Article publushed in The New York Times on July 10, 2015.
A 542-page report concludes that prominent psychologists worked closely with the C.I.A. to blunt dissent inside the agency over an interrogation program that is now known to have included torture. It also finds that officials at the American Psychological Association colluded with the Pentagon to make sure that the association’s ethics policies did not hinder the ability of psychologists to be involved in the interrogation program.
Where was Intelligent Disobedience when it was needed?
This is a classic example of how individuals who would not normally violate their own ethics standards wind up doing so when Authority wraps the problematic programs or orders in a socially laudable goal – in this case extracting information to prevent future terrorist attacks.
The problem is that authority ALWAYS wraps ethically problematic actions in socially acceptable rationalizations. This is where individuals being told or asked to collude with those problematic actions need to learn to give greater weight to their internal moral standards. Rather than resolving the discomfort they experience by buying into the rationalization and going along with it, they need to learn to amplify their dissent and decline to cooperate.
This is where role playing Intelligent Disobedience as part of professional certification can make a tangible difference. That this association of psychologists who should be familiar with the social science research can get it this wrong, shows how much better preparation is needed in all fields on how to do the right thing when what you are told to do is wrong.