APA Council of Representatives Report: August 2015 Meeting

Elizabeth Carll

Elizabeth Carll, PhD

It should be noted that prior to the APA Council meeting, there was much discussion and exchange of emails among Council members as well as heated discussion among APA members on various listservs as a result of the Hoffman Report being obtained and published by the media.  Council members were responsible for reading the 590 page Hoffman report in addition to a Council agenda of more than 1000 pages in preparation for the Council meeting.  This was a challenging time for APA members.

Dr. Susan McDaniel, APA president-elect presided over the Council meeting on issues pertaining to the Hoffman Report, as Dr. Barry Anton, APA president, had recused himself.  Dr. Anton presided over the other issues addressed at the Council meeting. Other members of the APA board and staff and Council Leadership Team (CLT) who were named in the Hoffman Report also recused themselves.  It should be noted that recusals did not reflect guilt, but were undertaken to prevent any undue influence or perception of undue influence.

The most important action Council undertook was the approval of New Business Item #23B, to adopt as APA policy the Resolution to Amend the 2006 and 2013 Council Resolutions to Clarify the Roles of Psychologists Related to Interrogation and Detainee Welfare in National Security Settings, to Further Implement the 2008 Petition Resolution, and to Safeguard Against Acts of Torture and Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in All Settings.

The resolution outlined the following:

  1. Defined the term “cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment” in accordance with the UN Convention Against Torture.
  2. Psychologists shall not participate in national security interrogations for military and intelligence entities.  As such “psychologists shall not conduct, supervise, be in the presence of, or otherwise assist any national security interrogations for any military or intelligence entities, including private contractors working on their behalf, nor advise on conditions of confinement insofar as these might facilitate such an interrogation. This prohibition does not apply to domestic law enforcement interrogations or domestic detention settings where detainees are afforded all of the protections of the United States Constitution, including the 5th Amendment rights against self-incrimination (“Miranda” rights) and 6th Amendment rights to “effective assistance” of legal counsel.
  3. APA shall send official correspondence to the appropriate officers of the U.S. government, including the President, Secretary of Defense, Attorney General, CIA Director, and Congress, to inform them that APA has adopted policy changes to expand its human rights protections to safeguard detainees in national security settings against torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.

A copy of the above policy can be found on the website.

Hoffman Report

On the first morning of the APA Council meeting, Mr. David Hoffman met with Council in executive session to answer pre-submitted questions. He added that it was highly unusual for him to speak to his clients once a report was completed, but due to the request was making an exception in this case. He stated that it may be helpful for APA to revisit how ethics policies are determined and conflicts of interest are defined.  He also indicated that it may be helpful to develop a process as to how human rights issues can be voiced.

Following afternoon discussions, Council voted to:

Other Actions of Council:

Recommendations of the 2015 Resolution on Violent Video Games include:

  1. APA engage in public education and awareness activities disseminating these findings to children, parents, teachers, judges and other professionals working with children in schools and communities.
  2. APA support funding of basic and intervention research by the federal government and philanthropic organizations to address gaps in knowledge about the effects of violent video game use.  Gaps in knowledge are detailed in the resolution.
  3. APA endorse the development and implementation of rigorously tested interventions that educate children, youth and families about the effects of violent video game use.
  4. APA strongly encourage the Entertainment Software Rating Board to refine the ESRB rating system specifically to reflect the levels and characteristics of violence in games in addition to the current global ratings.