SAN FRANCISCO — The nation's largest group of psychologists scrapped a measure Sunday that would have prohibited members from assisting interrogators at Guantanamo Bay and other U.S. military detention centers.
The American Psychological Association's policy-making council voted against a proposal to ban psychologists from taking part in any interrogations at U.S. military prisons "in which detainees are deprived of adequate protection of their human rights."
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 specific practices, including sleep deprivation and forced nakedness. Violators could be expelled and lose their state licenses to practice.
Critics of the proposed ban who spoke before the vote at the 148,000-member organization's annual meeting 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 Army Col. Larry James, who serves as a psychologist at Guantanamo Bay.
Supporters argued that psychologists should not be working at detention centers where prisoners are detained indefinitely without being charged.
"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 psychologist from Dallas.
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.