It has been the consistent policy of the American Psychological Association (APA) that psychologists do, and should have, the right to participate in interrogations in U.S. operated detention sites that violate the Geneva Convention and other international agreements to which the United States is a signatory. In addition, some APA leaders have launched scathing attacks on members of the APA and bioethicists who question the ethics of such participation (Koocher, 2006; Summers, 2007). The question then presents itself: Why is the APA so adamant in maintaining a position of such questionable ethical status? Why will it not give any credence to accumulating evidence of the complicity of psychologists in torture and abuse taking place in such settings with the (e.g., IOG, 2004; United Nations, 2006)? As analysts, we look to the past for clarity on the present. The purpose of this historical investigation is to understand the APA position in the context of the historical bond between the APA and the U.S. military.
World War II
Before The Second World War psychology was a relatively small, primarily
academic discipline with its only clinical application being testing, a service that began with World War I. World War II brought with it a demand for psychological research, consulting, and clinical service that resulted in exponential growth for the field. The table below shows the remarkable increase enjoyed by both psychology and psychiatry beginning with WWII.
Source: Herman (1995)
*includes both members and associates
1940 2,739 2,423
1970 30, 839 18, 407
Increase 1,100% 760%
1993 Increase 75, 000 250% 38,000 25%
The National Research Council mobilized psychologists so that after one year of the war, fully 25% of Ph.D. psychologists were directly employed by the military, and many others were doing consulting work. By the end of the war, 1710 psychologists were serving in the military, an astounding figure because in 1945 the APA had only 1,012 full members. Including the large number of consulting contracts awarded to psychologists during the war, it is likely that the majority of psychologists were engaged in military work at some point during the war. In the postwar era, The American Psychological Association’s growth curve surpassed that of all other medical and academic fields, and the U.S. employed more psychologists per capita than anywhere else in the world (Gilgen, 1982).
Psychologists contributed to the victory over the Axis Powers in a variety of ways. When the Japanese were interred in camps after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, psychologists did studies of how to control the population and quell potential resistance on both a group and individual basis (Herman, 1995, p.26-28). A more central role was the screening of prospective soldiers and classification of current troops into suitable jobs. The severe shortage of psychiatrists led to the establishment of the Army Adjutant’s General’s Office independent of psychiatry, under the auspices of which psychologists
developed the General Classification Tests that became the model for screening and classification of potential soldiers (Mangelsdorf, 2006). In addition, in 1943 the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), which later became the CIA formed the first psychological assessment center in the United States, and within 18 months this office evaluated more than 5000 candidates for the OSS (Banks, 2006).
Psychologists undertook a variety of research projects in response to the needs of the war. Night vision, perception, frustration and aggression, the design of gunsights, group morale, and leadership were but a few of the areas investigated. A study published just before the war by The Yale Institute of Human Relations (Dollard, et.al., 1939) was sighted by Gardner Murphy (1945) as an aid to the war effort.
Despite all this work, psychology’s biggest contribution to the allied victory consisted of morale studies. Psychologists in the Psychological War Division (PWD) of the Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Forces (SHAEF). dubbed the “Sykewarriors,” were given the mission of destroying enemy morale (Lerner, 1949). They gathered data from POWs, analyzed Nazi documents and broadcasts, and performed analyses of Hitler’s speeches. Outside of government, the Communications Group of the Rockefeller Foundation funded two Princeton projects each of which was led by a famous psychologist (Gary, 1991). The Princeton Office of Public Opinion Research directed by Dr. Hadley Cantril helped in the analysis of European broadcasts and the understanding of Nazi psychology. The Princeton Listening Center, run by Dr. Goodwin Watson, became part of the FCC as the Foreign Broadcast Monitoring Service. The “sykewarriors” identified five categories of German attitudes toward the Nazi
movement that successfully predicted German responses to allied propaganda. The work of the “sykewarriors” was regarded as a great success and a crucial contribution to the defeat of the German army and the breaking of the German will (Lerner, 1949). It also gave birth to the field of culture and personality.
Psychologists made a lasting contribution to understanding the effects of combat with the study called The Strategic Bombing Survey (Leighton, 1949). Using the pioneering methods of interview and survey research under the direction of the soon to be famous psychologist Rensis Likert, the major finding was that aerial bombing did not have anywhere near the effect on enemy morale as supposed (USSBS 1946-7). This result underlined the need to supplement weapons with psychological strategies to break enemy will.
Psychologists also led a massive effort to maintain and improve domestic morale, both civilian and military. A Committee of National Morale including some of the most well regarded psychologists of the age, studied Nazi psychological warfare (Farago, 1941). The Emergency Committee in Psychology sponsored a conference, “On the Psychological Factors in Morale” in 1940 and soon launched a subcommittee on defense chaired by Gordon Allport (Dallenbach, 1946). By 1942, this group had 22 “morale seminars” functioning. Their extensive polling was used to recommend policy on explaining the U.S. entry into the war and to manage the opinions of sectors of American society, such as trade unions. They also expanded their investigations to race relations because racial conflict was regarded as inimical to the war effort in both the civilian and military sectors.
