Monday, November 24, 2008

Open Letter to President-elect Obama

UPDATE 11/25/08 Mr. Brennan withdrew his name from consideration for any post in the Obama administration today.

EVEN UPDATIER : LA Times credits letter below as effecting Brennan withdrawal decision!
AND the International Herald Tribune!

Stephen Soldz

November 22, 2008

Dear President-Elect Obama,
We are writing to urge you not to select John Brennan as Director of the CIA. We are psychologists and allies who have long opposed the abuses of detainees under the Bush administration. We are just concluding a successful several-year struggle to remove psychologists from their roles in aiding or abetting these abuses. It has been a distressing fact that, while the Bush administration resorted to abuse and torture of those in our custody, often psychologists have been put in positions to use their psychological expertise to guide these unconscionable practices.

We look forward to your administration as an opportunity for genuine change – in this case for our country to take a new direction in its treatment of prisoners. We applaud your commitment to closing Guantanamo and are encouraged by your clear statement from your 60 Minutes interview last Sunday, “America doesn’t torture, and I’m gonna make sure that we don’t torture.” This fuels our hope for a decisive repudiation of the "dark side" — the willingness to use or abet illegal and unethical coercive interrogation tactics that sometimes amount to torture and often constitute cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
We are concerned, however, by reports that you may appoint John Brennan as Director of the CIA. Mr. Brennan served as a high official in George Tenet's CIA and supported Tenet's policies, including "enhanced interrogations" as well as “renditions” to torturing countries. According to his own statements, Mr. Brennan was a supporter of the "dark side" policies, wishing only to have some legal justification supplied in order to protect CIA operatives. In describing Director Tenet's views he stated during a March 8, 2006 Frontline interview:
I think George [Tenet] had two concerns. One is to make sure that there was that legal justification, as well as protection for CIA officers who are going to be engaged in some of these things, so that they would not be then prosecuted or held liable for actions that were being directed by the administration. So we want to make sure the findings and other things were done probably with the appropriate Department of Justice review.

We know, of course, that "the appropriate Department of Justice review" means that torture was authorized and conducted by our government.

The use of these tactics goes against the moral fiber of our country and is never justified. This is true whether these "enhanced interrogation" techniques are used directly by U.S. forces, as in the CIA's "black sites," or by other countries acting as our surrogates, as in the "renditions" program where individuals are taken to countries practicing torture, resulting in suffering inflicted by that country's forces.
We are well aware that these techniques are ineffective as well as immoral. There is extensive evidence that abused detainees are likely to say anything, true or false, to make the pain stop, leading to faulty intelligence. Furthermore, use of torture and other coercive techniques alienates our allies, strengthens the commitment of our enemies, and puts our own captured soldiers at risk.

Earlier this year Mr. Brennan argued in a National Journal interview that a new administration will have great continuity with the Bush-Cheney administration in its intelligence policies:

Even though people may criticize what has happened during the two Bush administrations, there has been a fair amount of continuity. A new administration, be it Republican or Democrat -- you're going to have a fairly significant change of people involved at the senior-most levels. And I would argue for continuity in those early stages. You don't want to whipsaw the [intelligence] community. You don't want to presume knowledge about how things fit together and why things are being done the way they are being done. And you have to understand the implication, then, of making any major changes or redirecting things. I'm hoping there will be a number of professionals coming in who have an understanding of the evolution of the capabilities in the community over the past six years, because there is a method to how things have changed and adapted.
In order to restore American credibility and the rule of law, our country needs a clear and decisive repudiation of the "dark side" at this crucial turning point in our history. We need officials to clearly and without ambivalence assert the rule of law. Mr. Brennan is not an appropriate choice to lead us in this direction. The country cannot afford to have him as director of our most important intelligence agencies.
As psychologists and other concerned Americans, we ask you to reject Mr. Brennan as Director of the CIA. His appointment would dishearten and alienate those who opposed torture under the Bush administration. We ask you to appoint a Director who will truly represent "the change we need."
We eagerly await your administration and the new spirit it represents.

Best wishes for a successful administration,


* Affiliations for identification purposes only *

Stephen Soldz, Ph.D., Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis & Coalition for an Ethical Psychology
Lorri Greene, Ph.D., Psychologist, San Diego, CA

Frank Summers, Ph.D., ABPP, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Northwestern University Medical School

Ruth Fallenbaum, Ph.D., Berkeley, CA

Neil Altman, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis, New York University
Dan Aalbers, Nevada

Martha Davis, Ph.D., John Jay College of Criminal Justice, NYC

Robert Parker, Ph.D., Member American Psychological Association since 1985

Member Washington State Psychological Association since 1991

Jancis Long, Ph.D., President, Psychologists for Social Responsibility, Member, APA Division 39 Section 9 Psychoanalysts for Social Responsibility, Berkeley, CA

