Correspondence | Published:

Interrogation: our professional body forbids involvement

Nature volume 459, page 1052 (25 June 2009) | Download Citation



Your Editorial 'Responsible interrogation' (Nature 459, 300; 2009) takes a remarkably unscientific approach to the topic of psychologists' participation in national-security interrogations, in that it omits important current facts. The scale of this omission is comparable to failing to mention Helicobacter pylori in a discussion of peptic ulcers, the treatment of which was revolutionized by the discovery that most are caused by H. pylori.

Psychology's attitude to the ethics of participating in national-security interrogations was similarly revolutionized by a petition resolution passed by the American Psychological Association (APA) membership last year (see This has been adopted by APA's governing body under the name of 'Psychologists and unlawful detention settings with a focus on national security'.

As a result of this resolution, and contrary to the implications of your Editorial, psychologists may not participate in national-security interrogations. The resolution, which constitutes current APA policy, states: “Be it resolved that psychologists may not work in settings where persons are held outside of, or in violation of, either International Law (e.g. the UN Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions) or the US Constitution (where appropriate), unless they are working directly for the persons being detained or for an independent third party working to protect human rights.”

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  1. Division of Psychoanalysis, American Psychological Association, 6060 N. Central Expressway, Suite 332, Dallas, Texas 75206, USA

    • Laurel Bass Wagner


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See also Interrogation: hard for psychologists to act as whistleblowers.


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