Psychologist behind Gitmo interrogations faces ethics complaint

By Eric W. Dolan
April 4, 2011

On Wednesday, the New York State Supreme Court will consider whether the state must investigate an ethics complaint filed against a New York State-licensed psychologist and major in the U.S. Army who allegedly co-authored, implemented, and monitored an abusive interrogation program at Guantanamo Bay.

The Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) and the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) asked the court to direct the New York State Office of Professional Discipline (OPD) to investigate a misconduct complaint against Dr. John Francis Leso, who led the first Behavioral Science Consultation Team at Guantanamo Bay.

The OPD is responsible for regulating the ethical conduct of all New York-licensed psychologists, but has refused to investigate Dr. Leso's alleged role in the use of abusive interrogation techniques at Guantanamo Bay.

The office is accused of failing to investigate Leso's misconduct, despite being presented with numerous documented allegations of Leso's violations of professional standards.

According to the CJA, Leso violated professional standards for New York psychologists by recommending physically and psychologically abusive interrogation techniques to be used against detainees. He is also accused of personally supervising interrogations where his techniques were being used and participating in the interrogations himself.

The CJA said the techniques were adapted from illegal methods used by the Chinese and North Korean governments against U.S. prisoners of war.

"By refusing to even investigate the actions of Dr. Leso, the State of New York has indicated that it will immunize medical professionals who violate the most fundamental precepts upon which good medicine is practiced, including the bedrock principle that a doctor shall do no harm," said Dr. Steven Reisner, a New York psychologist and longtime anti-torture advocate who originally filed the complaint against Dr. Leso.

"I believe that granting blanket immunity from investigation to medical professionals who design, justify and inflict pain and abuse is contrary to our core common values, professional medical principles, and New York law," Reisner added.

Leso is a member of the American Psychological Association and his New York State-license is valid through July 2012. He has not yet been reprimanded for his conduct at Guantanamo by the military, the American Psychological Association, or the state of New York.

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