Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Lawyers and psychologists take on the Bush Administration

Many years ago, I decided that the American Bar Association [ABA] wasn’t worth belonging to since it didn’t take stands on legal issues that I consider important. I let my membership lapse, but I’m considering joining again because the ABA is standing up to the Bush administration.

In July of 2006, the ABA created a task force, which determined that President Bush's signing statements undermine the separation of powers.

And now, as reported today by Scott Horton in The Professions Strike Back, “The Bush Administration has finally achieved something unprecedented. The organized bar–with a vote just one short of unanimity–has declared one of Bush’s executive orders illegal and vowed to seek Congressional action to override it.”

The ABA found the Executive Order issued by President Bush on July 21 illegal because it “… gave cover to a series of brutal interrogation and detention practices to be used by the Central Intelligence Agency at black sites.” The ABA, which is the nation's organized bar, is saying “no” and directing its members not to comply with the order.

Jane Mayer’s recent article in the New Yorker furnishes an excellent description of the tactics at the bottom of this controversy.

As reported by Horton, “Yesterday [August 14] meeting in San Francisco, the organized legal profession in the United States—the American Bar Association—took a firm stand on the president’s order, denouncing it as unlawful and calling upon Congress to override it. Of the more than five hundred delegates present and voting, one single delegate sided with the administration [bolding mine] —the most devastating defeat ever suffered by any U.S. administration on what was essentially a vote of condemnation. Even the ABA committees that represent government lawyers involved in national security organizations and retired military officers led the charge in assailing the Bush order’s legality. ”

The other profession that is taking a stand is the American Psychological Association [APA], which is also telling its members not to comply with the interrogation and detention order.

I’m pleased that the organized bar has determined that one of Bush’s executive orders is illegal. However, I’m wondering why the organized bar doesn’t publicly support impeachment, which is the Constitutional remedy for illegal acts by the Executive Branch. If the ABA supported impeaching Bush and Cheney, I would join immediately.


John in Cincinnati said...

It's wonderful, Gail and colleagues, when our professional associations take a stand on important topics. Your post, Gail, highlights some important moves in this direction. The American Psychological Association (APA) is in fact holding a "mini-convention" within it's annual convention this week. Click.

Unfortunately, sometimes these large organizations are often the blunting- rather than cutting edge of such issues. The reason? Two old friends: money and politics.

Psychology has long been the bastard child of the social sciences and--largely since World War II--the "'po' relations" of the medical community, a fact exacerbated by insurance companies' requirement that treatment be medically necessary. Bending a knee at the feet of the U.S. government and the medical model has its benefits, you gain some acceptance and get paid. The topics in this paragraph all need more attention than I can accommodate today.

Today, I'll leave it that it's great when large organizations walk, rather than merely talk, an ethical stand.

John in Cincinnati said...


Sadly, Gail, and with more than a little anger I pass this on:

"Monday, August 20th, 2007
APA Members Hold Fiery Town Hall Meeting on Interrogation, Torture

"After the vote by the APA Council of Representatives to reject the proposal that would have prohibited psychologists from participating in interrogations at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere, several hundred APA members gathered for a town hall meeting on the issue. At the top of the agenda was the rejection of that measure and the adoption instead of the competing resolution."