Hold doctors accountable for torture

On July 12, I reviewed Doctors of the Dark Side, a documentary about how medical professionals legitimized torture for President George W. Bush. However, there are many avenues to promote accountability for torture. The Bill of Rights Defense Committee has organizing toolkits, petitions, and model resolutions to empower local communities to act against torture.

Even in these matters of national security, federalism can play a surprisingly potent role. According to Dr. Allen Keller, the director and co-founder of the Bellevue/NYU Program for the Survivors of Torture, medical professionals:

...are practicing because they have a license. And that license is issued at the state level. It's not issued by the federal government. It's not issued by the Army or the Navy or the CIA. It's issued by the state government. So it's quite appropriate that the state is where these issues are regulated.

So one opportunity entails pressuring licensing boards and medical associations to revoke the medical licenses of professionals complicit with torture. States including New York and Massachusetts have considered legislation to require precisely that result. In a similar vein, there is a movement to disbar lawyers who approved so-called "enhanced interrogation" techniques.

In addition, cities can also pass resolutions that condemn torture. Back in January, the Chicago City Council unanimously approved a resolution marking Chicago a “torture free zone.” The resolution pledged their support for the victims of torture and affirmed that all prisoners “are entitled to have their human rights respected, including their right to be free from torture.”

By contrast, in 2005, the American Psychological Association (APA) Report of the Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security (the PENS Report) found that psychologists could actually render "enhanced" interrogations “safe, legal, ethical and effective.” But the PENS Report grossly ignored the abuse detainees suffered. Even more galling, Dr. Michael Gelles, the same psychologist involved with Daniel King, served on the PENS Task Force. A coalition including BORDC and luminaries like Daniel Ellsberg, Noam Chomsky and Philip Zimbardo, is currently supporting a petition to annul the APA's findings.

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