One of the most intense scandals the field of psychology has faced over the last decade is the involvement of several of its members in enabling Bush's worldwide torture regime. Numerous health professionals worked for the U.S. government to help understand how best to mentally degrade and break down detainees. At the center of that controversy was -- and is -- Dr. Larry James. James, a retired Army colonel, was the Chief Psychologist at Guantanamo in 2003, at the height of the abuses at that camp, and then served in the same position at Abu Ghraib during 2004.
Today, Dr. James circulated an excited email announcing, "with great pride," that he has now been selected to serve on the "White House Task Force entitled Enhancing the Psychological Well-Being of The Military Family." In his new position, he will be meeting at the White House with Michelle Obama and other White House officials on Tuesday.
For his work at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, Dr. James was the subject of two formal ethics complaints in the two states where he is licensed to practice: Louisiana and Ohio. Those complaints -- 50 pages long and full of detailed and well-documented allegations -- were filed by the International Human Rights Clinic of Harvard Law School's Human Rights Program, on behalf of veterans, mental health professionals and others. The complaints detailed how James "was the senior psychologist of the Guantánamo BSCT, a small but influential group of mental health professionals whose job it was to advise on and participate in the interrogations, and to help create an environment designed to break down prisoners." Specifically:
During his tenure at the prison, boys and men were threatened with rape and death for themselves and their family members; sexually, culturally, and religiously humiliated; forced naked; deprived of sleep; subjected to sensory deprivation, over-stimulation, and extreme isolation; short-shackled into stress positions for hours; and physically assaulted. The evidence indicates that abuse of this kind was systemic, that BSCT health professionals played an integral role in its planning and practice. . . .
Writing in 2009, Law Professor Bill Quigley and Deborah Popowski, a Fellow at the Harvard Law School Human Rights Program, described James' role in this particularly notorious incident:
In 2003, Louisiana psychologist and retired Col. Larry James watched behind a one-way mirror in a US prison camp while an interrogator and three prison guards wrestled a screaming, near-naked man on the floor.
The prisoner had been forced into pink women's panties, lipstick and a wig; the men then pinned the prisoner to the floor in an effort "to outfit him with the matching pink nightgown." As he recounts in his memoir, "Fixing Hell," Dr. James initially chose not to respond. He "opened [his] thermos, poured a cup of coffee, and watched the episode play out, hoping it would take a better turn and not wanting to interfere without good reason ..."
Although he claims to eventually find "good reason" to intervene, the Army colonel never reported the incident or even so much as reprimanded men who had engaged in activities that constituted war crimes.
James treated numerous detainees who were abused, degraded, and tortured, yet never took any steps to stop or even report these incidents. Last year, Steven Reisner -- senior faculty member and supervisor at the International Trauma Studies Program, who also teaches at New York University Medical School and Columbia University -- told Democracy Now: "there is a lot of evidence that has been made public showing that the torture programs in the CIA and at Guantánamo, the Department of Defense, were created and overseen by health professionals, particularly psychologists" and that psychologists were at these facilities "to use their professional expertise to break down the detainees..."
Top Bush-era GITMO and Abu Ghraib psychologist is WH's newest appointment
Friday, Mar 25, 2011