Yale's Proposed Interrogation Center

February 21, 2013 Topic: EthicsPsychology Region: United States Blog Brand: The Buzz

Yale's Proposed Interrogation Center

If a 1.8 million dollar Department of Defense grant goes through, Yale will soon establish (under the U.S. Special Operations Command) the Center of Excellence for Operational Neuroscience to train Green Berets in "interview techniques." What kind of interview techniques? That depends on who you ask. The interviewees? Paid members of New Haven's immigrant community.

Psychiatry professor Charles A. Morgan III, the proposed leader of the project, says that by practicing on immigrants the center will teach soldiers a new "cross-cultural" approach to intelligence gathering that would replace more violent interrogation-style techniques. Critics argue that the project will victimize New Haven's large immigrant population and is inconsistent with medical ethics. Natalie Batraville and Alex Lew of the Yale Daily News asked on Friday: "Is there an assumption in Morgan’s desire to use more ‘authentic,’ brown interviewees as test subjects, that brown people lie differently from whites—and even more insidiously, that all brown people must belong to the same “category” of liar?"

The Yale Herald's original report about the center stated that exposing trainees to "Moroccans, Columbians [sic], Nepalese, Ecuadorians, and others" would help inform their sensibilities about when people from other countries were lying. This seems to be compounded by a paper co-authored by Morgan in 2010 with two other Yale psychiatry professors. According to the Huffington Post, "That research, funded by a grant from the Department of Defense, used 40 native Arabic speaking men 'self-identified as being conservative Muslims' to determine whether their heart rates changed when they were asked to lie."

While the center does not yet exist, these questions have already sparked a firestorm regarding the purpose of the proposed center and the role of academia in shaping future soldiers. Either way, the proposed use of the immigrant population in this training experiment certainly appears exploitive. After all, this being a university campus, why can't they practice these nonviolent techniques on broke college kids who want to make a buck? Or would that damage the realism of interviewing someone who looks more like a "terrorist"?