"There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but he must do it because conscience tells him it is right”
- M. L. King
When reports surfaced about psychologists’ involvement in so-called "harsh" interrogations of detainees in US national security detention centers, I was shocked and overwhelmed with questions. The field of psychology has been my professional home for nearly 30 years. It was unfathomable that any of my colleagues would engage in acts of torture, cruel or degrading behaviors toward others, particularly in settings where the detainees had very few rights. I had to know more. This project was conceived. I pushed back the curtain and entered a murky world revealing the complex intersection of personalities, politics, national security, ethics, and moral decision-making.
The bus came by and I got on
That's when it all began
There was cowboy Neal
At the wheel
Of a bus to never-ever land
- That's It For the Other One, Grateful Dead
Some former politician told us that freedom is hammered out on the anvil of discussion, dissent and debate and my project amplifies this outlook. I am proud that many psychologists have stepped up and taken on one of the most contentious political issues. As Americans, we've just slogged through some dark times on the global stage. Rather than defer to faceless bureaucrats or slink off silently into one’s personal problems, this group of psychologists shook off their inertia, rolled up their sleeves and influenced national policy. That’s democracy in action.
And though this has been the most painful film I've directed, I'm honored to have won the trust of my colleagues who are the subjects in this film. I was a complete stranger to them when we met. Each person was open, earnest and totally human with me, although not always with each other.
One artistic goal with this project is to facilitate a dialogue between viewers interested in the subject of terrorism, national security and human rights and some of the psychologists who have been closest to this issue in the last 3 years. I hope to broaden the discussion from black and white, right or wrong polarization to deep appreciation for shades along the continuum.
Contradiction is not a sign of falsity, nor the lack of contradictions a sign of truth
- B. Pascal
Other films have delved into the complex circumstances contributing to the detainee abuse by soldiers in national security detention centers. Interrogate This offers a unique and intimate perspective, through the lens of one of several ancillary professions present in these settings. Health and mental health providers, along with sociologists and anthropologists, have provided their professional skills sets to members of the military. Little information about these auxillary professions is exposed via mainstream media, despite the heated debates amongst members of these professional groups.
APA had encouraged engagement in the interrogation process by psychologists acting as consultants, on the grounds that psychologists have expertise to lend in eliciting information from detainees for the purpose of thwarting violence. But a significant contingent within APA membership has vehemently opposed this policy. Interrogate This provides a timeline tracking the evolution of this debate and concludes with late breaking news about a new policy APA will implement in 2009.
Interrogate This is not intended as the ultimate film about the debate amongst psychologists over their roles as consultants to interrogators during the war on terror. It is not meant to be definitive. It is just one story, told in a unique way. I set out on this journey not as a forager of some conclusive “truth” but as a tangible witness to this complicated debate unfolding before me, at this particular point in time.