Military morale was the subject of such intensive psychological investigation that more than 300 studies comprising 60,000 interviews were conducted, resulting in by far the largest study of a subcategory of the American population to that point. The primary product of their work was the four volume The American Soldier series, which was not only a landmark scientific study, but also the first social psychological investigation, conducted by American psychologists (Stouffer, 1949). This massive study found that the preoccupations of American soldiers had little to do with democracy or principles, and, in fact, were little different from those of their German and Japanese counterparts: physical discomfort, moving up the chain of command, and staying out of combat. This conclusion led to massive indoctrination effort to explain to the soldiers the purpose of the war via films, education, pamphlets, and newsletters, some of which were written by psychologists such as Dr. John Dollard.
In addition to fighting the enemy, the military needed psychologists to help with the large number of psychiatric casualties of wartime military service. Millions of soldiers and veterans suffered from mental breakdowns of various types and severity (Menninger, 1948). Five hundred and fifty thousand men, or 49% of all discharges, were Neuropsychiatric (NP). Due to the severe shortage of psychiatric personnel, psychologists were thrust into psychotherapeutic roles for the first time. Very few psychologists had significant education in psychotherapy, but during the war many were forced to assume the role of psychotherapist despite their lack of preparation (Herman, 1995). Of the 1700 psychologists employed by the military at the war’s end, a significant number were in therapeutic roles. This need for nonpsychiatric clinicians led the
military to establish a pioneering clinical psychology training program at Brooke General Hospital (Menninger, 1948).
Several historical outcomes resulted from the participation of psychology in the defeat of the Axis Powers. First, the concept of warfare was expanded to include “psychological warfare,” the province of psychology. General Eisenhower acknowledged the importance of psychological expertise in the victory of the allies, “Without doubt psychological warfare has proved its right to a place of dignity in our military arsenal” (quoted in Lerner, 1949). The OSS, which was to become the CIA, also recognized the “huge contribution” made by social scientists (Magruder, 1945).
War needs resulted in the creation of research and clinical areas of psychology that had not existed before WWII. Social psychology and subspecialty areas such as group dynamics, culture and personality, and the study of race relations, were all created during the war, and the acceptance of psychologists as psychotherapists was also a byproduct of the conflict. The unprecedented need for mental health services that appeared during and after the war along with the shortage of psychiatrists resulted in pressure for the training of psychologists as psychotherapists. In both the clinical and research arenas, newly created subfields of psychology were to become institutionalized as areas of study and intervention after the war.
The importance of playing a role in the Allied victory was not lost on the profession. In his presidential address in 1944, Gardner Murphy (1945) expressed the belief that psychology was “on the threshold of becoming an integrated, dynamic science that was now ready to apply its findings to the great problems confronting the
international world.” The growing popularity of the field was reflected in the steadily increasing number of undergraduate psychology majors (Fischer & Hinshaw, 1946). From a relatively peripheral largely academic discipline prior to the War, in a few years the field had become the fastest growing of the social sciences and was on the threshold of becoming a major component of the way society understood and hoped to resolve its problems.
The Post-War Era and Psychology
Psychologists believed that their contribution to the war effort warranted a
substantial increase in government support, and Congress and the Pentagon clearly agreed because beginning in 1945 the field began to receive exponential increases in DOD dollars. Just one year after the war’s end, the Office of Naval Research (ONR) became the first extramural research program of the DOD. In the first five years of the post-war period, the ONR provided $2million per year, or $16 million in estimated equivalent 2008 dollars (e.e.), establishing this office as the greatest single source of funding for psychological research until the founding of the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 1950 (Darley, 1957). The Navy funded a variety of research areas that had been virtually nonexistent before the war. Attitude measurement, leadership and small group theory, job and task analysis, and human factors in job performance, were but a few of the subspecialties that were developed primarily by Naval support that have become institutionalized as part of academic psychology (Nelson, 2006). The ONR was also in the forefront of funding for sensory deprivation research along with the CIA, as will be
discussed below. Furthermore, the Navy sponsored one of the first APA-approved internships (Sammons, 2006). In appreciation of these contributions, in 1957 APA President Leonard Carmichael gave a certificate to Rear Admiral Rawson Bennett II, Chief of Naval Research that read, “Presented in recognition of the exceptional contributions of the Office of Naval Research to the development of American psychology and other sciences basic to the national welfare.”
