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Psychology Group Votes To Ban Members From Taking Part In Interrogations

The American Psychological Association voted Friday in favor of a resolution that would bar its members from participating in national security interrogations.

The resolution by the country's largest professional organization of psychologists passed overwhelmingly. The only dissenting vote came from Col. Larry James, a former Army intelligence psychologist at Guantanamo.

The council of representatives' vote took place at the group's annual convention in Toronto, Canada — the APA's first meeting since its leadership was found to have helped the CIA and Pentagon develop an interrogation program in the months after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The APA has been roundly criticized for allowing the harsh interrogations to continue by keeping its ethics policies in line with the Defense Department's interrogation program.

An APA spokeswoman told NPR that the resolution provides a clear prohibition that prevents psychologists from working at so-called black sites, the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, or any setting that the United Nations has declared to be in violation of international law. The one exception, the spokeswoman said, is that APA members are allowed to be in those locations if conducting psychological assessments or offering treatment to soldiers. There was a friendly amendment from the floor that said psychologists could offer consultation as long as it was not related to specific national security interrogation or detention conditions.

The APA has some 122,000 members — 85,000 of whom are psychologists. The spokeswoman said that while the resolution now sets the APA's policy, there has been no change to the organization's code of ethics. If an APA member is found to have violated this policy, the spokeswoman said, someone could bring an action to have them investigated.

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Dina Temple-Raston is a correspondent on NPR's Investigations team focusing on breaking news stories and national security, technology and social justice.