Special section: The Hoffman Report in Historical Context

A new special section in History of the Human Sciences dedicated to “the Hoffman Report in Historical Context” will interest AHP readers. Title, authors, and abstracts follow below.

Introduction: The Hoffman Report in historical context,” Nadine Weidman. Abstract:

This brief introduction explains the historical background of the Hoffman Report, the 2015 independent counsel’s investigation into the American Psychological Association’s role in aiding ‘enhanced interrogations’ of detainees in the Bush Administration’s Global War on Terror. It also outlines the articles in this special section of History of the Human Sciences on the Hoffman Report in Historical Context.

Beyond torture: Knowledge and power at the nexus of social science and national security,” Joy Rohde. Abstract:

In the wake of revelations about the American Psychological Association’s complicity in the military’s enhanced interrogation program, some psychologists have called upon the association to sever its ties to national security agencies. But psychology’s relationship to the military is no short-term fling born of the War on Terror. This article demonstrates that psychology’s close relationship to national security agencies and interests has long been a visible and consequential feature of the discipline. Drawing on social scientific debates about the relationship between national security agencies and the social sciences in the late 1960s and early 1970s, this article also provides cautionary lessons for psychologists confronting the torture controversy. It concludes that an ethically robust response to this controversy requires that psychologists engage in a sustained reckoning with the powerful institutional, epistemological, and financial incentives that have bound the discipline to the military and intelligence communities since World War I.

The Hoffman Report in historical context: A study in denial,” Dan Aalbers. Abstract:

Using the concept of social denial, this article puts the American Psychological Association’s (APA’s) pattern of willful blindness, identified by independent reviewer David Hoffman, in historical context by examining the contributions of Cold War social scientists to the CIA’s KUBARK torture manual, and discusses the implications of this history for the reform of the APA’s ethics policies. David Hoffman found that the leadership of the APA colluded with Department of Defense (DoD) to ensure that the APA’s ethical policies were no stronger than those issued by the DoD. While the independent reviewer did not find evidence of collaboration between the CIA and the APA, this was not due to a lack of effort on the part of the APA, which was anxious to establish good relations and so promote the use of psychology in the national security arena. While Hoffman did not find that the APA knew that its collaborations would facilitate the development of abusive interrogation techniques, it showed a marked, motivated lack of interest in whether or not the DoD or CIA was abusing prisoners. The APA maintained its strategic ignorance even while engaging in a public relations campaign designed to give the impression that it was deeply concerned about multiple reports of psychologist involvement in a system of torture. This willful ignorance was not unprecedented and follows a predictable pattern of knowing and not-knowing to which all psychologists should attend.

A military/intelligence operational perspective on the American Psychological Association’s weaponization of psychology post-9/11,” Jean Maria Arrigo, Lawrence P. Rockwood, Jack O’Brien , Dutch Franz, David DeBatto, and John Kiriakou. Abstract:

We examine the role of the American Psychological Association (APA) in the weaponization of American psychology post-9/11. In 2004, psychologists’ involvement in the detention and interrogation of terrorist suspects generated controversy over psychological ethics in national security (PENS). Two signal events inflamed the controversy. The 2005 APA PENS Report legitimized clinical psychology consultation in support of military/intelligence operations with detained terrorist suspects. An independent review, the 2015 Hoffman Report, found APA collusion with the US Department of Defense in producing the APA PENS Report and subsequent policies. Ongoing activities within APA to weaponize psychology sharpened the controversy. The authors—two psychologists and four former military/intelligence professionals—bring a military/intelligence operational perspective to detail two neglected areas of collateral damage. The first is the toll on psychology as a scientific enterprise. The second is covert influence on professional associations for incompatible security-sector objectives. We establish epistemic, historical, institutional, legal, and operational foundations for evaluation of these damages, as well as implications for APA and related professional associations in the ongoing Global War on Terror.

Beyond following rules: Teaching research ethics in the age of the Hoffman Report,” Elissa N. Rodkey, Michael Buttrey, and Krista L. Rodkey. Abstract:

The Hoffman Report scandal demonstrates that ethics is not objective and ahistorical, contradicting the comforting progressive story about ethics many students receive. This modern-day ethical failure illustrates some of the weaknesses of the current ethics code: it is rule-based, emphasizes punishments for noncompliance, and assumes a rational actor who can make tricky ethical decisions using a cost–benefit analysis. This rational emphasis translates into pedagogy: the cure for unethical behavior is more education. Yet such an approach seems unlikely to foster ethical behavior in the real world, either for students or for mature scientists. This article argues for an alternative ethical system and a different way of teaching ethical behavior. Virtue ethics emphasizes the development of ethical habits and traits through regular practice and reflection. We show how virtue ethics complements a feminist approach to science, in which scientists are encouraged to reflect on their own biases, rather than attempting to achieve an impossible objectivity. Our article concludes with pedagogical suggestions for teaching ethical behavior as a practical and intelligent skill.

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a professor at Quest University Canada. A critical feminist psychologist and historian of psychology, she is committed to critical pedagogy and public engagement with feminist psychology and the history of the discipline.