The other major service branches soon followed the lead of the Navy. In the 1950’s, the Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences (ARI) expanded greatly both its intramural and extramural scope. The ARI created three laboratories that employed psychologists to study human factors, work that was not only valuable in the Gulf War, but also has application beyond the military (Krueger, 2006). The Walter Reed ARI at its height had more than 100 research behavioral scientists, most of them psychologists, whose focus was on the stresses of military life. In addition, the ARI expanded greatly its extramural research program to both university-based research and individual contract research centers. Today psychologists make up 94% of the workforce of the ARI, and the extramural funding also goes primarily to psychologists. When the Air Force became a separate service in 1947, it quickly established three separate centers for human resources, all of which were combined into the Air Force Personnel and Training Research Center (AFPTRC), which was later, replaced with the Personnel Research Laboratory at Lackland Air Force Base. Psychologists’ roles in the Air Force have continued to be focused on selection, classification, human engineering, and the training of pilots (Taylor, 2006).
These research endeavors reflected the dramatic increase in DOD funding of psychological research during the post-war period. By the 1960’s the DOD was spending almost all of its $15million (e.e. $120 million) annual social science research budget on psychology. To appreciate the importance of this figure, consider that it is more than the entire DOD Research and Development budget in the pre-war years. By the end of the sixties, the DOD spent approximately $40 million annually ($320 e.e.) on psychological research. From 1945 to 1969 the DOD was the largest institutional sponsor of psychological research, and there was no close second (Darley, 1952; Lanier, 1949). During the Korean War, the DOD spent more on social science research than all other federal agencies combined (NSF, 1951-52). The earliest available data on government funding of the social sciences was a NSF study in 1952 that found that 96% of the expenditures came from the military. These funds went not only to academic researchers in universities but also to the Federal Contract Research Centers (FCRCs) that proliferated after the War, nominally affiliated with universities, but relying almost exclusively on DOD grants (Watson, 1978). Employment in these organizations tripled between 1954 and 1965 with overall budget increases of 500% during that period (Crawford &Biderman, 1969). The most well-known of these institutions is the RAND Corporation, but the Special Operations Research Office (SORO) also played a major role in psychological research during the Cold War.
As a result of the meteoric rise in funding for psychological research after the war, the type of work psychology had done for in WWII became institutionalized both within the DOD and in universities and FCRC’s with DOD support. Work continued in areas
such as psychological warfare, intelligence classification, human factors engineering, the evaluation of crews and the group dynamics of soldiers in combat, studies of national character, frustration and aggression, and the psychological roots of economic behavior. The military was so essential to the growth of psychology that one psychologist expressed the hope that “the military may do for psychology what the industrial revolution did for the physical sciences” (Melton, 1952).
The CIA, The Cold War, and Psychology
As national anxiety about the Communist threat mounted in the post-war era, in
1947 the OSS became the CIA, and within 5 months the newly named intelligence agency was authorized for propaganda including psychological operations for which it immediately began recruiting psychologists. There was a widespread belief, promoted by the CIA, that the Communist regimes in the Soviet Union and China had invented secret, sophisticated mind control techniques, although the agency knew the contention was unfounded (McCoy, 2006, p.34). Nonetheless, some psychologists, including prominent Yale professor and later APA president Irving L. Janis (1949), endorsed this fear, thus lending it legitimacy.
The hysteria over the alleged secret psychological methods of the Soviets was used as a justification for spending several billion dollars between 1950 and 1963 on mind control programs (McCoy, 2006). The highly secret MK-Ultra program, under the direction of Richard Helms, who later became chief of the agency, was a two-pronged effort to study the ability to influence minds by mass persuasion and coercion of the
individual. The first phase from 1950 to 1956 was focused primarily on attempts to use drugs, often to unsuspecting subjects, hypnosis, and electroshock. A total of 149 projects and 33 subprojects, involving 185 nongovernmental researchers received $25 million ($200 million e.e.) annually from 1953 to 1962 (McCoy, 2006). The most egregious example of this work were the “depatterning” experiments of Dr. Ewen Cameron on about 100 unwitting hospitalized patients that included drug-induced comas, electroshock, and sensory deprivation. The LSD program used hospitals and universities, such as Boston Psychopathic, Mt. Sinai, and Columbia University, but also included giving the drug to hundreds of unsuspecting subjects. The CIA ties of the academic researchers were hidden, and because Helms destroyed the files, the identity and number of psychologists involved may never be known.
After determining that LSD was not yielding the expected results, the agency shifted to a behavioral approach, and at that point psychologists played a more central role in the CIA mind control program. As early as 1950 a contract worth $300, 000 (e.e. $2.4 million) was given through the ONR to an unnamed “Department of Psychology.” The behavioral emphasis was given a huge boost at a secret Montreal meeting attended by CIA officials and researchers, including Dr. Donald Hebb, which led to a behavioral research agenda culminating in the discovery of psychological torture. Among the outcomes of this pivotal meeting was a CIA funded psychological research program to be conducted at major American universities. As mentioned above, the Navy became the second major patron of this field along with the CIA. Within two years of its initiation of
the ONR research program, the Navy doled out 117 contracts at 58 universities under its newly founded Psychological Sciences research program (Page, 1954).
