When Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib Come Home

The Louisiana Board that licenses psychologists is facing a growing legal fight over torture and medical care at the infamous Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib prisons. In 2003, Louisiana psychologist and retired colonel Larry James watched behind a one-way mirror in a U.S. prison camp while an interrogator and three prison guards wrestled a screaming near-naked man on the floor.

The prisoner had been forced into pink women’s panties, lipstick and a wig; the men then pinned the prisoner to the floor in an effort “to outfit him with the matching pink nightgown.” As he recounts in his memoir, Fixing Hell, Dr. James initially chose not to respond. He “opened [his] thermos, poured a cup of coffee, and watched the episode play out, hoping it would take a better turn and not wanting to interfere without good reason…”

Although he claims to eventually find “good reason” to intervene, the Army colonel never reported the incident or even so much as reprimanded men who had engaged in activities that constituted war crimes.

Sadly, the story of Dr. James’ complicity in prisoner abuse does not end there. The New Orleans native and former LSU psychology professor admits to overseeing the detention, interrogation and health care of three boys, aged twelve to fourteen, who were disappeared to Guantanamo and held without charge or access to counsel or their families. In Fixing Hell and elsewhere, Dr. James proudly proclaims that he was in a position of authority at Guantanamo.

Government records indicate that, as the senior psychologist consulting on interrogations, his decisions affected the policy and operations of interrogations and detention on the base. During his time there, reports of beatings, sexual abuse, religious humiliation and sleep deprivation during interrogations were widespread, and draconian isolation was official policy. Prisoners suffered, and some continue to suffer, devastating physical and psychological harm.

Dr. Trudy Bond, a psychologist under an ethical obligation to report abuse by other psychologists, filed a complaint against Dr. James before the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists in February 2008.

Dr. Bond’s complaint says that Dr. James’ conduct violated Louisiana laws governing his psychology license. As a psychologist and military colonel, he had a duty to avoid harm, to protect confidential information, and to obtain informed consent, as well as to prevent and punish the misconduct of his subordinates.

How did the Louisiana licensing board respond? Rather than investigate, the Board dismissed the complaint, and when asked again, reaffirmed its decision. Dr. Bond has now taken the case to the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal in Baton Rouge.

Dr. James played an influential role in both the policy and day-to-day operations of interrogations and detention in the notorious prison camps built to hold men and boys captured during the U.S. “War on Terror.”

According to his own statements, he was a senior member of interrogation consulting teams that, as documented by government records, were central in designing interrogation plans that exploited psychological and physical weaknesses of individual detainees. In one example cited by the New York Times, a military health professional told interrogators that “the detainee’s medical files showed he had a severe phobia of the dark and suggested ways in which that could be manipulated to induce him to cooperate.”

Had Dr. James chosen to cast himself as a brave, but ultimately ineffective voice against torture, he may have fooled some people into believing him. Instead, he’s presented an utterly implausible portrait: one of a man “chosen” by “the nation” to “fix the hell” of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, a feat he claims to have accomplished so successfully that ever since he was first deployed in January 2003, “where ever [sic] we have had psychologists no abuses have been reported.” This is patently untrue. The real “fact of the matter,” as documented by government records, reports from the International Committee of the Red Cross and eyewitness accounts, is that serious abuses were widespread both during Dr. James’ tenure as senior psychologist for the Joint Intelligence Group at Guantánamo, and after he left.

One would imagine that such disregard for a law designed to protect the public welfare would greatly concern the body charged with its enforcement. But the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists, which issued James his license, has refused to investigate whether he violated professional misconduct law.

The Board’s conduct should alarm all Louisiana health professionals and their patients. The Board demeans the profession when it fails to seriously address the possibility that a Louisiana licensee was involved in torture. It also strips the Louisiana psychology license of meaning and value. How can patients rely on a license issued and enforced by a body that arbitrarily refuses to look into allegations of grave misconduct?

As the legal battle wears on, the people of Louisiana need to ask the Board’s members what “good reason” they await in order to act. They should demand that the Board of Examiners conduct a thorough investigation of Larry James and, if what he admits is true, revoke his privilege to practice.

Bill Quigley is a Loyola Law professor working at the Center for Constitutional Rights. Deborah Popowski is a Skirball Fellow at the Harvard Law School Human Rights Program. Both authors are involved with the campaign When Healers Harm: Hold Health Professionals Accountable for Torture. Bill can be contacted at quigley77@gmail.com. Deborah can be contacted at dpopowski@law.harvard.edu. Read other articles by Bill Quigley.

