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Use of psychologists at Guantanamo Bay prison reduced with general's order

The U.S. military has sharply cut the use of psychologists in its military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, citing new rules set last summer by the American Psychological Association, defense officials said.

The decision was made by Marine Gen. John Kelly, who is expected to retire in January as commander of U.S. Southern Command. It effectively eliminates psychologists from interrogations and all other activities directly involving detainees, said Army Col. Lisa Garcia, a spokeswoman for Southern Command.

The decision, first reported by The New York Times on Thursday, was made earlier this month, Garcia said. Its intention is to not risk the psychologists' professional licenses, since continuing to work directly with detainees would violate new rules put in place by the association, the nation's largest professional organization for psychologists, she said.

The association put in place the new rules following the release of a 542-page report in July that found that some of its leaders secretly worked with the CIA and Pentagon in their detainee programs, including agency interrogations that relied on torture. The report was commissioned by the association's board of directors in 2014, and led by David H. Hoffman, a former assistant U.S. Attorney in Chicago.

Garcia said psychologists will continue to work with U.S. troops at Guantanamo and provide them treatment as needed. About six psychologists at a time were assigned to Guantanamo in 2015, with up to 12 psychologists serving on the naval base during the year.

The new rules issued by the association specifically ban psychologists from any involvement with detainee interrogations, including providing mental health services at facilities such as Guantanamo that the United Nations has found do not comply with human rights laws. Garcia said interrogations no longer take place at Guantanamo, but voluntary interviews with detainees were allowed if they asked to speak with U.S. personnel.
 

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