Hebb, who was to become an APA president, received a grant to pursue studies in sensory deprivation under the pretense of attempting to prevent “railway and highway accidents.” His student volunteers were paid double the daily wage just to lie in a lighted cubicle without sensory input. Nonetheless, most were unable to complete the project, and all suffered hallucinations (Hebb, 1954). After only four hours of sensory deprivation, subjects had difficulty connecting their thoughts (Bexton, et.al., 1954). Hebb (1955) concluded that even short-term sensory deprivation had a devastating impact on the mind, often leading to a complete breakdown of mental functioning and hallucinations. In a series of publications authored by the lead experimenter and/or his students, the researchers reported that human equilibrium is delicate, requiring a constantly changing sensory environment for its maintenance (Heron, et.al., 1953; Heron, 1957). Hebb’s ground-breaking work became instantly famous and a standard part of the curriculum of psychology textbooks, but it also became the foundation for the CIA’s new psychological paradigm for torture.
Major research centers established in 1951 by a group of psychologists, investigated the refinement of the key variables in sensory deprivation and isolation with grants from a variety of sources, but primarily from the ONR and CIA (e.g., Myers, 1969; Rossi, 1969; Smith, 1969; Vernon, 1963). Seven years after the first reports, there were over 230 articles on sensory deprivation published in scientific journals. A tight relationship became established between the ONR, the CIA, and experimental
psychology. The agency became so closely tied to psychology that it routinely flew psychologists to international conferences and monitored the annual meetings of the American Psychological Association. The intelligence community allocated between $7 and $13 million annually ($56 to $104 million e.e.) for studies in sensory deprivation to academic researchers, most of whom were psychologists, by channeling the money through private foundations, such as Ford and Rockefeller, and academic organizations, such as the Bureau of Social Science Research (BSSR) at American University (McCoy, 2006).
CIA Chief Allen Dulles convinced his close friend, the Cornell neuropsychiatrist Dr. Harold Wolff, to form The Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology, later renamed The Human Ecology Fund (HEF), at Cornell Medical Center to study mind control techniques with CIA funding. Wolff, along with his partner, Dr. Lawrence Hinkle, received $5 million ($40 million e.e.) for a three year project involving the testing of drugs and the study of cultural differences. Hinkle and Wolff formed a group that included the psychologist Col. James Monroe, former head of the Psychological Warfare Research Division of the Air Force, and CIA psychologist John Gittinger. The group did a comprehensive study of Communist mind control techniques, and found the Communist regimes used primarily sleep deprivation and forced standing to coerce captives (Greenfield, 1977).
HEF also gave grants to psychological research of various types. They funded the work of Dr. Harry Harlow, another future APA president, on the effects of isolation in monkeys, some of whom were left without contact for up to 24 months. The Fund
supported Harlow, Dr. I.E. Farber, a psychologist, and Dr. Louis Jolyon West, a psychiatrist, to do the definitive study on Communist psychological tactics (Farber, Harlow, West, 1957). The authors concluded that the Soviets relied primarily on sleep deprivation and total environmental control to break down POWs, but they added “DDD,” debility, dread, and dependency, as key factors that aided the mental breakdown of the subjects. The process consists of producing a condition of excessive weariness, the occasional respite from deprivation which makes the prisoner dependent on the captor for relief, and, finally, the induction of chronic fear. The authors also noted that because the victim relied on his captors for relief, he experienced himself as doing the harm to himself, thus making “self-inflicted harm” a central component of Communist mind control.
In its investigations funneled through universities and research centers such as HEF, the CIA had discovered, with the critical help of psychologists, the dual pillars of what was to become its strategy for breaking down prisoners: sensory deprivation and self-inflicted harm. The handbook for CIA interrogation, the Kubark Manual of 1963, was based on these two principles.
HEF funded the work of prominent psychologists, such as the hypnosis research of Dr. Martin Orne, the psychotherapy research of Dr. Carl Rogers who later was appointed to the Board, and the studies of civilians imprisoned in China by the eminent MIT organizational psychologist Edgar Schein (Greenfield, 1977). Because Rogers’ work was among the first formal psychotherapy research projects, it is not hyperbole to suggest that the field of psychotherapy research was launched with a boost from the CIA.
Schein’s (1961) book Coercive Persuasion was written with CIA money, although the author claims not to have known the source of the funding.
The Human Resources Research Organization (HumRRO) was established in 1951 by a group of psychologists to do human factors and organizational research for the U.S. Army. Originally funded 100% by the Pentagon, it now gets about 55% of its money from the DOD. HumRRO added to Hebb’s work, the impact of “radical isolation” on hallucinations, mood, and the measurement of affect and subjective stress (e.g., Meyers, et.al., 1966). In addition to sensory deprivation studies, HumRRO engages in a variety of organizational work. With a total budget of $21 million, this organization has close ties to APA. The chairman of the board is James McHugh Jr., former senior APA counsel, its vice chair is Charles McKay, the APA’s Chief Financial Officer, and the HumRRO vice president is Dr. William Strickland, currently the representative of the Division of Military Psychology to the APA Board and the chief spokesman for the APA in its testimony before Congress each year in support of defense money.
