Democracy Now, a daily radio show and TV news program
on over 500 stations, posted the following headline on
their blog: "Ex-APA
President Linked to CIA Torture". The story
is attributed to the new book, "The Dark Side: The
Inside Story of How The War on Terror Turned into a War
on American Ideals."
is one problem with the story--it is not true.
Seligman ("Marty" to his friends) has just sent
a letter to his friends addressing the allegations.
letter, the allegations, the blog posting and the full
context are all below.
just spoken to him. He says he can only believe
that "The truth will out. The story is patently false."
the allegation in the story could easily spread widely
on the web. And once something is on the web, it
never fully disappears.
we've learned anything from decades of negative political
campaigns in the US, it is that negative charges should
be countered immediately, credibly, and widely.
help make this email "go viral" (spread widely).
We're sending it to you and to the 130,000 other CTH readers.
If you are so moved, please forward it to the relevant
email lists, people, blogs, and to the circles of influence
to which you belong. Ask them to forward it as well.
Martin E. P. Seligman's Response to
Allegations Attributed to Jane Mayer's Book, "The Dark Side"
Brief Note: The "Democracy Now" story
1. Ben's Note
July 16, 2008
Dear CTH Readers,
The July Coaching Toward Happiness
issue was ready to send out. But I'm delaying it by a day.
Marty's response to allegations
"attributed" to Jane Mayer's book, The Dark Side: The Inside Story
of How The War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals, is
Tomorrow, I'll send out the July CTH
with news on Sonja Lyubomirsky's
Master Class on Happiness and with a letter from Charles
Dughigg of the New York Times written explicitly for CTH readers.
He is seeking a large number of interviews with people who have
experienced life transformations. The newsletter will also include
a phone interview with him talking about what kind of
transformative change he is most interested in.
But that newsletter will be delayed a
The allegations against Marty are too important to wait and his
response must stand alone.
Ben Dean, Ph.D.
P.S. The best defense is a strong
offense. If you are so moved, please help this email go viral.
Please consider forwarding it to, at least, a few of your friends
and colleagues. If you feel strongly, please forward it
immediately to all the relevant email lists, people, blogs, and to
the circles of influence to which you belong.
When forwarding the July, 2008 CoachingTowardHappiness Newsletter with
Martin Seligman's letter to his friends, you may want to use the
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bolding, color, etc. -- what you'd produce with a manual typewriter
-- is the preferred format for use with ListServs and many email
Before forwarding the email, consider removing the unsubscribe
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2. The Context
forewarned--there are blog posts and articles falsely attributing
allegations against Marty to a new book by Jane Mayer called "The
Dark Side: The Inside Story of How The War on Terror Turned into a
War on American Ideals."
Democracy Now, a daily radio show and TV news program on over
500 stations posted this headline purportedly based on the
book--"Ex-APA President Linked to CIA Torture." Marty is a
legendary psychologist who is also a big target. The story will
no doubt be widely distributed. (The full story is below.)
For CTH readers who
know Marty and his deeply committed leadership in positive
psychology, this story is unbelievable. (If you are reading this
and do not know about his career and his mission, please
Chris Peterson observes, a central message of Positive
Psychology is that "other people matter." Marty matters to many
people. If you are so inclined, please forward this message to
your circles of influence.
3. Martin E. P. Seligman's
Response to Allegations Attributed to Jane Mayer's Book, "The Dark
Side" Here, with permission, is Marty's letter to his
friends: July 14, 2008
The allegation that I "provided assistance in the process" of
torture is completely false.
I gave a three-hour lecture sponsored by SERE (the Survival,
Evasion, Resistance, Escape branch of the American armed forces)
at the San Diego Naval Base in May 2002. My topic was how American
troops and American personnel could use what is known about
learned helplessness and related findings to resist torture and
evade successful interrogation by their captors.
I was told then that since I was (and
am) a civilian with no security clearance that they could not
discuss American methods of interrogation with me. I have not had
contact with SERE since that meeting. I have not worked under
government contract (or any other contract) on any aspect of
interrogation or any aspect of torture. Mr. Mitchell and Mr.
Jessen were present in the audience of about 50 others at my
speech, and that was, to the best of my knowledge, the sum total
of my "assisting them in the process."
I have had no contact at all with
the American Psychological Association about their relevant
As of today, I have not seen Jane
Mayer's book, only the blogs. If necessary, I will comment further
on its contents.
Most importantly, I strongly
disapprove of torture and have never and would never provide
assistance in its process.
It will help if you're prepared in
advance for what your friends and colleagues may read about Marty
in the press and on the web.
Here is the full text of the Democracy
Now summary, "Ex-APA President Linked to CIA Torture Program."
New information has been revealed
about the role psychologists played in helping the CIA develop
its torture techniques. In her new book The Dark Side, Jane
Mayer reveals a former president of the American Psychological
Association, Martin Seligman, was invited by the CIA in the
spring of 2002 to speak at the Navy's SERE school in San Diego.
In the 1960s, Seligman experimented on dogs and found that by
shocking a dog repeatedly and randomly, he could brutalize it
emotionally into a state of complete passivity. Seligman spoke
for three hours about his theory of learned helplessness. His
theories were later adapted for use in CIA prisons. Seligman is
the second APA president to be linked to the CIA's torture
program. Last year, it was revealed former APA president Joseph
Matarazzo is a partner in the Spokane firm Mitchell & Jessen
that was contracted to design the CIA interrogations program.
Unlike other medical associations, the APA has refused to
unequivocally condemn torture.***
***A Side Note on the Democracy Now
assertion that "the APA has refused to unequivocally condemn
torture." I've just spoken to my colleague, Steven Behnke,
JD, Director of the Ethics Office of the American Psychological
Association. He counsels that the first thing a scientist or a
coach asks is, "Where's the data?"
He then says with conviction, "The APA
has repeatedly and emphatically condemned torture." For the
supporting data, he refers us to the APA Ethics page
There is additional "data" about APA's
here. This page includes links to detailed information about
the APA's position on Ethics, Interrogations and National
Security. The APA's Audrey Hamilton suggest looking at the
Frequently Asked Questions section as well as the two recent
resolutions passed by APA's Council which are online here:
Ben Dean, Editor of Coaching Toward
Happiness, is a coach,
psychologist, founder of MentorCoach,
2006-2008. Coaching Toward Happiness. All rights reserved.