In This Issue

Div. 7 and the Hoffman Report

Report from representative to APA Council (2013-16), Suniya S. Luthar, on Div. 7's response to the Hoffman Report.

By Suniya S. Luthar, PhD

In November 2014, the APA Board of Directors engaged David Hoffman of the law firm Sidley Austin to conduct an independent review to establish if APA had, in any way, facilitated the use of torture in security settings. Specifically, they sought to ascertain if any actions by APA could have constituted collusion with the Bush administration toward supporting the use of "enhanced" interrogation techniques in the “war on terror.” View the complete independent review and supplemental materials.

After the report was released, APA issued a press release with a public apology and reports of the impending departures of several senior officials. The glowing praise for each of these senior officials were at odds with what was reported in other major news outlets based on data in the Hoffman report.

At the time, Div. 7 representatives asked who, specifically, crafted and authorized the press release but never received a clear answer. After several efforts to determine this, the closest we got was that this it was “the Board” that authorized the release. At the time, the Board included the following individuals; subsequent emails to Div. 7 representatives indicated that individuals with asterisks, specifically, did not author the press release (including recusals): Susan McDaniel, Nadine Kaslow, Jennifer F. Kelly, Emily A. Voelkel, Louise A. Douce, Richard M. McGraw, Norman B. Anderson*, Barry S. Anton*, Bonnie Markham*, Linda F. Campbell*, Diana Lee Prescott*, Sandra L. Shullman*, William J. (Bill) Strickland*.

In August 2015 at the meeting in Toronto, APA Council of Representatives unanimously voted to support a resolution (PDF, 262KB) to prohibit psychologists from Participating in National Security Interrogations. In recent months, however, it has become clear that some are moving to reverse (PDF, 290KB) this unanimous decision; the response from the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology (PDF, 131KB).

Given the ongoing contentiousness and serious ramifications of the issues at hand, the stand that Div. 7 has consistently taken is to convey, to APA leadership and Council, support for APA while underscoring the urgent need for transparency in major decisions. This is exemplified in an Oct. 5, 2015 letter sent by President Jacque Eccles to the Board of Directors.

We, as the presidents of Div. 7, write to offer our personal support through this trying period for APA, and also, on behalf of Div. 7 members, to ask a couple of questions. Following up on proceedings at the August meetings, there are two specific questions that have recurrently come to us. We hope to share your answers directly with our members toward establishing/reassuring all that that APA leaders are indeed resolutely standing by assurances made in Toronto.

  1. In your remarks at the Town Hall meeting, Dr. McDaniel, you declared that in the search for the new CEO, “a diverse and representative search committee is really important" — and this would include some of the “dissidents”. Could you please let us know the names of these dissidents who are included in the committee searching for the interim CEO, and eventually, for the appointed CEO?
  2. Three senior APA officials are resigning or retiring; could you please outline the conditions associated with their departures? Specifically, our members would like to know details of the severance packages for all three, and any contractual agreements regarding further disclosure about matters related to Hoffman.

We believe that your answers just to these two questions could help greatly in stanching increasing member resignations from our Division and from APA, serving as a concrete demonstration of “good faith” on behalf of your leadership. We look forward to your answers to these questions.

Thank you and best regards,

Gail Goodman, Past President, Div. 7
Jacqueline Eccles, President, Div. 7
Michael Lamb, President-Elect, Div. 7

Most recently, this was followed up by this letter that I sent to Council, copied to APA Board, on behalf of our division:

Dear COR colleagues,

 I write with increasing concerns about membership/resources/tasks in our organization, on these topics (among potential others): 

Accreditation programs. I recently wrote to you all regarding Bob Levenson's APS column. There are real concerns that more APA programs will move to APS for accreditation because of fears that no substantive changes have been made by APA since the Hoffman report. Colleagues are looking for changes that will ensure that such egregious events never occur again at APA, with particulars of checks and balances that are to be instituted — including those applying to decision-makers at the highest levels.    

Journals. In addition to the potential loss of APA's accreditation prerogatives, suggestions are being floated that entire journals — editors, editorial boards, and staff —  move to non-APA publishers. Whether or not this will happen, just the conversations are worrisome. Journal publications are critical to the scientific mission of our organization, its reputation, its community, and its financial solvency.  

I do hope, therefore, that in our forthcoming Council meeting we are able to resolve at least two critical issues, each raised by Division 7 Presidents and EC members in the last few months: 

A balanced CEO search committee. Particularly helpful toward restoring faith in APA will be a CEO search committee that includes those vetted by the "dissidents," as Dr. McDaniels promised at Toronto Town Hall. 

Transparency. Also necessary for restoring faith would be straightforward disclosure of the names of the specific authorities whose decisions have a major bearing on our organization and its reputation. It is not enough to be told that, "The Board decided." We should be told which individuals supported and opposed major decisions.  

 Thank you for considering these concerns of grave importance to the future of APA.

Respectfully, 
Suniya Luthar (Div. 7)

We have had no response to this request. Thus, we will formally request discussion of the two issues noted above (i.e., constitution of the search committee and transparency). We are hoping that this will be discussed in the near future, and will report back after Council meeting is done.