Psychology and the Third World
The belief, held by many foreign policy makers in the 1950’s and 1960’s, that the
key to influencing The Third World was psychological led the CIA to include mass persuasion as a crucial component of its mind control program. Between 1945 and 1960 the field of mass communication studies was dominated by DOD and CIA funded studies of psychological warfare (Simpson, 1994). Six of the major postwar centers for communication studies that were established after the War received 75% of their funding
from the DOD, making these organizations in effect adjuncts of the government’s psychological warfare program.
A major component of the government’s mass persuasion campaign was directed at the civilian populations in European countries still under U.S. military occupation, perhaps the greatest propaganda effort ever undertaken by a democratic society (Paddock, 1982). During the 1950’s the government spent about $1 billion annually ($8 billion e.e.) on communication studies, much of which went to social psychologists. However, some of this money was used for secret torture studies with social psychology providing an effective cover. For example, the CIA funded studies of POW torture through the BSSR under the guise of a social psychological study of communication.
In March, 1962, the U.S. Army and SORO sponsored a conference, “The U.S. Army’s Limited War Mission and Social Science Research,” that brought together military personnel and psychological expertise. Attended by more than 300 behavioral scientists, most of them psychologists, the military expressed an unequivocal need for psychological expertise to fight a “new kind of war” (Karcher, 1962). The psychologists were told that the role of social science in the conduct of this war was now well accepted in the military and reflected in the curriculum at West Point. Psychological help was solicited to exploit “national vulnerabilities” in order to prevent insurgencies or destroy such movements if they were initiated. The response of the psychologist attendees, especially the Smithsonian group of Dr. Charles Bray, was clearly a powerful desire to be included in the effort to win over populations in the underdeveloped world.
The military and political goals explicated in the 1962 conference were the impetus behind Project Camelot, “a veritable Manhattan Project for the social sciences,” the aim of which was to study in-depth insurgency movements with a focus on Latin America under the pretext of a NSF study (Herman, 1995). With a DOD grant funneled through SORO of $4-6 million ($24-36 million e.e.) over three years, the project, if it had been brought to fruition, would have been the largest federally funded behavioral science research program in U.S. history. However, in Chile the funding source was leaked, and the ensuing protest eventually resulted in the official cancellation of the program in 1965. The Congressional hearings held in its aftermath concluded the fault lay in the neglect of the social sciences by the State Department, a conclusion that resulted in a substantial increase in social science spending at State from $27.3 million (about $170 e.e.) in 1965 to $50 million ($300 million e.e.) five years later. Despite the scandal, projects similar to Camelot were undertaken in Brazil, Colombia, and Peru, and four years after the scandal broke, the DOD admitted that not one of its behavioral science projects was cancelled due to the Camelot scandal. SORO, the sponsoring agent of the program, reorganized itself as the Center for Research in Social Systems (CRESS), and Theodore Vallance continued as its head. Utilizing 45 experts from 14 universities, CRESS published a three volume study, Challenge and Response in Internal Conflict, which provided detailed information on 57 twentieth century insurgencies. While the academics who participated in the CRESS studies included social scientists from a variety of disciplines, psychology was the best represented, and the psychology of the insurgents was the target of the investigations.
Thus, the Cold War period continued the trend in the military begun in WWII to see war as both psychological and technological, and the appreciation for the psychological factors of warfare resulted in unprecedented and wholly unique financial support for psychological research. With no other source of support even close to the funds provided by the DOD, the single most important factor in the continued strong growth of the field lay in its military applications.
Psychology and the Vietnam War
Propaganda was a key component of the strategy to win the Viet Nam war. The
“sykewarriors” of this conflict replicated, on a much grander scale, the techniques developed in WWII. For example, in an average month in 1969 713 million leaflets were dropped from airplanes and two thousand hours of broadcasting was aired in an attempt to convince the Vietnamese to defect from the National Liberation Front (NLF) (Watson, 1978). In addition, the commander of the U.S. forces, General Westmoreland, asked for and received many studies of NLF psychology. These studies emphasized many of the same social psychological factors of enemy morale discovered in WWII: group membership, patterns of leadership, and emotion over reason. The most ambitious of these investigations conducted by RAND included 62,000 pages of interviews with defectors, prisoners, and refugees (Watson, 1978). Even though the conclusions of these studies were typically unrealistically optimistic, and often simply wrong, the military used their “light at the end of the tunnel” conclusions to justify optimism about the war effort.
The Veterans Administration and the Growth of the Mental Health Industry WWII had resulted in a staggering number of psychiatric casualties that
overwhelmed the Veterans Administrations Hospitals (VA). Between 1940 and 1948 military psychiatric cases doubled. By 1946, the VA system had 70,000 total cases, 44,000 of which bore a diagnosis of emotional disorder, a full 50% of military disability cases were psychiatric, and 10% of inpatient beds were occupied with psychiatric cases (Menninger, 1948). Having precious few psychiatrists to treat this unprecedented overflow of psychological problems, the VA estimated it needed 4,700 clinical psychologists and vocational counselors at a time when there were not that many psychologists of all types in the entire country.
