Jean Maria Arrigo, who revealed psychologists' links to torture, dies at 79

Jean Maria Arrigo, a psychologist who exposed efforts by the American Psychological Association to obscure the role of psychologists in the coercive interrogations of terrorist suspects following the September 11, 2001 attacks, died Feb. 24 at her home in 'Alpine. California. She was 79 years old.

The cause was complications from pancreatic cancer, said her husband, John Crigler.

A big title about her as a whistleblower in The Guardian in 2015, put it succinctly: “'A national hero': Psychologist who warned of torture collusion gets his due. »

A decade earlier, Dr. Arrigo had been appointed to a task force by the American Psychological Association, the largest professional group for psychologists, to examine the role of trained psychologists in national security interrogations.

The 10-member committee was formed in response to 2004 news reports about abuses at the U.S.-run company. Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq and Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, which included details about psychologists contribute to interrogations which, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross, “amounted to torture”.

Dr. Arrigo later claimed that the APA task force was a sham — a public relations effort “to immediately put out the fires of controversy,” as she told fellow psychologists in a speech making controversy. speech in 2007.

The working group met and deliberated for just three days in 2005, she revealed. It was filled with members with Pentagon ties and conflicts of interest. It is conclusionwritten by the APA's top ethics official, was that psychologists had an important role to play in interrogations, keeping them “safe, legal, ethical and effective” – ​​intentionally broad language provided by an official of the Ministry of Defense.

Although the work of the task force, officially known as the APA Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security, is supposed to be secret, Dr. Arrigo went public with what happened , spoke to reporters and delivered emails and files to the Senate. Services Committee.

She argued that the Geneva Convention, with its strict ban on torture, should guide psychologists, not the looser standards of President George W. Bush's administration, whose lawyers had written secret memos stating that “enhanced interrogation techniques” intended to break the will of detainees, including simulated drowning or simulated drowning, were authorized.

After Dr. Arrigo went public with her objections, a former APA president attacked her in unusually personal terms, claiming that a “troubled upbringing” and her father's supposed suicide explained her dissenting views. (Dr. Arrigo's father was alive at the time.)

“Without his involvement as a whistleblower,” Roy J. Eidelson, former president of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, said in an interview, “the APA would very likely have continued to collaborate secretly with the Department of Defense and the CIA.” in support of the involvement of psychologists in operations that we now know are abusive and torturous towards war on terror detainees.

For years, Dr. Arrigo was part of a small group, the Coalition for Ethical Psychologywhich criticized the APA's close ties to military intelligence, dating back to World War I, when psychologists were hired to test and evaluate recruits.

The pre-9/11 military employed hundreds of clinical psychologists and provided large research grants. Critics of the APA said it was motivated in the Bush years by a desire for career opportunities and lucrative contracts in military intelligence during the so-called war on terror. APA defenders said psychologists' advice during interrogations ensured their safety and ethics.

Like the report during And After Bush years revealed, two psychologists developed the harsh interrogation techniques used by the CIA in its black site prisons after 9/11, adapting a US Air Force program for steel pilots in case of capture, known under the name SERE, for Survival, Evasion, Resistance. and Escape. SERE, meanwhile, which included simulated drowning and sleep deprivation, was based on Chinese techniques from the 1950s that led to false confessions from American prisoners.

Although the Bush administration claimed the harsh interrogations were justified, “there was broad consensus among the professionals who knew best, who knew that SERE was torture,” according to the book “Pay Any Price: Greed, Power and Endless War” by James Risen. , New York Times national security reporter.

In 2015, an independent investigation The APA's work with the Pentagon justified most of Dr. Arrigo's criticism, documenting what he called “collusion” between the psychologist group and the Department of Defense. The APA sought to “curry favor” with the CIA and Pentagon, according to the report, which had the effect of covering up abusive interrogations.

THE explosive A report commissioned by the APA board of directors reveals that its ethics office “prioritizes the protection of psychologists – even those who may have engaged in unethical behavior – over the protection of the public.

The objections of Dr. Arrigo, mentioned more than 150 times in the 542-page report, were suppressed in an “intentional effort to curb dissent,” the report added.

The investigation caused upheaval within the APA, notably the departure of the ethics director and other senior officials. In 2015, the APA banned psychologists to participate in the interrogations of prisoners held by any military or intelligence agency. The group's outgoing president at the time, Nadine J. Kaslow, said The Guardian said Dr Arrigo must apologize. “I’m going to thank her personally when I see her,” Dr. Kaslow said. “I will personally apologize to her for the fact that other people mistreated her.”

Jean Maria Arrigo was born April 30, 1944, in Memphis to Joseph Arrigo, a career Army officer who worked in military intelligence for part of his career, and Nellie (Gephardt) Arrigo, a school teacher.

In addition to Mr. Crigler, Dr. Arrigo is survived by two sisters, Sue Arrigo Clear and Linda Gail Arrigo.

Dr. Arrigo's first career was in mathematics; she received a bachelor's degree in this field in 1966 and a master's degree in 1969, both from branches of the University of California. For 11 years, she taught mathematics as an assistant professor, including at San Diego State University.

She returned to school to train as a social psychologist, earning a master's degree in 1995 and a Ph.D. in 1999, both of Claremont Graduate University. Her doctoral research, she wrote in her resume, explored “the ethics of military and political intelligence, a theme I inherited as the daughter of an undercover intelligence officer.”

In 2004, she published “A utilitarian argument against torture during terrorist interrogations” in the journal Science and Engineering Ethics.

In 2016, Dr. Arrigo received the Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Prize of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which cited his “courage and perseverance in advocating for ethical behavior among his fellow psychologists and the importance of international human rights standards and the fight against torture.

Dr. Eidelson, the author of “Doing Harm: How the World's Largest Psychological Association Lost Its Way in the War on Terror” (2023), said in an interview that Dr. Arrigo was a calm person, whom few people would have seen as likely to stand up to the national leaders of her profession.

She was “unpretentious, gentle, careful, fact-oriented and pragmatic,” he said. “Not everyone was happy with her, but the profession benefited enormously from her commitment to the truth. »

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