HLS International Human Rights Clinic files complaint against Guantanamo psychologist

On behalf of four Ohio citizens, Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic filed a complaint with the Ohio Psychology Board on July 7, calling for an investigation into the conduct of Ohio-licensee Dr. Larry C. James, former chief psychologist of the intelligence command at the U.S. Naval Station in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

According to the 50-page complaint, for several months in 2003, and from 2007-2008, Dr. James was the senior psychologist of the Guantánamo Behavioral Science Consultation Team (BSCT), a small but influential group of mental health professionals whose job it was to advise on and participate in interrogations, and to help create an environment designed to break down prisoners.

“It is the day-to-day business of the board to investigate credible allegations against psychologists,” said lawyer Deborah Popowski ’08, Skirball Fellow at the International Human Rights Clinic.  “We have faith the board will recognize its responsibility and fully investigate the claims in this complaint.”

The complaint alleges that during Dr. James’ tenure at the prison, boys and men 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 complaint alleges further that there is evidence that abuse of this kind was systemic, that BSCT health professionals played an integral role in its planning and practice, and that Dr. James, in his position of authority, at minimum knew or should have known it was being inflicted.

The complaint follows a filing last month by the Roderick MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern University School of Law against a Texas psychologist, a CIA-contractor accused of torturing prisoners in the agency’s secret prisons program. Also earlier in July, the Center for Justice and Accountability filed a complaint about a New York psychologist, who was Dr. James’ predecessor on the Guantánamo Behavioral Science Consultation Team (BSCT) known as “Biscuit.”