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  1. bozhidar balkas vancouver said on October 26th, 2009 at 9:31am #

    How does a person become delusional to the degree that s/he wld torture people, who probably know nothing or next to nothing about socalled terrorists.

    If one is going to drive planes into buildings, one is not going to shout from rooftops or rooftops of afghan mountains that intention.
    So, it seems, that not a single afghani knew of the arab plot to pilot the planes into buildings.
    Afghanis, pal’ns, and iraqis are actually morally and legally obligated to resist militarily their respective occupations or invasions of their lands by any nation or empire.
    Save germany and italy until sept ’43, most of the aggressors against pashtunstan, welcomed partizan resistance in norway, france, albania, greece, and first yuga.

  2. kalidas said on October 26th, 2009 at 12:14pm #

    Hmmmm… Those five dancing schlomos certainly were shouting joyous shouts from the rooftops.
    Before, during and after the planes hit the towers.

    Lucky(?) for them their blood brother in faith, dual citizen, dual loyalty Michael Mukasey sent them packing back home to Israel without their supper.

    Oh yeah, forget the part about dual loyalty.
    He, like all the dual Israelis, have only one loyalty.

  3. robin said on October 27th, 2009 at 8:25am #

    With the pipeline through Afghanistan being the real reason we invaded the Country,the whole issue becomes a criminal matter.Everyone involved in it’s planning and implemintation should be arrested under the RICO laws as corupt criminal conspiritors.Blackmail,murder,torture,and hundreds pf other laws were broken so a few well placed corporations and individuals could make a lot of money.It is no coincidence that poppy growing went from near zero under the Taliban to this region being the number one supplier of Heroin to the world.The opium trade has been at the heart of the operations of these companies,and the families that run them for hundreds of years.When we were in Viet Nam,Nixon bought the whole Turkish opium supply one year,ending the “French Connection” cartel andstarted running heroin from the “Golden Triangle” in the bodies of dead American soldiers.Cocain from South And Central America found on US Forestry planes “on loan to thr CIA.The violations are endless.
    The training of Death Squads at the “School of the Americas” at Fort Benning.False flag terrorist attacks.Operations Paperclip,Gladio,Northwoods,the list is endless.MI 5 and MI6 are at the center of so many attrocities it makes my head spin.
    Ron Paul’s call for an audit of the Federal Reserve will die a quiet death in commitee,because if it was to actually take place,our Nation would be shaken to it’s roots.The American people are not capable of handling the even a small portion of what has really gone on in the world for the last 3oo to 400 years.They should all tried and convicted and sent to a Devils Island type colony and they can commit all of the atrocities they have commited on each other,they deserve their own company.Then the rest of the world could actually get on with the living of good decent lives,with plenty of everything for everyone.It is well known by anyone who has actually read a little history,or even paid attention to the little bit of truth that has slipped out in the media who the real criminals and terrorists are,but we have been conditioned to have attention spans that can barely complete a sentence without getting distracted.
    I’m afraid that the next ten years will make the genocide of the 20th Century loook like a school yard fight.They were just practicing.When they do it for real, God Help Us All ! Keep on writing and talking to people and maybe we can educate enough of the world to “Just Say No” when they start their final push for “One World Government” they can only make us slaves if we let them put on their chains.There are more of us than them.There are still people of Honor in our Military,and many have refusd to carry out illegal orders,though it means the end of their Command positions.
    It is time to choose sides.Freedom and Justice, or slavery evil.
    Speak the truth,one day and to one person at a time.Small steps,small acts of kindness,and no longer turning a blind eye to the EVIL that surrounds us.America is better than that.In our hearts we believe in being the “Good Guys”.We grew up on movies where the Hero takes on the bad guys against all odds.We just need to find the Hero in all of us, even if it is just the bravery to say” Hey,that’s a load of crap and we are not going to believe your lies anymore.”Small acts.small steps,and small act’s of kindness.Thanks for your forum and the chance to do SOMETHING!

  4. robin said on October 27th, 2009 at 8:32am #

    Sorry,I’ll try to remember to use spell check next time,and my grammar is a little rusty as well!

  5. mary said on October 27th, 2009 at 12:25pm #

    Listen to Craig Murray the ex UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan, on the oil and gas reserves in Turkmenistan and the necessity for the pipeline across Afghanistan. He resigned his post after refusing to be complicit in the CIA linked torture being carried out in Uzbekistan. He is a brave man and one to be greatly admired for speaking out.

