Former CIA Torture Program Participant Now Advises FBI on Interrogations

Susan Brandon, the former White House psychologist who helped write the policies that protected former CIA torturers from prosecution is now advising an FBI interrogation project called The High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group.

According to a 60-page report titled “All the President’s Psychologists,” Brandon played a central role in writing the Psychological Ethics and National Security policy.  The portion that Brandon co-authored allowed psychologists to make determinations about the legality of individual interrogation techniques, despite this policy violating the APA's professional ethics code.

The report alleges that after the scandal involving torture at the Abu Ghraib prison the APA secretly coordinated with officials from the CIA, White House, and Department of Defense to create an APA ethics policy on national security interrogations that legally protected the CIA torture program.

injection table - Sputnik International
American Doctors Facilitated CIA Torture Program

The Huffington Post reported that CIA medical officers had previously resisted “roles in which they measured the harm or potential effectiveness of the 'enhanced' techniques,” but the language crafted by Brandon “specifically promoted such roles for psychologists, and recognized the inherent conflict with medical ethics.”

Keeping medical professionals involved was crucial as far as legality and public opinion go.  Having psychologists involved and on-board allowed the Justice Department to argue that their actions could not be torture, as they were overseen by doctors who were ensuring that detainees were safe.

Emails from the mid-2000s also tied Brandon directly to Bruce Jessen and James Mitchell — the men who designed the “enhanced interrogation techniques” used in the CIA torture program.  One email Brandon was included on spoke of Jessen and Mitchell “doing special things to special people in special places.”

View of an entrance to the building of headquarters of CIA - Sputnik International
American Psychological Assn. Awaits Report on CIA Torture Involvement

“Dr. Brandon’s past role is deeply troubling. It’s not clear exactly what she knew or when she knew it, but the emails show her meeting with Mitchell and Jessen in 2003,” Katherine Hawkins, a national security fellow for, told HuffPo. “I have no idea what other information she had about what those 'special things' were in 2003. But by 2004 and 2005, she only had to read the newspapers to see clear evidence of the CIA’s involvement in torture and of psychologists violating their ethical obligations.”

In his book Pay Any Price, New York Times reporter James Risen suggests that the APA’s reason to support enhanced interrogation programs was financial. 

Risen stated that the APA was “so eager for CIA and Pentagon contracts that they showed few qualms about getting involved.”  The APA has called this claim “absurd.”

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