With senior intelligence community members’ planned rebuttal to the Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Torture slated for release in a few weeks, an interesting sideline is the battle going on in the APA, or American Psychological Association. The so-called Hoffman Report, or the Independent Review Relating to APA Ethics Guidelines, National Security Interrogations, and Torture is as critical or more-so of intelligence gathering in a war-on-terrorism environment as the Senate Report. Within the APA they are calling for the cutting of all links between the APA and National Security interrogations. Unless the psychologist is there to assist the accused, or to witness the process in the interest of human rights. In other words: Division 19 go away.

Division 19 is the Society for Military Psychology, which exists, for now, within the APA a civilian organization. That means that it matters to military psychologists how they work and interact with their civilian colleagues. But not according to critics of Division 19 and the PENS report, the report on Psychological Ethics and National Security. Both are seen by the progressive civilians within the APA as the military co-opting the whole organization for its own ends. The PENS report is no longer an operative guideline and if the critics have their way, the military will have nothing to do with the APA from here on.

The issue is whether psychology should ever be used as a weapon. But the debate doesn’t get framed that way for two reasons perhaps: clearly psychology should be weaponized under certain circumstances, so the left within the APA would rather frame the issue as conspiratorial creeping militarism invading their grand old society; and the military seem to have decided that such a blunt no-nonsense framing of the issue would give them bad press. The APA should keep Division 19 within their fold. Because psychology is and has been a part of conflict for a very long time and needs the best and latest research to be effective in a military or conflict-based context of any kind. And because a separate, secretive Society for Military Psychology would operate beyond the pale of any civilian criticism and containment. Do there already exist such units? One would be surprised if they didn’t, given the threats from inside and from outside. But Division 19 needs to remain within the APA. For reasons of War, and Peace.

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