    Here is Craig being interviewed on Real News by Paul Jay. Torture in Uzbekistan and the geo political background to the War(s) on Terror.

    Murray: CIA used Uzbek torture to create false intelligence; support for regime continues

  6. dan e said on October 27th, 2009 at 12:47pm #

    Well Mary, I usually agree with you, and Robin, you sound like a really nice person — but I no longer buy the line whereby “Big Oil Did It”, that petroleum interests are what has been motivating the effort to sequentially reduce all the majority Muslim countries back to the paleolithic.
    If you look at the actual history, the Taliban government was agreeable to building the TAPI pipeline, until 911 gave Bush/Cheney the excuse they needed to carry out the attacks the Zionist “neocons” had been pushing since they drew up the PNAC plan.
    cf. once again: Walt & Mearsheimer; Jeff Blankfort’s “A war for Israel” in Left Curve; books and articles by Jas Petras, also his Petras.Lahaine.org webpage; ditto Dr Sniegowski; Kathy & Bill Christison.
    BTW the oil fields in SE Turkemenistan the TAPI pipeline would serve are not the ones with the major reserves in the country; those are farther north and the pipelines go to Kazakhstan & thence to Russia.
    And of course no pipeline is worth building if you can’t be sure it won’t be destroyed or disrupted because you are at war with the people who control the real estate it must pass through:)
    No, “Pipelinestan” is a clever turn of phrase, but alas on a closer look it does not describe the reality. Which is that the Zionist agenda demands elimination of anyone and anything which could pose a threat to maximum expansion of Eretz Yisroel and its envisioned “sphere of influence” extending from Indonesia to Pennsylvania Avenue:)

  7. B99 said on October 27th, 2009 at 2:35pm #

    No, the invasion of Afghanistan really was about al-Qaeda – and not about oil. But what was more important than al-Qaeda in Afghanistan was oil plus Israel – that is, the war on Iraq. Control of Middle East oil resources by the US has been of param0unt importance since the waning of the British Empire – and such control meshes so well with the goals of Israel.

  8. dan e said on October 27th, 2009 at 3:02pm #

    Re: Rehabilitating Afghanistan 1 Month, 3 Weeks ago Karma: 6
    aquicke wrote:
    MonsoonWind wrote:
    Suggested three point plan for the rehabilitation of Afghanistan:

    1. Pour petrol over the country.

    2. THRow in a lighted match.

    3. When smoke clears, start again.

    A cynic might suggest this is exactly the status quo. US/Nato has already applied the petrol and the match, and now McChrystal et al want to start again with a new approach.

    Exactly, though NATO has been reluctant, stingy and by stringent roe’s locked most of its deployments out of combat operations. That won’t change and why McChrystal’s report in the final analysis won’t be the policy model for Afghanistan. The country is far bigger and more populated than Iraq, and has the worst possible geography to fight a counter-insurgency war with troops the US doesn’t have and never will. That’s what George Will and racists who get their rocks off when the US is killing Arabs, Persians or Muslims can’t get through their densely, hate filled skulls. Especially the kind of senseless killing they envision since it will only accomplish murdering far more innocents. Talk about shooting blind and adding fuel to the fire, which is many magnitudes worse than McChrystal’s in-country policy recommendations in his report.

    Now, you set before this community reasonable parameters for a discussion concerning “options” in Afghanistan. Otherwise, in the absence of I wouldn’t have bothered. In presenting my opinions I went the extra mile in backing them up with impeccable sources with long and honored service careers. People can disagree, but needless tactics by some of impugning and attempting to personalize the discussion doesn’t one whit discredit the sources I provided. To make these sources all the more pertinent and credible these two individuals were viscerally opposed to the Iraq War BEFORE it started. That’s a claim few can make in America. I know, because my opposition began with Afghanistan and put me in conflict with family, friends, fellow veterans, associates and strangers. And the so called anti war demonstrations I attended against the Iraq war were a joke, since they were all partisan motivated and all about Bush, not anti-war. On the extremes there are more fascists in America than lefties. The only accomplishment of the demonstrations turned off the majority of Americans who span left and right of the political center, dooming any chance of preventing the Iraq war.