Jean Maria Arrigo, Ph.D., Project on Ethics and Art in Testimony

Steven Reisner, Ph.D., NYU Medical School & Coalition for an Ethical Psychology
Brad Olson, Ph.D., Northwestern University, Evanston, IL

Ellen G. Levine, Ph.D., M.P.H., San Francisco State University, Hayward, CA

David Sloan-Rossiter, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Psychoanalysis & Boston Institute of Psychotherapy

David Ramirez, Ph.D., Swarthmore College

John M. Stewart, Ph.D., Emeritus Professor of Psychology, Northland College, Washburn, WI

Susan Herman, Ph.D., ABPP, New York University Postdoctoral Program, Little Falls, NJ
Susan Phipps-Yonas, Ph.D., L.P., Minneapolis, MN

Coalition for an Ethical Psychology
Muriel Dimen, Ph.D., NYU Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis

Joe Gorin, Ph.D., Washington, DC

Leigh Messinides, Ph.D., Long Beach, CA

Alice Lowe Shaw, Ph.D., San Francisco, CA

Laura L. Doty, Ph.D., Santa Rosa, CA

Susan Rosbrow-Rieich, Ph.D., Psychoanalyst and Psychologist, Faculty Psychoanalytic Institute of New England East, Mass Institute for Psychoanalysis, Psychoanalytic Couple and Family Institute of New England, and Member, Coalition for an Ethical Psychology
Judie Alpert, Ph.D., Faculty and Supervisor, NYU Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis, and Professor of Applied Psychology

Department of Applied Psychology, New York University

Donnel B. Stern, Ph.D., William Alanson White Institute

Johanna Tiemann, Ph.D., NYU Postdoctoral Program

Julie Gerhardt, Ph.D., Palo Alto, CA

Ronna Friend, M.A., Eugene, OR

Susan Reese, Ph.D., Arizona Center for Psychoanalytic Studies, Tucson, AZ

Larry Welkowitz, Ph.D., Prof. of Psychology, Keene State College, Keene, NH

James Hopper, Ph.D., Arlington, MA

Philip V. Hull, Ph.D., Psychologist (HI, CA, New Zealand), Faleola Pacific Island Mental Health Services, Otahuhu, Auckland, Aotearoa/New Zealand

Nancy Hollander, Ph.D., Psychologist & Professor Emeritus of Latin American history at California State University
John P. Neafsey, Psy.D., Chicago, IL

Ronnie C. Lesser, Ph.D., Dartmouth Medical College, Hanover, NH

Stephen Sideroff, Ph.D.
Kathleen Malley-Morrison, Ed.D., Boston University, Boston, MA

Irwin Z. Hoffman, Ph.D., Lecturer in Psychiatry, University of Illinois College of Medicine, Chicago, IL

David G. Byrom, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist, Co-Director, Family Therapy Institute of Suffolk, Smithtown, NY

Claudia Luiz, M.Ed., Cert. Psya.

Milton Strauss, Research Psychologist, Corrales, NM

David DeBatto, Author/Speaker, U.S. Army Counterintelligence Special Agent (ret.), Tampa, FL
Katie Gentile, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Counseling and Gender Studies, Women's Center Director, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York, NY
Laurel Bass Wagner, Ph.D., Dallas, TX

Abram Trosky, B.A., MALA., Ph.D. candidate, Boston University, Presidential Teaching Fellow, Political Science Department, Boston, MA

Cynthia Colvin, Ph.D., Oakland, CA

Kathy French, Ed.D., Professor, Behavior Science Department; Coordinator, UVU Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemoration; Utah Valley University

Stefan R. Zicht, Psy.D., Co-Director, Manhattan Institute for Psychoanalysis and President, NY State Psychological Assn Division of Psychoanalysis

Thomas Rosbrow, Ph.D., A.B.P.P., San Francisco, CA

Norbert A. Wetzel, Th.D., Licensed Psychologist and Marriage and Family Therapist, Director, Princeton Family Institute, and Director of Training, Center for Family, Community, and Social Justice, Inc., Princeton, NJ

Rachael Peltz Ph.D., Psychoanalytic Institute of Northern California, Berkeley, CA

Lawrence O. Brown, Ph.D., Fellow, Teaching Faculty and Supervisor of Psychotherapy, William Alanson White Institute of Psychiatry, Psychoanalysis and Psychology, New York, NY
Drew Tillotson, Psy.D., Clinical Psychologist, San Francisco, CA

Lynn Perlman, Ph.D., Newton, MA

Luisa M. Saffiotti, Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist, Chevy Chase, MD

