May 12, 2010, Baton Rouge and New York – Today, Toledo-based psychologist Dr. Trudy Bond challenged the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists’ failure to investigate alleged professional ethics violations by psychologist and retired U.S. Army colonel Dr. Larry C. James. The case centers on Dr. James’s conduct as a high-ranking psychologist and interrogations advisor for the U.S. military at Guantanamo Bay. A New Orleans native and former Louisiana State University employee, Dr. James is licensed to practice in Louisiana and Ohio, where he is now Dean of the School of Professional Psychology at Wright State University.
Attorneys argued before the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal in the case Dr. Trudy Bond v. Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists.
According to his own statements and government records, Dr. James played an influential role in both the policy and day-to-day operations of interrogations and detention at the prison camps. Publicly-available information shows that while Dr. James was the chief intelligence psychologist at Guantanamo, abuse in interrogations was widespread, and cruel and inhuman treatment was official policy.
Allegations of abuse during Dr. James’s January to May 2003 deployment include beatings, religious and sexual humiliation, rape threats and painful forced body positions. Canadian citizen Omar Khadr, who is currently being tried by military commission at Guantanamo, is one of the prisoners who has alleged brutal treatment in the spring of 2003, when he was only 16 years old. James was also stationed in Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison in 2004 and returned to Guantanamo in 2007.
As Chief Psychologist of the Joint Intelligence Group and a senior member of the Behavioral Science Consultation Team (BSCT) at Guantanamo, Dr. James, operating under his Louisiana license, also had access to the confidential medical records of people he was charged with exploiting for intelligence.
In compliance with her ethical obligation to report abuse by other psychologists, in February 2008 Dr. Bond filed a complaint against Dr. James before the Board, the agency that issued and regulates his Louisiana license. Dr. Bond alleged that Dr. James breached professional ethics by violating his duties to do no harm, to protect confidential information and to obtain informed consent. She called on the Board to investigate and determine if action should be taken against Dr. James.
The Board, charged with enforcing the state's professional standards and conducting official investigations when unethical conduct is suspected, summarily refused to investigate Dr. Bond’s complaint, claiming that the statute of limitations had run, despite conclusive information to the contrary. Dr. Bond then filed suit against the Board in Louisiana’s 19th Judicial District Court, which in July 2009 dismissed her case without looking at the merits.
Attorneys argued today before the First Circuit Court in Baton Rouge that the District Court should have reviewed the Board’s incorrect legal decision.
Said Dr. Bond, “Dr. James’s job at Guantanamo was to advise interrogators on how to physically and emotionally break men and children. This was not only illegal, but a gross perversion of a healing art. Psychologists, whether or not they're in uniform, may not make a weapon out of their license to heal.”
Said CCR Cooperating Attorney Deborah Popowski, “The Louisiana psychology board has a legal duty to protect the public, and it failed to meet that obligation. That it offered clearly erroneous grounds for its decision only adds insult to injury. We believe the Court of Appeal will recognize the long-established role of Louisiana courts in checking an agency when it goes so far astray.”
Said Loyola University law professor Davida Finger, “The risk of harm to vulnerable populations in Louisiana could be great if courts leave patients with no remedy when professional boards refuse to investigate credible complaints of misconduct.”
On February 22 of this year, Professor Davida Finger of Loyola University New Orleans College of Law filed an amicus brief on behalf of New Orleans-based organizations the Institute of Women and Ethnic Studies and the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana, as well as the national groups Psychologists for Social Responsibility, Psychoanalysis for Social Responsibility, and Psychologists for an Ethical APA.
For more information on the involvement of health professionals in torture, visit CCR's website When Healers Harm.
CCR has led the legal battle over Guantanamo for the last eight years – sending the first ever habeas attorney to the base and sending the first attorney to meet with a former CIA “ghost detainee” there. CCR has been responsible for organizing and coordinating more than 500 pro bono lawyers across the country in order to represent the men at Guantanamo, ensuring that nearly all have the option of legal representation. In addition, CCR has been working to resettle the approximately 50 men who remain at Guantánamo because they cannot return to their country of origin for fear of persecution and torture.