    At the baseline minimum Col. Lang describes and has long advocated the least costly footprint in treasure, US and Afghan lives. He basically advises using the countries geography to our advantage defensively, resisting the siren songs of counter insurgency and for heavens sake don’t go searching for that eternally elusive, decisive battle. A passable level of stability can be achieved far more cheaply by money, arms, training and support of indigent warlords, Pashtuns and other indigent groups, even some Taliban besides Hamid Karzai’s corrupt government. Hamid must learn he is not the only game in town. Gen. Zini in 30 minutes of dialog and a similar time period of Q & A comprehensively spells out the reasons, why fors and how comes of America’s current posture in the region, especially Afghanistan. His thoughts on the uses of ‘envoys’ may be surprising, since he was one. And his views on the I/P conflict are why US Zionists and Israeli firsters opposed his envoy-ship in 2002 and opposed his recent nomination to the US State Department. These are very modest men. I have provided links to many institutes and government policy papers that arise out of the foreign policy making apparatus of the US. Zini and Lang’s names can be found in the index’s and biographies of many of those studies and reports, that have impacted and shaped the last several years and current US foreign policy. Its not for nothing Hillary wanted Zini on her team.

    Wars, as we are all tired of hearing are far more easier affairs to start than finish, but history is also loaded with the greater chaos and havoc caused by fools who think otherwise. Ironically, in America these are the same idiots who usually start these loser wars too, spanning the gauntlet between those who “learn nothing and forget nothing,” to those who want to run away because they can’t bear the consequences. Often, whether these losers break and run or have to be forced out of government, they always leave a legacy of damage and messes to be cleaned up by the men and women who didn’t want to fight them.

    The US does not want to conquer or stay forever in Iraq or Afghanistan. Ultimately, the US will leave and fully knows it. The goal is not to leave behind greater chaos and havoc that will only lead to greater conflicts and interventions. The US has already traveled that road and knows it doesn’t work. Nor will the US completely disengage diplomatically or desist in establishing normal and extensive relations with Arabs, Persians and Muslims. However affairs shape and shake out in Iraq and Afghanistan the US will still at the minimum have ‘training and assistance’ commands in those countries, even when all combatant commands have been rotated out of country.

    US ultra-nationalists, demo & repub interventionists, neo libs & cons, Zionists, Israeli firsters and Likudnik sympathizers did not have these outcomes in mind when they expanded what was essentially an international crime and law enforcement problem into a series of wars on terror. The more rabid Islamophobes and racists among them wanted chaos from the Levant to the Indus river, with millions of Muslims dead and the accomplishment of a Greater Israel lording it over the regions vanquished. Hindsight, a marvelous cognitive attribute obviously discerns it didn’t work out that way. But less obviously to many I knew their insane goals were doomed to fail precisely on 19 March 2003, when their one-time beloved champion and hero gave the battle order to advance beyond the line of departures into the forward edges of the battle area into Iraq. That was a @#$%-up that’s going to keep gift-giving them for a long time to come.
    Robster (User)

    Expert Boarder

    Posts: 4617

    Last Edit: 2009/09/03 12:11 By Robster.

  9. Max Shields said on October 28th, 2009 at 6:18am #

    The arguments for and against fossil as reasons for US invasion and occupation seem to never end. It’s a virtual he said/she said.

    What seems most disconcerting are those who deny that the US demand of oil is simply incidental. It measures up with Corporate greed that says you can never have enough. I think those who ignore US dependence on fossil (wherever it comes from) have something else going on; and whatever it is it’s not rational.

    But it is not clear that every invasion and occupation is driven exclusively by US endless thirst for fossil. Korea? Vietnam? Apparently not. But geopolitical strategies frequently converge. That the initial attack on Afghanistan may have been induced by 9/11 (depending on your ideological fervor over conspiracies to the contrary) is but a moment in time. Afterall, Afghanistan and Pakistan, Iraq, etc. have all been on US geopolitical radar for many years. There is a thing called history. The US did not simply invade Iraq out of thin air. The pieces were on the board and the moves came this way and that.

    Yes, dan e, the US military finds it easy to kill non-white innocents, calling them collateral damage is all in a days work of combat. But that is not why the US invaded these lands.

    I don’t think the US empire looks at the world as some hundreds of “sovereign” nations. It sees it all as a perpetual means to some ends; and muscles in at will with impunity from World Courts and Tribunals and condemnation by the UN.

    Pipelines are part of the mix, but how central to US occupation is unclear. But US bases are strategic and as such are done vis-a-vis China and Russia. Access to vital resources are MAJOR. Not to understand that is to get lost in the woods of paraochial issues.

