation in Afghanistan. Highlighting key psychological and human rights considerations, we instead call for a heightened focus on development and diplomacy.

In Afghanistan, Escalate Development and Diplomacy, Not War

In a national address on December 1st, 2009, President Barack Obama detailed his strategy to send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan and to thereby escalate the war.

As an organization committed to the application of psychological knowledge and expertise in promoting peace, social justice, human rights, and sustainability, Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR) received this news with great concern. While acknowledging the President’s careful thought and deliberation, we believe that his decision is ill-advised and counter-productive because it fails to adequately recognize the following key considerations:

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PsySR Archives Established in Akron

Anne Anderson

ahap-akronI am pleased to report that this past summer, I delivered the first set of archived materials for Psychologists for Social Responsibility to the Archives of the History of American Psychology (AHAP) at the University of Akron in Akron, Ohio. Martha Mednick, who served as PsySR’s newsletter editor for several years, and I have spent the last 2 ½ years reviewing and sorting most of the some 150 boxes of records that cover the years 1982-2006. There are still about 30 boxes left to sort, and our plans are to submit the rest of the materials by the end of this year.

This project was actually begun in 1984, when I became PsySR’s Coordinator. I saved everything that came through the PsySR office, so it has been a fascinating process to refine the materials down to only 16 boxes of significant materials that tell the story of what PsySR has been doing since its birth in 1982.

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PsySR Poses Key Questions for APA on Harsh Interrogations

PsySRBanner2PsySR’s Statement Posing Key Questions for the American Psychological Association on Harsh Interrogations

Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR) has called for an independent national commission to fully investigate U.S. torture and prisoner abuse under the Bush Administration. We include in that call for the commission to determine whether the American Psychological Association (APA) – the largest association of psychologists worldwide – knowingly cooperated with the Department of Defense and the CIA in helping to plan, facilitate, provide official justification for, or hide the use of harsh interrogation methods.

We do not call for this investigation of the APA lightly – and we do not prejudge what such a commission might learn or conclude. We are mindful of APA’s work to improve understanding and human welfare in many fields of psychology. But many psychologists and other clinical professionals seek answers to why the APA, committed by its charter to promote the highest professional ethics for its members, did not act with vigor against psychologists’ involvement in abusive interrogations and torture – and in numerous instances appeared to do the opposite. Here we highlight six illustrative questions that we believe merit further investigation by an independent commission:

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Psychologists for Social Responsibility Urges Independent Torture Commission to Examine Role of Psychologists and APA in Prisoner Abuse

guantanamoPsySR’s Statement Urging Independent Torture Commission to Examine Role of Psychologists and APA in Prisoner Abuse

As an organization dedicated to the ethical application of psychology to promote peace, justice, and human rights, Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR) condemns the prominent participation of psychologists in planning and carrying out the systematic abuse of U.S. detainees, as documented by the release of four previously classified Office of Legal Counsel memos and the extensive report of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“In an era of complex international relations and security needs,” notes Jancis Long, Ph.D., President of PsySR, “it is more important than ever for the human sciences to be the guardians of human rights, professional ethics and universal responsibilities.” PsySR therefore also urges the following:

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