The VA in cooperation with the United State Public Health Service (USPHS) undertook a massive effort to fund the training of clinical psychologists. In 1946 a four year training program housed in 22 universities was established. Within one year, the VA had meted out 59 training and research grants to clinical psychology programs. Within 3 years, 700 students in 41 universities were studying to become clinical psychologists on VA training grants (Raimy, 1950). This number represented stunning growth for a specialty area that had only 270 members in its Division before the war. The VA was the first institution to provide comprehensive clinical training to psychologists, a fact that led ex-APA President, Dr. Sharon Brehm (2007), to remark that “The VA is the birthplace of professional psychology training.”
By 1949 there were 149 universities offering clinical training to about one-half of the total 5,600 psychology graduate students in the country. So, within four years after the war there were more clinical psychology students than there were members of the APA at the start of the war (Raimy, 1950). Although graduate programs in clinical psychology were located in universities, the VA system provided funds, training facilities, clerkships and internships, personnel to teach and supervise students, and job opportunities for graduates. By 1947, just two years after the war’s end, twenty-two universities had a total of 210 trainees in the VA program for clinical psychologists. By 1949, 42 schools were offering doctoral level training in clinical psychology (Heiser, 1950). Furthermore, even before most of these students could graduate from these newly emerging training programs, the VA had become the largest employer of clinical psychologists in the country. The training and employment opportunities afforded by the VA system were largely responsible for the steep growth curve of clinical psychology, which, in turn, was a major reason for the expansion of the entire field. By 1950 the clinical division of APA had 1,047 members, about 15% of the total membership, roughly a 400% increase since the beginning of the War. Within a few years of the war’s end, clinical and counseling psychology accounted for 43% of all psychology positions, a meteoric rise in fields which had barely existed prior to the outbreak of WWII (Black, 1949).
As a result of the overwhelming prevalence of mental health problems experienced by veterans and the overcrowding of the VA with psychiatric patients, Congress passed the Mental Health Act of 1946. This legislation provided money for
training professionals in mental health service and research on psychological disorders, gave money to states to provide treatment for mental health, and established the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
The recognition of the enormity of veterans mental health needs spurred such rapid growth that by 1950 NIMH was spending $8.7 million ($65 million e.e.) on research and training, and by 1967 that figure had grown to $315 million ($1.2 billion e.e.), a 3,500% increase in 17 years. In 1964, 60% of NIMH funding went to the behavioral sciences, with psychology the single greatest recipient of NIMH largesse (Joint Commission, 1961). As a consequence, the military no longer was the overwhelmingly singular source of funds for psychological research and training it had been in the 50’s, but because the DOD dollar figures did not decline, the military remained one of the two pillars that held up psychological research, training, and treatment. Furthermore, as indicated above, some of the NIMH money went for defense purposes, and there was, in general, a great deal of personnel and mission overlap between NIMH and the DOD so the line of demarcation between the two agencies is blurry.
Despite the steep growth of NIMH funding, the VA has remained a primary source of clinical psychology training. After its peak in the 1960’s, NIMH funding has suffered yearly budget cutbacks, forcing an ever greater reliance on the military for clinical psychology training (Loman, 1984). At this time, the VA has 15% of APA- accredited clinical psychology internship sites and fully 40% of postdoctoral training programs (Brehm, 2007). The VA has become so essential to clinical psychology that
the APA is an advocate for VA funding. The APA lobbies the Senate and House Appropriations Committees for VA funds. APA official, Dr. Heather Kelly, serves on the executive committee of Friends of VA, and the APA maintains frequent contact with several VA organizations.
The rapid growth of the clinical arena in the post-war era has shifted the nature of the field. By 1962, for the first time in its history, psychologists employed outside of universities outnumbered their academic colleagues (Tryon, 1963). Eight years later, the approximately 10,000 clinical and counseling psychologists represented almost half of the doctorates granted in psychology. Now about half of the 90,000 members of the APA are clinicians. This sea change in the profession was inspired, launched, and sustained by the military. Even the subsidies that did not come directly from DOD, such as NIMH, were motivated by public recognition of the overwhelming mental health needs of soldiers and veterans.
Prescription Drug Privileges
Historically the one major clinical arena from which the psychologist has
remained excluded is the right to prescribe psychotropic medication. The only institution responsive to psychology’s desire to break down this last barrier to clinical practice has been the DOD. After intense lobbying by the APA, in 1991 the DOD launched the Psychopharmacology Demonstration Project (PDP) which trained psychologists to write prescriptions for psychotropic medication. Before the initiative was abandoned in response to pressure from psychiatry in 1997, ten clinical
psychologists were trained. While the small number of participants may appear trivial, the implications of this project far exceed the ten psychologists who have completed it. The PDP has been used as a model for legislation passed in Hawaii, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Guam that gives prescription drug privileges to psychologists, in several other states where such legislation is pending, and in 30 states where task forces are studying the issue (Sammons, 2006). At this point, several hundred psychologists have been trained to administer psychotropic medication.
