Doctors sue Psychology Board over failure to act on complaint against Gitmo psychologist Larry James
April 21, 2011
COLUMBUS, Ohio (CN) - Two doctors, a minister and a disabled veteran sued the Ohio Board of Psychology, claiming it failed to act on their detailed complaint against a psychologist, an Army colonel who "was responsible for the abuse and exploitation of detainees as a senior psychologist at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, in violation of Ohio law and Board ethics rules."
The plaintiffs seek writ of mandamus to compel the State Board to take "formal action" against Dr. Larry C. James, a board-licensed psychologist and Dean of Wright State University's School of Professional Psychology.
James is not listed as a defendant.
The plaintiffs say he worked at the Guantanamo prison in 2003 and in 2007-2008. At Guantanamo, James was an Army colonel who led the Behavioral Science Consultation Team, which included psychiatrists and psychologists who "played a role in the exploitation, abuse, and torture of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, subsequently misrepresented that experience, and improperly disclosed confidential patient information," according to the complaint.
James led the team from January to May 2003, and against from June 2007 through May or June 2008, according to the complaint in Franklin County Court.
The plaintiffs are Dr. Trudy Bond, a practicing psychologist from Toledo; Michael Reese, an Army veteran, member of Disable American Veterans, and a former counselor for people with disabilities; the Rev. Colin Bossen, a Unitarian minister from Cleveland Heights; and Dr. Josephine Setzler, director of an Ohio chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
The plaintiffs say they filed a 50-page complaint against James with the Board on July 7, 2010. They ask that if the board does not take "formal action" against james, that it be compelled "to provide clearly articulated reasons grounded in fact or law for any decision, and to show that it investigated meaningfully and/or carried out a formal proceeding in good faith."
The plaintiffs say the July 7, 2010 "Board Complaint" alleges violations of 18 Ohio laws and Board ethics rules.
They accuse James of "publishing confidential patient history in his 2008 memoir and ... misleading the public and the Board about his role."
They claim that after James left Guantanamo, he continued to commit "grave breeches of confidentiality through statements he made in his book," "Fixing Hell: An Army Psychologist Confronts Abu Ghraib." They say that James published this book in 2008, "while his application for an Ohio license was pending before the Board."
According to the lawsuit: "The Board Complaint documents that while Dr. James was chief psychologist and alleged commanding officer of the BSCT [Behavioral Science Consultation Team], men and boys detained in the prison were threatened with rape and death for themselves and their family members; sexually, culturally, and religiously humiliated; forced naked; deprived of sleep; subjected to sensory deprivation, over-stimulation, and extreme isolation; short-shackled into stress positions for hours; and physically assaulted.
"The Board Complaint alleges that Dr. James participated in, ordered, supervised, ratified, facilitated, acquiesced in, and/or failed to prevent, stop, report or punish this and other types of abuse at the prison.
The Board Complaint provides specific exampled of this misconduct, including an incident drawn from Dr. James's own admission in which he watched behind a one-way mirror and drank coffee as an interrogator and three guards wrestled a man to the floor forcing him to wear lipstick, a wig, and women's underwear. The Board Complaint alleges that Dr. James did not report the incident and documents Dr. James's admission that he did not reprimand or disciplines the interrogator and guards."
The plaintiffs say that their Board Complaint alleged, inter alia [among other things], that James and members "under his command and control ... advised and trained interrogators, meeting with them to review interrogation plans designed to isolate detainees and foster dependence on their interrogators so as to enhance and exploit their disorientation, shock and fear;
"observed, monitored and retained at least de facto authority to end many, if not all, interrogations, many of which involved treatment rising to the level of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;
"assessed and evaluated detainee behavior and suggested abusive interrogation techniques ...
"The U.S. government had previously recognized such techniques as illegal, and U.S. government officials have since reaffirmed that some of these techniques constitute torture." (Citations omitted.)
"The Board Complaint is further supported by a report submitted by psychologist and attorney Dr. Bryant Welch, an expert in psychological ethics," the legal complaint adds. "Dr. Welch concludes that if the allegations contained in the Board Complaint are factually true, the conduct described constitutes the most serious and far-reaching ethical breaches he has ever encountered in his career as a psychologist."
The plaintiffs say the Ohio Board of Psychology responded to their complaint with a "cursory letter" of Jan. 31, stating that "It has been determined that we are unable to proceed to formal action on this matter."
The plaintiff's say that's an abuse of the Board's discretion of "a 50-page complaint with over 1,000 pages of credible documentation, including government reports and Dr. James's own admissions," and that the Board "must proceed pursuant to its duty to protect the public from psychologists who abuse their professional knowledge and skills to cause harm."
The plaintiffs are represented by Terry Lodge of Toledo and Deborah Popowski and Tyler Giannini of Harvard Law School's International Human Rights Clinic.
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