BATON ROUGE (CN) – An Ohio psychologist claims the Louisiana Board of Examiners of Psychologists shirked its duty to investigate her complaint against Dr. Larry C. James, the former chief psychologist at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, who allegedly taught U.S. soldiers how to psychologically abuse detainees.
Dr. Trudy Bond says that in February 2008, she filed a complaint and request for investigation of Dr. James, alleging professional and ethical violations from a man who, at the time, “was ethically and professionally responsible for the conduct of psychologists under his supervision and command.” The board denied Bond’s complaint and investigation request.
Between January and mid-May 2003, James served as chief psychologist for the Joint Intelligence Group and deputy director of the Guantanamo Behavioral Science Consultation Team at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo. During this period, James had “direct and supervisory responsibilities regarding the treatment, conditions and interrogations” of detainees, the lawsuit claims.
Bond says James “supervised, condoned, authorized and was aware or should have been aware of interrogation protocols and techniques used at Guantanamo … which constituted a violation of his ethical and professional responsibilities” and resulted in the “serious harm, abuse and ill-treatment” of prisoners.
James allegedly misused tactics from the military’s SERE program, which stands for Survival, Evasion, Risk, and Escape. The program is designed to train U.S. troops how to resist and survive interrogation, abuse and torture, including tactics such as sleep deprivation, sexual humiliation, noise stress, and “religious dilemma,” involving the destruction of religious materials.
“Instead of using this knowledge to aid U.S. military personnel to resist interrogation, abuse and torture,” the complaint says, “the psychologists involved in interrogations at Guantanamo, including Dr. James, used the information in assisting, supervising, authorizing, facilitating, condoning and participating in interrogations which resulted in serious harm, abuse and ill-treatment of detainees at Guantanamo during the time of Dr. James’ assignment there.”
Bond claims the SERE program was amended while James was at Guantanamo. The revised document, called the Camp Delta Standard Operating Procedures, allegedly includes a Behavioral Management Plan that allows the use of dogs on the premises, partly for “psychological deterrence,” isolation of the detainee during the first four weeks at Camp Delta (“to enhance and exploit the disorientation and disorganization felt by a newly arrived detainee in the interrogation process,” which “concentrates on isolating the detainee and fostering dependence of the detainee on the interrogator”), denial of visits from the International Committee of the Red Cross, and denial of religious materials.
The plaintiff claims James “knew, must have known or should have known of violations of professional and ethical codes of conduct related to interrogation programs he helped design and implement, of professional and ethical violations by other psychologists, and of abuse and ill-treatment of detainees at Guantanamo and at Abu Ghraib,” adding that “an apparent ethical violation has substantially harmed or is likely to substantially harm a person or organization, psychologists are required to report said event to appropriate authorities.”
“‘(F)ollowing orders’ is not a defense or justification for a Louisiana-licensed psychologist to engage in acts which are in violation of his or her ethical or professional responsibilities,” Bond claims.
In June 2008, Bond says the board held a closed-door meeting to reconsider its earlier decision not to investigate James. Less than a week later, Bond claims the board mailed her a letter informing her that her request for an investigation was barred by the statute of limitations.
According to Louisiana law, a disciplinary proceeding can be filed within five years. Bond says she first began trying to file a complaint within that statute of limitations, and that the board’s decision to not accept her complaint is “clearly contrary to the law and the facts, is arbitrary (and) capricious.”
Bond seeks a judgment that her complaint and request for investigation to the board is not time-barred. She is represented by Mary Howell of New Orleans.