Barbara Eisold, Ph.D., New York, NY

Sharon Gadberry, Ph.D., San Francisco, CA

Anne M. Downes, Ph.D., Hampshire College, Amherst, MA

Arthur J. Eccleston, Psy.D., Chapel Hill, NC

Mark S. Kane, Ph.D., Big Rapids, MI

Cornelia St. John, M.A., MFT, Psychoanalytic Institute of Northern California, Oakland, CA
Kristi Schermerhorn, Ph.D., Redmond, WA

Amal Sedky Winter, Ph.D., American University in Cairo

Sarah R. Kamens, M.A., European Graduate School, New York, NY

Sonia Orenstein, Ph.D., New York, NY

Samantha Hoyt, Boston, MA
Melanie Suchet, Ph.D., Executive Editor, Psychoanalytic Dialogues

Dr. Trudy Bond, Private Practice, Toledo, OH

Mary Pelton-Cooper, Psy.D., Licensed Psychologist, Associate Professor, Northern Michigan University
Peter Gumpert, Ph.D., Brookline, MA

Michael O'Loughlin, Ph.D., Adelphi University, NY

Thomas S. Greenspon, Ph.D., LP, LMFT, Minneapolis, MN

Rivkah Lapidus, Ph.D., Somerville, MA

Lynne Layton, Ph.D., Harvard Medical School, Brookline, MA

Patricia Sherman, Ph.D., LCSW, Long Valley, NJ

Elizabeth Hegeman, Ph.D., John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY, and William Alanson White Institute, New York, NY

Kathleen H. Dockett, Ed.D., Psychologists for Social Responsibility

Herb Gingold, Ph.D., Psychologist, New York, NY

Wes Alwan, Somerville, MA
Anthony J. Marsella, Ph.D., Past President (2007-2008), Psychologists for Social Responsibility (Washington, DC), Alpharetta, GA

Leila F. Dane, Ph.D., Executive Director, Institute for Victims of Trauma, McLean, VA
Elaine Gould, Ph.D., Member, APA

Marc Pilisuk, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, The University of California and Professor, Saybrook Graduate School and Research Center, Berkeley, CA

Dori Smith, Producer, Talk Nation Radio in CT

Ann D’Ercole, Ph.D., ABPP, NYU Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis

Andrea Cousins, Ph.D., Psy.D., Pioneer Valley Coalition Against Secrecy & Torture, Western Massachusetts & Albany Association for Psychoanalytic Psychology (Local Chapter, Division 39, APA)

Carolyn Hicks, Ed.D.

Frank Marotta, Ph.D.

Thomas Greening, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, Saybrook Graduate School and Clinical Professor, UCLA, Private Practice

Barbara Pearson, Ph.D., Westchester Center for the Study of Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy

Barbara C. Greenspon, M.A., Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Minneapolis, MN
Virginia S. Elliott, Cert. PsyA, Brighton MA

Milton Schwebel, Ph.D., Rutgers University

David Lotto, Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist, Pittsfield, MA

Colleen Cordes, Executive Director, Psychologists for Social Responsibility

Martha A. Nathan, M.D., Baystate Brightwood Medical Center, Springfield, MA

Nina K. Thomas, Ph.D., ABPP, NYU Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis
Stuart A. Pizer, Ph.D., ABPP, Cambridge, MA

M. Brinton Lykes, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, Associate Director, Center for Human Rights & International Justice, Boston College

Gemma Marangoni Ainslie, Ph.D., ABPP, Austin, TX

Elaine Gifford, LICSW, Sudbury MA

Virginia Goldner, Ph.D., Adjunct Clinical Professor, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, New York University, New York, NY

Lisa Sutton, Ph.D., Director of Clinical Training, Boston Institute for Psychotherapy, Brookline, MA

Polly Scarvalone, Ph.D., New York, NY

Jay Frankel, Ph.D., Adjunct Clinical Associate Professor, New York University
Sue A Shapiro, Ph.D., NYU Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy & Psychoanalysis, New York, NY
Caryn Gorden, Psy.D., New York, NY

Nancy Atlas, Ph.D., New York, NY

Helaine Gold, Ph.D.
Bruce Berman, Ph.D., New York, NY

Andrea Remez, Ph.D., New York, NY

Steven Botticelli, Ph.D., New York, NY

Adrienne E Harris, Ph.D., New York, NY

Lisa Lyons, Ph.D., Teaneck, NJ

Susan Parlow, Ph.D., New York, NY

Jill Salberg, Ph.D., New York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis, New York, NY

Mary Pike, B.A. Art Institute, ESL Resource Room Supervisor for Highland Park High School, Highland Park, IL

Zeese Papanikolas, M.A., Retired Professor of Humanities

Stephanie Noland, Ph.D., New York, NY

Helaine Gold, Ph.D., NYU Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy & Psychoanalysis
New York, NY

