Scott Jaschik at Inside Higher Ed (July 22, 2008), has produced a great piece titled, “Torture and the Research Star.” Now the American Psychological Association (APA) is entering the debate on the role of academics in supporting the military establishment, especially when the result is the commission of violations against human rights. At the centre of this latest controversy is Dr. Martin E.P. Seligman, past president of the APA, whose work on “learned helplessness” was, allegedly, reverse engineered by the CIA, whom he addressed in a three hour lecture where they learned of psychological torture techniques he outlined for them, supposedly to aid American troops who might be subjected to such torture. Seligman protests innocence, and at least some find this remarkably naive.
The APA is about to have voting in a referendum on the banning of participation by psychologists in activities and work that contravenes international human rights charters. See the petition here.
The APA Council has also called on the U.S. government to stop engaging in “unethical interrogation techniques.” See that press release here.
Much of the information and debate surrounding Seligman’s role comes as a new book by Jane Mayer which speaks of the matter and seems to have broken the news to the public. See the interview with Mayer here.