Strip Dr. Gerald Koocher of Deanship over DePaul's College of Science and Health.
"On July 30, Koocher weighed in on the recent media reports and Thomas’s points on human rights standards. Koocher does not mince words about his disdain for documents such as the Geneva Conventions and the U.N. Convention Against Torture, noting that he had 'zero interest in entangling APA with the nebulous, toothless, contradictory, and obfuscatory treaties that comprise "international law."' ” (Hoffman Report, 326).
Dr. Gerald Koocher is currently serving as Dean of DePaul's College of Science and Health. Prior to his current position, he served as President of the American Psychological Association (APA) and was the liaison for the Psychological Ethics and National Security (PENS) task force, which was a partnership between the APA and Department of Defense (DoD).
The Hoffman Report, a detailed report of the activities conducted by the PENS task force, has shed light on the APA's and DoD's collusion in creating guidelines for enhanced interrogation methods used at detainment facilities and Dr. Koocher's key role. "The Hoffman Report is the informal name for the 2015 investigation into the American Psychological Association’s (APA) practices regarding its relaxing of ethical standards for psychologists involved in torture interrogations. The full name for the report is, Independent Review Relating to APA Ethics Guidelines, National Security Interrogations, and Torture. It was authored by attorneys David Hoffman, Danielle Carter, Cara Viglucci Lopez, Heather Benzmiller, Ava Guo, Yasir Latifi and Daniel Craig of the law firm, Sidley Austin, LLP" (psychcentral.com).
I encourage anyone interested to look up the report and findings online or click the link below:
Or read the following summary:
Excerpts from the Hoffman Report:
"The DoD members suggested that they agreed in principle with the Geneva Convention provisions but said they could not accept a position that varied from the requirements of U.S. law. ('[I] cannot take a public stand opposed to the U.S. government,' said one.) In other words, as DoD officials they could not agree to be bound by constraints on their behavior that went beyond the constraints set by U.S. law. While this position may have been understandable as a statement of U.S. governmental policy (as opposed to APA policy), APA President-Elect Koocher also attacked the idea of the APA tapping into international law definitions in crafting ethical guidance, calling it a 'distraction' to draw international law into APA’s ethics guidance. As a result of this opposition the report rejected the use of or reference to international law, except to the extent it was incorporated into and consistent with U.S. law (as then defined, including through the DOJ memos)" (23).
"In his criticism of Wessells, Koocher also called the head of the rival American Psychiatric Association 'an idiot full of sound and fury' (quoting Shakespeare), and months later attacked Arrigo for having 'personal biases' and a 'troubled upbringing...' ” (26).
"The New York Times had run an article on Friday, June 24, the first day of the task force meeting, reporting that '[m]ilitary doctors at Guantanamo have aided interrogators in conducting and refining coercive interrogations of detainees, including providing advice about how to increase stress levels and exploit fears.' The article quoted both Behnke and the ethics committee chairman of the American Psychiatric Association and compared the positions of the two organizations: 'While the American Psychiatric Association has guidelines that specifically prohibit the kinds of behaviors described by the former interrogators for their members who are medical doctors, the rules for psychologists are less clear. . . '. [I]n a statement issued in December, the American Psychological Association said the issue of involvement of its members in ‘national security endeavors’ was new.” APA President Levant worried that the article made APA look bad because it 'portrayed APA as unsure of where the ethical boundaries lie.' To Levant and Koocher, managing APA’s image required it to show that the task force report was more than simply a set of high-level, 'loose' statements that might be justified as a tentative 'initial step,' but was instead a clear and 'strict' statement of the actual ethical boundaries. The fact that the PENS report was nothing of the sort did not stand in the way of their strategic attempt to create the best possible media response" (33).