The movement to gain prescription drug privileges for psychologists is following the pattern we have seen in many other growth areas for psychology since the war: what begins in the military tends to become institutionalized as part of psychology. Furthermore, the PDP reflects the enmeshment of psychology and the military. The five authors of the major publication describing the success of the program include Dr. Russ Newman chief of the APA practice directorate for 18 years until resigning in 2007, two other Practice Directorate officials, and the two military officers, Dr. Morgan Sammons, chief of Naval psychology, and Dr. Debra Dunivin, a Behavioral Science Consulting Team (BSCT) psychologist and the spouse of Dr. Newman (Newman, et.al., 2000). BSCTs are teams of behavioral scientists, each including one psychologist, which consult on interrogations in Guantanamo and other detention facilities. Drs. Sammons and Dunivin are two of the ten psychologists trained in the PDP. The marriage of Drs. Newman and Dunivin both concretizes and symbolizes the wedding of psychology and the military.
Psychology and the “War on Terror”
On February 28, 2002, five months after the attack on The World Trade Center, a
major invitation only conference, “Countering Terrorism: Integration of Theory and Practice,” was held at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, sponsored by the host organization, the APA, and The Solomon Asch Center of The University of Pennsylvania. Of the 68 participants, there were at least 25 psychologists, by far the best-represented discipline in attendance, and an additional 3 APA staff members, including Dr. Steven Behnke, head of the APA Ethics Office. The purpose of the conference was to bring together relevant academic scholars and researchers with law enforcement officials for the purpose of using social science expertise to fight the “war on terror” (Pinizzotto, et.al, 2002). Psychological areas emphasized at the conference included “decision making, risk determination and communication, communication analysis, characterization of terrorist and other extremist networks, analyses of deception…” (p.10) as well as many others. Most of these subspecialties are research areas funded by the DOD since World War II. About six months later, on September 16, 2002, the link between psychology and the “war on terror” became concretized at a conference at Fort Bragg convened by the Army Special Operations Command and Joint Personnel Recovery Agency for JTF-170 (Guantanamo) interrogation personnel (OIG, 2004). The purpose of this conference was to determine the usefulness of “reverse engineered” Survival Evasion Resistance Escape (SERE) techniques. The SERE program was initiated during the Korean War to help captured U.S. soldiers resist torture techniques expected to be used by the North Koreans and Communist Chinese. “Reverse engineering” SERE techniques
means to use the very techniques it was the purpose of the program to teach soldiers to resist. At the conference SERE procedures were taught to JTF-170 personnel including the Behavioral Science Consultation Teams (BSCTs), who were consulting on interrogation tactics at Guantanamo. Dr. James Mitchell, who was identified as “CIA” at the Quantico conference, and his partner, Dr. Bruce Jessen, both former APA members and SERE psychologists, with specializations respectively in reverse engineered SERE techniques and the use of isolation, were called upon to provide their expertise to the Guantanamo BSCTs. The purpose of the conference was clear: “The JTF-170 personnel understood that they were to become familiar with SERE training and be capable of determining which SERE information and techniques might be useful in interrogations at Guantanamo” (p.25). Furthermore, the report documents that on at least two occasions the JTF-170 requested instructors to teach SERE techniques at Guantanamo, and these requests were granted. The report goes on to state that these techniques “migrated” to Afghanistan and Iraq. It should be noted that Mitchell, Jessen, and Associates is a $21 million firm that does CIA contracting and includes on its six member board former APA president Dr. Joseph Matarazzo.
As the names of personnel at sites such as Guantanamo are kept secret, neither the number nor identities of most of the psychologists who participate is known. Nonetheless, it is documented that shortly after this conference, Col. Morgan Banks was the chief psychologist for the SERE program at Guantanamo under the general command of General Geoffrey Miller, and the BSCTs, each of which included a psychologist, provided consultation on the use of SERE techniques. James Mitchell was also involved
in the SERE program. In at least one case, the interrogation of Mohammed Al-Qahtani, part of the torture was directed by a military psychologist, Dr. John Leso, while in the room (Zagorin, 2005; Bloche and Marks, 2005).
In addition, it was part of Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for Guantanamo in both 2003 and 2004 to isolate new arrivals for four weeks in order to exploit the disorientation of new detainees while creating dependence for the interrogation process (SOP, 2003, 2004). Although use of isolation violates the Geneva Convention, its use is a clear application of the psychological research on sensory deprivation conducted in the 50’s and 60’s. The effort to take advantage of “disorientation and disorganization” makes use of “debility and dependence,” pillars of the DDD approach advocated four decades ago by Harlow, Farber, and West.