  10. Wingnut said on October 28th, 2009 at 8:08am #

    UnHoly Cow, these are some excellent posts, gang. I learned more about the Afghanistan conflict in this thread… than I ever knew before. Phew, there sure are lots of issues involved.

    What I (thought I) saw, was Afghanistan being the knee jerk reaction to the World tRaid Center bombing, which, if it was a local insider job, has a myriad of extenuating complications. First, one might ask if the World Trade Org is/was a “get into everyone’s and everything’s business” operation… ie. the spreading of the empire whose pyramid scheme symbol is seen on the back of the USA dollar. If the WTO is crooked and had/has aspirations of using dollars to leverage political/regime events in hungry countries, then the WTO invited its own attack/destruction. This whole leg of “cause” could stand to be thoroughly investigated… but its all covered via being classified data. Does the general public EVER know what is truly happening, or privy to the perceptions of control folks as to what’s really happening? Does the existence of black-ops spy data… keep the general public from ever having the clearance-for, and/or the need to know… such data? And because of the separation of black ops data and general public, does the government and possibly the big oil companies and cronies… have a sort-of “we do what’s best ON BEHALF OF the American people” attitude? Is such… substantiated?

    Its pretty likely that IF the general public knows black-ops data, they would blab it all over the place, and possibly put themselves and the nation… in danger. But by classifying that data, and by not allowing the general public to have a say about such data, have “we” allowed a separation of controllers and controlled? I am a former U.S. Air Force guy… 9 years… and I was in cryptographics (electronic enciphering). So, I was informed to keep my yap shut to quite a degree, and I was shown SOME excuse(s) as to why that was necessary… and I bought into it enough to keep my yap shut about the data that traveled across circuits that I helped maintain. Although I agreed to keep quiet, was I instrumental in creating this possible wall that allowed nation-steering wigs to go un-transparent? Thoughts?

    Another rumor I once heard… was that the mountain rebels being goose-chased around Afghanistan… are the very same folk who America and others once armed… to fight a Soviet incursion. The mountain rebels were rumored to have won that hide’n’seek game… via attrition. The mtn rebels wore-out and waited-out the Soviets… getting the Soviets to empty their ammo boxes at ghosts in the wilderness… the same thing that coalition troops seem to be doing these days. The rebels seem to be draining the coffers of the coalition insurgency… a type of attrition. Does the USA/coalition “resolve” in Afghanistan have any “maybe you can hide from the Soviets, but WE do war better than they” pride’n’proving thing… happening? Thoughts?

    I’m not very educated on this (and most other) subject, sorry. Thanks for the high-info posts seen above. They have helped my edu and are super-interesting reading. Best regards. Wing McNutt

  11. bozhidar balkas vancouver said on October 28th, 2009 at 9:16am #

    If we wld review history for what it teaches, we wld come up with an educated guess. That’s all antiwar activists can ever do because we have no access to written US policies on warfare against palestine, afpak, and iraq.

    And if we wld have access to US stated aims in above-mentioned lands, they wld be, most likely, sanitised by then.
    My conclusion, since i begun to observe world events some 30 yrs ago, had always been that all wars have causative factors; however, solely waged for lands and everything on it or in it; at times exclude their people.

    In ancient times, most of the time conquered people were not expelled since there was lotsof land available and conqureros needed taxes to pay for also future wars of conquest.

    If we do dwell solely on US or my rationalization why US invaded iraq/affgh’n, we cannot ever obtain an elucidation.
    Since, if one looks solely for reasons for wars, wars wld, depending on human ability to invent them, forever defended by reasons only.

    However, by adducing known and postulating other causes for all warfare, we will obtain knowledge.
    To me causes for warfare appear: hatred, lust, revenge, rationalization, greed, feelings of supremacism, fear of poverty, cults/cultishness, etc.
    And all of these factors and others which we might discover are connected; forming one whole.

    I do not expect that many people wld disregard deletereous effects of socalled religion- in fact being just ideating; i self am doing now- in all aspects of our behavior and not just wars.

    Yet so many endeavor to explain situations while omitting that cause for so much ill that befalls us.
    As far as i know, there is no study in canada, US of causative factors for wars.
    People do study the causes of fire or accidents but not an accident like warfare! tnx

  12. kalidas said on October 28th, 2009 at 10:43am #

    Since this article is supposedly about torture, murder and whatnot, I thought the “they crucified Jesus for oil” quip was entirely pertinent. Even believable, by one or two here..

    I see it was removed.
    Did someone complain?
    Who’d a thunk it?