"There had been two trips to Guantanamo by APA Presidents after the PENS report, accompanied by Behnke on one of them. In October 2005, DoD invited APA President Ron Levant as well as the President of the American Psychiatric Association and others to a half-day visit at Guantanamo, as later reported in the press. And in November 2006, APA President Gerald Koocher and Behnke went on a similar trip to Guantanamo. For the Levant trip, Behnke arranged for Banks and Dunivin to provide a phone briefing and talking points to Levant so that he would be 'on message' during and after his trip. Behnke similarly had Banks brief Koocher before his 2006 trip. Both trips consisted of meetings with Guantanamo leaders who provided positive information about the facility and detainee treatment. The trips were mostly PR trips for DoD, but after the 2005 trip, Assistant Secretary of Defense Winkenwerder and Surgeon General Kiley had a dinner with the group to discuss their observations and any concerns. Koocher told us that he found the opportunity to see the actual Guantanamo facility and receive in-person briefings helpful. Upon his return, Koocher prepared an extensive power point presentation with many photos provided to him by DoD showing the detention center and detainee facilities. The presentation was very positive about the Guantanamo facility and its value, including a slide that highlighted the 'interrogation yield.' Koocher said that the slides simply represented what DoD had told the group, and that he would orally provide this caveat when he gave the presentation. But on its face, the presentation is an uncritical, highly positive presentation of Guantanamo" (39).
"The approach that Behnke and Koocher (principally) recommended and that APA took was to deliberately avoid probing or inquiring into the widespread indications that had surfaced about harsh interrogation techniques being conducted by the CIA and DoD, even though they knew that psychologists were involved in CIA and DoD interrogations" (67).
"On the other hand, Behnke, Koocher and others at APA insisted that it would have been impossible to determine definitively whether these
allegations were true, because the information relating to the interrogation programs and the specific interrogations was classified. It is very likely true that information about specific interrogations was classified. However, it is notable that APA did not make any effort in this regard. And given their contacts in the CIA and DoD, they may well have been able to learn some significant information that would have helped them assess the likelihood that the problem had occurred or was still occurring, and the risk that it would occur in the future. But it is also appropriate to note that this is not the typical 'deliberate avoidance' situation in which an individual could likely have learned the relevant knowledge by asking questions of people he had access to. Here, there was both a deliberate and strategic attempt not to inquire, and an accurate (albeit strategically convenient) claim that gathering full information would have been extremely difficult in light of the classified nature of the underlying activities" (67).
"Adding to this system of porous constraints was the 'third-party beneficence' rationalization articulated by psychologists ranging from Jim Mitchell to Gerald Koocher, which posited that harm to one individual (a detainee) must be weighed against the benefits to third parties (the public) that would result if, for instance, information from the detainee stopped a terrorist attack. Those taking this position would argue that strict ethical constraints on psychologists in this situation would therefore be inappropriate. But even if, for the sake of argument, one accepts the legitimacy of this subjective harm-balancing rationale, it is notable that no limits whatsoever were placed on it, meaning that it provided another gaping hole in the already porous wall of ethical and legal constraints that might have prohibited intentional harm to detainees." (70).
"In an email exchange on January 4 and 5 between Koocher, Levant, and Behnke about this article, Koocher pointedly suggested that APA would never be able to obtain any 'hard data' about whether psychologists were committing abuses at Guantanamo Bay, and therefore as a matter of strategy, APA should simply continue to issue public statements saying it was 'concerned' and would look into the matter as soon as such hard data became available (knowing that it never would). Behnke responded that he agreed, and added that 'our colleagues in Division 19 [Military Psychology] . . . are especially sensitive to (the appearance of) ethical judgments in the absence of hard data about what has actually occurred.' Koocher responded that the concern about Division 19 sensitivity was 'why I was trying to suggest' the approach he had suggested in his email. After Levant agreed and added Farberman and Gilfoyle to the email, Behnke then forwarded to the group the statement APA had sent to Council on December 6 and said he did not think there was much to add. Koocher responded, 'Right! We should probably simply [r]epeat same until ‘evidence’ of anything becomes public in 2055.'