Steven Cooper, Ph.D., Joint Chief Editor, Psychoanalytic Dialogues, Cambridge, MA
Laurel E. Phoenix, Ph.D., Public and Environmental Affairs, UWGB, Green Bay, WI

Elizabeth Kandall, Ph.D., New York, NY

Anita R. Herron, Ph.D., New York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis, New York, NY

Lynne Kwalwasser, Ph.D., Supervisor, NYU Postdoctoral Program, New York, NY

Lynn Leibowitz, Ph.D., New York, NY

Latika Mangrulkar, MSW, ACSW, Steering Committee, Psychologists for Social Responsibility, Santa Rosa, CA

Mary Libbey, Ph.D., New York, NY

Andrew Tatarsky, Ph.D., Founding Executive board member, Division on Addiction and Co-directer, Harm Reduction Psychotherapy and Training Associates

Roanne Barnett, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist, New York, NY

Margaret White, Ph.D., Upper Montclair, NJ

Candy Siegel, Ph.D., Tucson, AZ

Zeborah Schachtel, Ph.D., NYU Postdoctoral Program in Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy, New York, NY

Elizabeth Wolfe, Psy.D., Clinical Psychologist, Westport, CT

Judith Merbaum, Ph.D., Great Neck, NY

Amy Schwartz, Ph.D., NYU Postdoctoral Program in Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy, New York, NY
Cathy S Nelson, MSW, LISW, Ames, IA

Martin Devine, Psy.D., New York University

Amy Schaffer, Ph.D., New York, NY

Nancy Caro Hollander, Ph.D., Los Angeles Institute and Society for Psychoanalytic Studies

Michèle Bartnett
Kate Dunn, Psy. D., Brooklyn, NY

Nancy Freeman-Carroll, Psy.D., Clinical Psychologist-Psychoanalyst, William Alanson White Institute, NYSPA, APA, New York, NY

A. Raja Hornstein, Psy.D., Clinical Psychologist, San Rafael, CA

Catherine M. Rossiter, LMT, Sayre, PA

Meg Sandow, Psy.D., CA
David Lichtenstein, Ph.D., New York, NY

Richard Reichbart, Ph.D., Institute for Psychoanalytic Training and Research (IPTAR)

Ann Marie Truppi, Ph.D.
Evelyn Pye, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute for Psychoanalysis, American Psychological Association
Carol Wachs, Psy.D., New York, NY

Katharine G. Baker, Ph.D., Northampton, MA

Judith G. Pott, Ph.D., New York, NY

Glenys Lobban, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist, New York, NY

Lisa Fliegel, ATR-BC, LMHC, Boston Institute for Psychotherapy School-based program
Helen Brackett, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist, New York, NY

Dara Lyn Petersen, Psychology Student, The George Washington University, Washington, DC
Christine Girard, Ph.D., New York, NY

Andrew Phelps, Ph.D. (mathematics), San Jose City College

Jane Brodwyn, Psy.D., Northampton, MA

Jeanne Wolff Bernstein, Ph.D., PINC

Stephen Benson, Ph.D., Blue Hill, ME

Kirsten Lentz, Ph.D., Candidate, NYU Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis, New York, NY

Francia White, Doctoral Candidate, Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis, and Center for Modern Psychoanalytic Studies

Neville D. Frankel, Newton, MA

Arthur J. Lebow, Ph.D., St. Paul, MN

Luise Eichenbaum, LCSW, The Women's Therapy Centre Institute

William Auerbach, Ph.D., Psychologist
Ken Corbett, Ph.D., Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychology, The New York University Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis

Carol Smaldino, LCSW, Port Washington, NY

Angelo Smaldino, LCSW, Senior Member of National Psychological Association for Psychoanalysis, Port Washington, NY

Susan Gutwill, MS, LCSW
Brigitte Ladisch, Ph.D.
Connie Evert, Ph.D., Philadelphia, PA

Quotation Sources:
60 Minutes (November 16, 2003). Obama On Economic Crisis, Transition. Downloaded November 23, 2008 from

Frontline. (March 8, 2006). The Dark Side. Downloaded November 23, 2008 from

National Journal (March 7, 2008). Q&A with John Brennan: The Counterterror Campaign. Downloaded November 23, 2008 from


3eeraqimedic said...

So much for "change" then.

Laura said...

I'm not giving up on optimism yet, not by a long chalk. However, I do believe that it will take a lot of engagement from folks to make change truly happen. Thank you for visiting and commenting, 3eeraqimedic.

Rowan Berkeley said...

I saw this at firedoglake, where I can't help thinking one is operating in uncomfortable proximity to liberal hawks like spencer ackerman, so I'm not too hopeful on that front either.

Laura said...

There are many different sorts of folks at the lake, RB. Thanks for dropping by.