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An Interrogation Center at Yale?

Proposed Pentagon Special Ops Training Facility at Yale School of Medicine Sparks Protests


JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We turn now to a controversy brewing at Yale University over a proposed center that would use immigrants from the surrounding community to train special operations forces in interview techniques. The center would be funded by a $1.8 million grant from the Department of Defense and could open as early as April. It would be housed at the Yale School of Medicine and led by Charles Morgan, a professor of psychiatry who previously conducted research on how to tell whether Arab Muslim men are lying. Morgan declined our request for an interview, but in January he spoke with The Yale Herald . He told the paper he hopes to convince the Green Berets—some of them just back from the front lines in Afghanistan—to use noncoercive conversation methods in order to gather intelligence more effectively.

AMY GOODMAN: On Tuesday, Yale University issued a statement saying the center would promote, quote, "humane and culturally respectful interview practices among a limited number of members of the armed forces." This came after graduate and undergraduate students on campus raised concerns about the lack of transparency in planning for the proposed center, its use of immigrant subjects and the presence of specially trained military operatives on campus. Alumni and members of the psychiatry profession have also spoken out against the center.

For more, we’re joined by three guests. Michael Siegel, professor of community health sciences at Boston University School of Public Health and a 1990 graduate of the Yale School of Medicine, he has written to the medical school’s dean to express his opposition to the proposed center because it violates its stated mission, he says. And joining us via Democracy Now! videostream in New Haven, Connecticut, are Alex Lew, a sophomore at Yale University, and Nathalie Batraville, a graduate student in Yale’s French Department. They co-authored an editorial titled "DoD Plans are Shortsighted, Unethical."

We welcome all of you to Democracy Now! Nathalie, let’s begin with you. What are your concerns? What do you understand is proposed for the Yale campus at the Yale medical school?

NATHALIE BATRAVILLE: So we found out about this through The Yale Herald and the Yale Daily News . We also realized later that there was an article published in The New Yorker about this proposed center.

And our first concern is that, you know, there was really no consultation of the student body, there was no consultation of the faculty or of representatives of the communities that these practices, these techniques are going to be—are going to be honed on, are going to be practiced on, by the military. And so, our first concern is for transparency.

And our concern is also that there has been an increase in recent years in the influence of the military in universities, in the presence of programs designed to help the military achieve its goals. And we would really like for this—you know, we would really like make an intervention in terms of drawing a line and figuring out what is ethical, what is unethical, what is the relationship, how does this affect immigrant communities in New Haven, how does this affect the student body. And so, we’d really like more transparency, and we’d like to have an open discussion about the role of the military in the university.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Michael Siegel, your concerns about this? Yale University is insisting that this is much ado about nothing. On Tuesday, the university issued its first public statement on the center, saying the center would be, quote, "An educational and research center with a goal of promoting humane and culturally respectful interview practices among a limited number of members of the armed forces, including medics, has been proposed by a faculty member in the Department of Psychiatry at Yale." And they go on to say that "The center would initially be funded by the Department of Defense. [But] no formal proposal has been submitted yet to the University, and such a center would only be established and funded after rigorous academic and ethical review, and only if its goals are consistent with the University’s educational and research missions, and its research is determined to be conducted to the appropriate stringent standards." So, they are basically saying the safeguards are already in place, and the critics are raising problems that don’t yet exist. Your response?

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