In other words, Koocher was pointing out that since it was very unlikely that any confirmation of the alleged abuses would come out for 50 years (when classified information tends to become unclassified), APA would be safe by simply repeating the statement it had previously made—that it effectively stood ready to investigate and enforce its Ethics Code if facts emerged, and it could not make ethical assessments until 'all the relevant facts and circumstances emerge[d]' " (216).
"Arrigo offered a draft set of questions for the task force meetings on May 22. She included the following questions: 'Should APA declare the contribution of psychologists to coercive interrogation incompatible with the ethical obligations of the profession?' and 'Should APA exclude from membership psychologists who intentionally or negligently contribute to coercive interrogation?' Koocher refuted Arrigo’s call to exclude members: 'This question seems naive since APA will likely never know about such conduct, nor be in a position to investigate it.' Koocher offered additional thoughts to Arrigo’s first question, however, about the types of questions to ask about coercive interrogations, none of which were included in the PENS report" (252-253).
"Koocher also confirmed with Sidley that the purpose of PENS was to give ethical guidance to psychologists in interrogation settings and not to bar them entirely. If this framework is correct, however, then it appears APA never seriously questioned whether psychologists should be in detainee interrogation settings in the first place" (257).
"Behnke’s assertions belie what happened at PENS and with other organizations, including the military. For one, the background materials provided to each task force member included descriptions of harsh
techniques used at the time and the controversy surrounding them
(discussed earlier) , so there was an awareness that harsh techniques were occurring in detainee settings. Second, specific techniques were not discussed during PENS because participants like Newman, Banks, Koocher, and Behnke avoided addressing specifics during the PENS meetings. Other DoD members, even if they expressed an interest in having boundaries or limits on what psychologists could do, did not promote the need for specific language in the report. Wessells, Thomas, and Arrigo’s quest to add international human rights standards within the PENS report—one way to provide specific guidance for a psychologist—was met with stiff resistance by the military majority. In addition, former Chief of Staff for the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, Thom Kurmel, told Sidley that the 'key' debate in 2005 among his DoD colleagues was 'how far' health professionals could go in interrogation settings and less what professional associations said about their presence. So the issue of specific techniques and what was permissible was underscored by media reports, by task force members, and by the military" (298).
"In response, Koocher wrote Goodman an open letter in late August 2007 attempting to refute many of Arrigo’s claims. Koocher claimed in his letter that Arrigo disclosed her father had committed suicide and that her 'troubled upbringing' explained her actions after the PENS process was complete... Koocher was incorrect in his letter when he stated that Arrigo’s father had committed suicide. Arrigo’s father was alive during the time of PENS. Koocher has insisted that Arrigo lied during the meeting about this fact, and Arrigo has insisted she never stated her father was deceased or that he committed suicide.... The overwhelming evidence shows that Koocher’s assertion that Arrigo said her father had committed suicide—part of a highly personal attack on Arrigo – was unfounded and unsupported. " (342-343).
"In response to the new draft, Koocher emailed Behnke and noted that the resolution was worth a 'B-' because the 'laundry list of torture' remained a problem. Behnke responded to Koocher’s email and explained that he had listed specific techniques because they have been associated with the type of torture alleged to have occurred at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. Behnke added that when he spoke to Alfred McCoy earlier in 2007, he was surprised to learn that 'there is indeed a finite list of techniques that seem consistently to recur,' and that because the list will be immediately recognizable to groups that have been working on this issue in human rights communities, it will get a positive response from the more moderate individuals '[f]rom a purely strategic perspective.' Koocher responded: 'All I can add—these people lack imagination!' "(418).
