Yale psychiatrist who claimed he had DOD grant is under scrutiny again
New Haven Register, Conn.
NEW HAVEN, Conn. — The Yale University psychiatrist at the heart of a recent controversy over teaching interviewing techniques to soldiers is embroiled in a new uproar over ongoing research using local Latino immigrants.
At least one New Haven group said it may protest the research by Dr. Charles Morgan, who is an associate professor of psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine.
Morgan, whose work brings psychiatric techniques to bear in discerning whether a person is telling the truth, has been paying immigrant volunteers to take part in a study through a group called the Center for Research and Development, located at 234 Church St. Participants are directed either to lie or tell the truth about personal beliefs during an interview, which is videotaped.
Yale is not affiliated with the Center for Research and Development and does not oversee the research conducted there.
The New Haven Independent recently obtained a copy of the study’s lengthy, informed consent document, which states that the research is being sponsored by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Reached on Monday, Special Agent Kathleen Wright of the FBI Press Office in Washington, D.C., would not confirm the FBI’s support, but said the bureau is sponsoring research in New Haven.
“We haven’t said what it is or what it isn’t,” Wright said. “It’s a project that is exploring cultural differences in human behavior. What it boils down to is communication.”
Wright said all research projects sponsored by the FBI “are done by professionals and will be shared by professionals.” She speculated that there may be “some misinformation out there” regarding the use of volunteers.
“Everything is in compliance with the law and our guidelines that research is done by professionals,” Wright said.
Morgan declined to talk about his study until it is completed. “I would be happy to once we are finished and write up a science paper about it,” Morgan said via email on Monday.
He also noted that his work attempts to replicate the findings of a previous study conducted by British researchers.
John Lugo, of the New Haven advocacy group Unidad Latina en Accion, said his organization is meeting this week to decide on a response to Morgan’s work with local immigrants.
“They use us like lab rats,” Lugo said. “That’s not the game we want to play with these people. For me, it’s pretty scary. I have seen the links between the U.S. Army and the Colombian army.”
Last month, Morgan made national news after media reports connected him with a proposal to create a Center for Excellence in Operational Neuroscience on the Yale campus, using a $1.8 million grant from the Department of Defense.
Yale said it had not approved any such center. The military, after first saying it had funded the project, retracted its statement and said it had not given the go-ahead.
Both incidents have drawn criticism from observers such as Roy Eidelson, past president of Psychologists for Social Responsibility. He recently posted an item about the ethical implications of Morgan’s work on his Psychology Today web page.
“By all indications of what Dr. Morgan is doing, these are war on terror efforts,” Eidelson said Monday from his office, located near Philadelphia. “The problem is, what is going to be done with this research? Since 2001, the health professions have struggled to figure out what their stance should be, in terms of the ethics of the profession and the needs of the intelligence community.”
Eidelson said he’s pushing for an open discussion with Morgan about the scope of his research.
“What I’m looking for is an open forum to address these issues,” he said. “The secrecy is what’s so problematic.”