From Tamsin Shaw, Associate Professor of European and Mediterranean Studies and Philosophy at NYU, writing in the New York Review of Books on the role of professional psychologists in the Central Intelligence Agency’s war on terror torture program:
The Senate report also tells us that the CIA misrepresented the results of the program to policymakers and the Department of Justice, maintaining that it was obtaining “a high volume of critical intelligence.” In the case of two prisoners tortured by [CIA torture program co-architect James] Mitchell—Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed—the CIA attributed to them the statement that “the general US population was ‘weak’, lacked resilience, and would be unable to ‘do what was necessary’ to prevent the terrorists from succeeding in their goals.’” But the Senate report tells us: “There are no CIA operational or interrogation records to support the representation that KSM or Abu Zubaydah made these statements.”
In spite of the clear lack of effectiveness of their “enhanced interrogation techniques,” [torture program co-architect/psychologist Bruce] Jessen and Mitchell continued to apply them and were eventually paid $81 million for doing so. When the involvement of psychologists in interrogations in Guantánamo Bay and Iraq came to light in a New York Times article in late 2004, the APA assembled a task force to look into it and issue ethical guidelines. In discussing their report, one board member, Diane Halpern, insisted they included a statement asserting that torture was ineffective. The task force did not pursue the question of effectiveness and did not include a statement on it.
When the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence published its extensive report on official torture in December 2014, Jonathan Haidt tweeted a link to an article by Matt Motyl, his former Ph.D. student, claiming that the report would not change anyone’s views on the morality or effectiveness of torture, owing to the phenomenon of cognitive bias, which distorts people’s assessment of the relevant evidence. Motyl warned that none of us should assume that our beliefs about torture are based on facts. Nevertheless, there are established facts. One of them is that psychologists secured enormous financial gains by collaborating in official torture, while also having clear evidence that it was ineffective.