"Shuster believed that the Ethics Committee was ultimately more concerned about preserving psychologists’ reputations and the image of psychology than making disciplinary determinations based strictly on ethical considerations. Even former APA President, Gerald Koocher, stated during his interview that APA would not proceed on a complaint without obtaining evidence because they were 'concerned with protecting the due process rights of accused psychologists,' but that APA could not obtain evidence because it did not have any subpoena power—making claims that APA stood ready and willing to adjudicate complaints against psychologists involved in abusive interrogations a hollow promise" (475).
Dr. Koocher served as an enforcer for the task force and often used intimidation and belittlement to attack anyone who opposed said "guidelines" being put into place. In one such instance cited above, he lied about the suicide of the father of one of the other members of the PENS task force, and accused her of being unstable in order to discredit her vocal objections concerning psychologists aiding the government in such practices at the expense of human rights. This horrendous personal attack is inexcusable for a clinician and ethicist, regardless of what he may have believed to be true at the time. I recommend reading the article below:
There is enough information in the Hoffman report to conclude that Dr. Koocher behaved in a grossly unethical way on numerous occasions. For instance, it was found in the report that Dr. Koocher used the PENS listserv to argue in support for psychologists being involved in deaths of terrorists under certain conditions. Dr. Koocher twisted ethics through vague and obscure language, like third-party beneficence, to condone torture, bullied or belittled members who brought up valid ethical concerns on the PENS task force, obfuscated the truth in regards to information on enhanced integration practices in order to deny culpability after the fact, and aided in paving the way for one of the biggest scandals in psychology's history. His actions hurt all members of the psychological community, and more importantly, the people who were wrongfully detained and violated.
The APA have since apologized for their involvement with the DoD."Speaking for the Board of Directors, APA’s past president Nadine Kaslow said, 'The actions, policies and the lack of independence from government influence described in the Hoffman report represented a failure to live up to our core values. We profoundly regret, and apologize for, the behavior and the consequences that ensued. Our members, our profession and our organization expected, and deserved, better'" (apa.org). Does our DePaul community not deserve better too?
Dr. Koocher's role as Dean of the College, which mission statement includes educating socially responsible and ethical health professionals, is absolutely unacceptable. He is not worthy of such an office, and should be removed immediately. The findings in the Hoffman Report and his own correspondence from that time period clearly illustrate Dr. Koocher's inadequacies as a leader. DePaul, a Vincentian University that emphasizes social justice and responsibility, will lose credibility if it continues to remain silent and not take action against the Dean.
Dr. Koocher and the APA's reputations have been permanently tainted by the Hoffman report, as they should be. But it's not too late for DePaul. Let's show that we practice what we preach.
***Please consider reading Dr. Koocher's response to the Hoffman Report before signing our petition, which can be found by clicking the link below:
***Other articles for your consideration***:
Here are the DePaulia's articles:
"The university derives its title and fundamental mission from St. Vincent de Paul, the founder of the Congregation of the Mission, a religious community whose members, Vincentians, established and continue to sponsor DePaul. Motivated by the example of St. Vincent, who instilled a love of God by leading his contemporaries in serving urgent human needs, the DePaul community is above all characterized by ennobling the God-given dignity of each person. This religious personalism is manifested by the members of the DePaul community in a sensitivity to and care for the needs of each other and of those served, with a special concern for the deprived members of society. DePaul University emphasizes the development of a full range of human capabilities and appreciation of higher education as a means to engage cultural, social, religious, and ethical values in service to others" (DePaul's Office of Mission & Values).
Tactical silence in the face of a human rights issue dishonors our mission, and the lack of accountability and action by our university is a violation of our touted ethical values. Let's honor the teachings of St. Vincent de Paul by standing by our Vincentian values and asking our university leaders to do the same. All supporters are welcome, regardless of personal beliefs or affiliation with DePaul.
Relevant updates to the petition will be posted and can be found below this petition description and above the reasons for signing section.
- President of DePaul University
Dennis H. Holtschneider
Strip Dr. Gerald Koocher of Deanship over DePaul's College of Science and Health.
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