The largest U.S. psychological group worked out a measure Sunday that would prohibit its members to assist interrogators at Guantanamo Bay and other U.S. military detention centers.
The American Psychological Association's policy-making body voted against a proposal to ban psychologists from taking part in the interrogations. Instead, the group approved a resolution that reaffirmed the association's opposition to torture and restricted members from taking part in interrogations that involved any of more than a dozen practices, including sleep deprivation and forced nakedness.
Critics of the ban who spoke before the vote at the 148,000-member organization's annual meeting in San Francisco said the presence of psychologists would help insure interrogators did not abuse prisoners.
"If we remove psychologists from these facilities, people are going to die," said U.S. Army Colonel Larry James, who serves as a psychologist at Guantanamo Bay.
Supporters argued that psychologists should not be working at detention centers where prisoners' human rights are violated.
"If psychologists have to be there so detainees don't get killed, those conditions are so horrendous that the only moral and ethical thing is to leave," said Laurie Wagner, a practicing psychologist from Dallas, Texas.
The association's vote follows reports that mental health specialists were involved in prisoner abuse scandals at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
A recently declassified Defense Department report said that since 2002, psychiatrists and psychologists have helped military interrogators develop new techniques to extract information from detainees.
Among other things, psychiatrists and psychologists are accused of helping interrogators exploit prisoners' fears to increase their stress levels.
Military interrogation has become a dominant issue at this year's meeting of the APA, which represents most of the nation's psychologists.