After Gen. Miller went to Iraq to run Abu Gharib, the techniques used in Guantanamo appeared at the now famous Iraqi prison. The prisoners who were hooded and stood on boxes for prolonged periods were being subjected to both primary methods of mental breakdown discovered in the torture research and implemented in the Kubark manual. The hooding was the sensory deprivation, and the standing with arms spread, the self-inflicted harm. We do not know whether psychologists were present at Abu Gharib, but psychologists were consultants to interrogations in Iraq (Church, 2004), and the techniques employed bore the stamp of the research done by psychologists as far back as the 1950’s. There is a clear line from the behavioral research done as part of the CIA and ONR mind control program in the 1950’s through Guantanamo to Abu Gharib.
These detention sites violate international law in a number of respects. Simply holding people indefinitely without charging them is in itself a violation of the Geneva Convention, but in addition, the conditions in which the detainees are held amounts to torture under international law. Moreover, the techniques used in interrogations which were discovered with the psychological research funded by the CIA and DOD in the 1950’s breaches international agreements signed by the United States (United Nations, 2006).
As in WWII, there is an alarming need for psychological services in the Iraq War. The incidence of psychological disability is far greater than it was in WWII. Some estimates run as high as 30 to 40 per cent of all soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTSD, depression, and/or anxiety (Sayers, 2007). Equally shocking, the suicide rate among soldiers and veterans has reached an unprecedented rate. In 2001 there were 51 suicides in the military, and in 2007 the number was 2,100 (Insel, 2008). The military is inadequately staffed to manage this veritable epidemic of mental disorder, much as it was in World War II. Currently, the VA is hiring several hundred new psychologists in an effort to keep up with the overwhelming number of mental health casualties resulting from deployment in Iraq.
New initiatives are also being sponsored by the joint efforts of the APA and the DOD. The Center for Deployment Psychology established in 2007 with funding of $3.4 million and a request for $8 million for FY 2008 was created by the APA Education Directorate. This new center staffed only by psychologists offers training courses for civilian and military psychologists in the special mental health needs and issues of
military personnel. Additionally, the APA has successfully lobbied for $900 million in a supplemental bill to the DOD budget for both the 2007 and 2008 FY to provide mental health treatment for service men and women as well as research on the trauma of war- related injuries (Munsey, 2007). In an era of ever declining mental health funding and reduced opportunities to attain the clinical experience necessary for licensure, the DOD is singular by increasing clinical and training funds, thus making the military ever more crucial to the survival and growth of clinical psychology.
Conclusion: Symbiotic Bond
The burgeoning of psychology from a small academic discipline to the largest of
the social sciences with 70% practitioners would not have been imaginable without the resources, support, and respect of the DOD and CIA. The military has found psychology of great benefit, especially in the propaganda efforts that are now part of the DOD mission, as well as in the provision of services to soldiers and veterans. As a result of the funding of psychological research and service, new areas of the field have been born and flourished, and other specialties of the discipline that existed on a small scale before the war have burgeoned as a result of the infusion of DOD cash. The history of post-WWII psychology evidences a clear pattern: areas of psychological research and clinical intervention that begin in the military tend to become institutionalized as specialties of psychological science. So, even when a specialty, such as the practice of psychotherapy, finds sources of support outside the military, it owes a historical debt to the DOD.
But the debt is not only historical. Academic psychology still depends to a great extent on military funding. The behavioral science research budget of the DOD is approximately $400 million annually, and most of that money goes to psychological researchers. There is no other single institution that supports psychological research to this extent. In addition, the training of clinical psychologists is dependent on the VA system, and a number of independent consulting and research firms, staffed largely by psychologists, some of whom are APA officials, are reliant on military and CIA funds.
Psychology repays the debt in several ways. At the obvious level, psychological research is tailored to the needs of the military. In numerous ways, the military is more efficient and capable as a result of psychological research. At a deeper level, psychology has also repaid the debt by its willingness to perform any role the military requests, no matter how questionable its ethical or legal basis. Beginning with psychologists’ work in Japanese internment camps, through sensory deprivation research, clandestine CIA activities, counterinsurgency studies, the teaching of reverse-engineered SERE techniques, and consultation to interrogations in illegal detention camps, psychology has provided the knowledge or service requested without questioning the ethics of the activity or the use to which the knowledge might be put. Psychology has done research for the DOD and CIA that is being used as of this writing for techniques that violate international law.
In a more subtle way, psychology pays its debt to military largesse by offering a sense of professional legitimacy to military activities of questionable legal and ethical status. This blind loyalty is reflected in the insistence of the APA that psychologists must
have the right to participate in interrogations in illegal detention camps. All other relevant professional organizations have taken unequivocal stands against their members’ participation. Not only will APA officials refuse to consider any ethical questions about such participation, but also they attack ruthlessly anyone who does raise such questions (Koocher, 2006; Summers, 2007).
Psychology is singular in its dependence on the military, historically and currently. In return, psychology provides knowledge, service, unquestioning compliance with military goals, and a sense of legitimacy to ethically questionable military activity. The two fields are bound to each other in a symbiosis. The debt repaid in full.
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