Larry James

Torture Connection: 
One of the Gitmo psychologists
  • Born in New Orleans, LA
  • 1998-2003  Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Chair of the Department of Psychology 
  • 2001  The Pentagon, Chief Psychologist for the Mental Health Task Force
  • 2003  Chair of the Psychology Department, Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu, Hawaii
  • 2003  Joint Task Force Guantanamo, Chief Psychologist, Joint Intelligence Group
  • 2004  Abu Ghraib, Director, Behavioral Science Unit, Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center at Abu Ghraib
  • 2007-2008  Guantanamo Chief Psychologist
  • 2008 Author, Fixing Hell: An Army Psychologist Confronts Abu Ghraib
  • 2008-Current  Dean, School of Professional Psychology at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio
  • 2009  President, American Board of Health Psychology
  • 2009-2010  President elect, Division of Military Psychology, American Psychological Association

Dr. Larry James heads psych-ops at both Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib

Army Col. Larry James was brought in from Washington to head up psychology operations for detainees at Guantanamo in 2003 and Abu Ghraib in 2004, when the people running these prisons were incorporating torture into interrogation procedures.

Dr. James assigned to break down detainees’ mental health

At both prisons, James headed teams of “mental health” professionals charged with destroying the mental health of detainees, on the theory that psychologically broken men would provide interrogators with more information.

James and his teams advised interrogators, participated in interrogations, and designed the overall environment experienced by prisoners so as to maximize their psychological pain. On his watch, prisoners were threatened with rape and murder, sexually humiliated, left naked in cold cells, chained into uncomfortable “stress positions” for hours on end, and deprived of sleep and human contact, among other psychological regimens.

Dr. James claims to protect prisoners, actually protects torturers

James insists that he attempted to protect prisoners from abuse. He admits that many of the prisoners he worked with had in fact been abused and degraded. In no case, however, did he report putative abusers for possible disciplinary action or even reprimand them himself. He never once engaged the chain of command in any effort to prevent prisoner abuse.

In point of fact, abusive methods were a feature, not a bug, in the psych programs directed by Dr. James.

Attempts to revoke Dr. Larry James's license

After he retired, licensing boards in Louisiana and Ohio, where James is certified to practice, have dealt with formal complaints that he violated his professional obligation to protect the people he was responsible for from torture and grave psychological harm. The Louisiana complaint was dismissed because the charges were old, outside the statute of limitations. The Ohio complaint was dismissed without explanation.

Dr. James observes torture at Abu Ghraib, refuses to stop the torturers

Part of the evidence on which the complaints were built came from Dr. James’s own 2008 memoir, Fixing Hell: An Army Psychologist Confronts Abu Ghraib.

In this book, James recounts incidents in which prisoners were being abused in ways obviously forbidden by the Geneva Accords—for example, by being forced to wear lipstick and women’s lingerie. He describes sitting back and sipping coffee as he watched. In some cases, he claimed he intervened to stop the torture for the moment, but in no case did he describe taking any action whatsoever against the torturers or making any effort to prevent repeated torture. Dr. James and his psych teams were active participants, spark plugs in the engine of the torture regime.

Dr. James releases public statements emphasizing closeness to Obama policies

In 2010, Dr. James issued a press release announcing that he had been named to Michelle Obama’s task force, “Enhancing the Psychological Well-Being of The Military Family.” His statement was an exaggeration; the truth was that he had been contacted about participating in a presentation to the task force. The White House apparently took steps to see that he was un-invited as soon as his involvement became public.

In another press release, Dr. James expressed solidarity with the Obama administration in a way that is no exaggeration at all. He said he agreed with the administration’s commitment to “turning the page”—in other words, to turning a blind eye to evidence of American torture.

Sources on Larry James

UC Davis