Jean Maria Arrigo, Who Exposed Psychologists’ Ties to Torture, Dies at 79

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Jean Maria Arrigo, Who Exposed Psychologists’ Ties to Torture, Dies at 79


Jean Maria Arrigo, a psychologist who exposed the American Psychological Association’s efforts to conceal the role of psychologists in coercive interrogations of terror suspects after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, died Feb. 24 at her home in Alpine, California. She was 79.

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

A headline about her as a whistleblower in the Guardian summed it up in 2015: “’A national hero’: A psychologist who warned about torture agreements gets her due.”

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

The 10-member panel was formed in response to news reports in 2004 that abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, run by the American Red Cross, were “tantamount to torture.”

Dr. Arrigo later claimed that the APA task force was a sham — a public relations move “to immediately erase the controversy,” as she told fellow psychologists in a 2007 speech that caused a stir.

The task force met and deliberated for just three days in 2005, she revealed. It was full of members who had ties to the Pentagon and conflicts of interest. The conclusion, written by the APA’s top ethics official, was that psychologists play an important role in interrogations by ensuring they are “safe, legal, ethical and effective” – ​​deliberately broad language used by a Defense Department official has used.

Although the work of the task force, officially known as the APA’s Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security, was intended to be kept secret, Dr. Arrigo publicized the event, spoke to reporters and turned over emails and records to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

She argued that psychologists should follow the Geneva Convention, with its strict ban on torture, rather than the looser standards of President George W. Bush’s administration, whose lawyers had suggested in secret memos that “enhanced interrogation techniques” were used to control will Breaking prisoners, including waterboarding or simulated drowning, were permitted.

After Dr. After Arrigo went public with her objections, a former APA president made an unusually personal attack on her, claiming that a “difficult upbringing” and her father’s alleged suicide explained her divergent views. (Dr. Arrigo’s father was alive at this time.)

“Without her involvement as a whistleblower,” Roy J. Eidelson, former president of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, said in an interview, “the APA in all likelihood would have continued to work covertly 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 to detainees in the war on terror.”

For years, Dr. Arrigo was part of a small group, the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology, that 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 military employed hundreds of clinical psychologists and awarded large research grants before 9/11. The APA’s critics said it was motivated during 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 the advice of psychologists during interrogations ensured they were safe and ethical.

As reporting during and after the Bush years revealed, two psychologists developed the harsh interrogation techniques the CIA used in its secret prisons after 9/11 and adapted a U.S. Air Force program to toughen pilots in the event of capture , known as SERE Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape. SERE, in turn, which included waterboarding and sleep deprivation, was based on 1950s Chinese techniques that had led to false confessions from American prisoners.

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

In 2015, an independent investigation into APA’s collaboration with the Pentagon confirmed most of Dr. Arrigo and documented what she described as a “collusion” between the psychologist group and the Defense Department. The APA attempted to “curry favor” with the CIA and the Pentagon, the report said, which resulted in abusive interrogations being covered up.

The explosive report, commissioned by the APA’s board of directors, found 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, who is mentioned more than 150 times in the 542-page report, was suppressed in a “deliberate attempt to curb dissent,” the report continued.

The investigation led to an uproar at the APA, including the departure of the ethics director and other top officials. In 2015, the APA banned psychologists from assisting in interrogations of prisoners held by military or intelligence agencies. The group’s then-immediate past president, Nadine J. Kaslow, told The Guardian that Dr. Arrigo owes an apology. “I will thank her personally when I see her,” said Dr. Kaslov. “I will personally apologize to her for the mistreatment of other people.”

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

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

Dr. Arrigo’s first career was in mathematics; She earned a BA in the subject in 1966 and an MA in the subject in 1969, both from branches of the University of California. She taught mathematics as an adjunct university professor for eleven years, including at San Diego State University.

She returned to school to train as a social psychologist, graduating in 1995 with an MA and a Ph.D. completed. 1999, both from Claremont Graduate University. Her doctoral dissertation, she wrote in a resume, was on the “ethics of military and political intelligence, a topic I inherited as the daughter of a covert intelligence officer.”

In 2004, she published “A Utilitarian Argument Against Torture Interrogation of Terrorists” in the journal Science and Engineering Ethics.

In 2016, Dr. Arrigo received the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award, which recognized her “courage and persistence in advocating for ethical behavior among her fellow psychologists and the importance of international human rights standards and 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 is a quiet person, one that few people would have identified as likely to stand up to the national leadership of her profession.

She was “humble, gentle, cautious, objective and matter-of-fact,” he said. “Not everyone was happy with her, but the profession benefited enormously from her commitment to the truth.”



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2024-03-19 22:28:29

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