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Psychologists' group backs sanctions in torture claim

COLUMBUS, Ohio - After past warnings to its members not to take part in torture, the American Psychological Association has taken the unprecedented step of backing an attempt to strip the license of a psychologist accused of overseeing the torture of a CIA detainee.

The APA has told a Texas licensing board in a letter mailed July 1 that the allegations against Dr. James Mitchell represent "patently unethical" actions inconsistent with the organization's ethics guidelines.

If any psychologist who was a member of the APA were found to have committed the acts alleged against Mitchell, "he or she would be expelled from the APA membership," according to the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press.

Mitchell is a retired Air Force psychologist who participated in the 2002 CIA interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, according to a 2008 Senate Armed Services Committee report on the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody. Mitchell is not a member of the American Psychological Association.

Interrogators in Thailand subjected Zubaydah to severe cold, to food and sleep deprivation, confinement in a narrow box and, with Mitchell participating, a simulated form of drowning known as waterboarding, according to the complaint filed with the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists.

"Obviously, I'm not free to discuss any work I may have done for the CIA," Mitchell told the AP. He did say the complaint, filed by a Northwestern University law professor on behalf of a Texas psychologist, was "riddled" with "distortions and inaccuracies."

The APA is monitoring a similar filing in New York. The San Francisco-based Center for Justice & Accountability filed a complaint against Dr. John Leso with the New York Office of the Professions, alleging professional misconduct. Leso led a behavioral science consultation team at Guantánamo in 2002 and 2003.

The complaint said Leso developed abusive interrogation techniques based on Army survival methods. The complaint says Leso is stationed at Fort Rucker, Ala. He could not be immediately reached.

Steven Reisner, a New York psychologist who brought the complaint against Leso, urged the APA to support an investigation, saying the case was similar to the Mitchell complaint.

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