Professional Misconduct Complaints

U.S. physicians and psychologists are bound not only by civil and criminal laws prohibiting torture and other forms of abuse, but also by the laws and rules regulating their state licenses. Military and intelligence health professionals who hold state licenses are not exempt from these laws and rules.

And yet, despite extensive, credible evidence documenting the involvement of U.S. military and intelligence health professionals in the torture of detainees, not one state licensing board has held a health professional accountable for the abuse of individuals in national security detention. Between 2005 and 2008, at least eleven complaints were filed with eight licensing boards against five health professionals allegedly involved in torture. Most boards summarily dismissed the complaints without apparent review of the merits; none held a formal hearing.


Book cover for, “Ethics Abandoned: Medical Professionalism and Detainee Abuse in the War on Terror,” shows a man walking away in a blue night sky.

Concerned by this trend, the International Human Rights Clinic and the Center for Constitutional Rights joined forces to support the community of people working to protect prisoners and the general public by holding accountable health professionals involved in the brutalization and degradation of other human beings.

In July 2010, the Clinic and Ohio attorney Terry Lodge represented four Ohio residents in their filing of a professional misconduct complaint with the State Board of Psychology in Ohio against Dr. Larry James, formerly the senior intelligence psychologist in Guantánamo and currently the Dean of Wright State University’s School of Professional Psychology in Dayton, Ohio. The complaint was brought by Dr. Trudy Bond, a psychologist from Toledo; Michael Reese, an Army veteran from Columbus; Rev. Colin Bossen, formerly a minister from Cleveland; and Dr. Josephine Setzler, a mental health advocate from Fremont.

That same summer, two additional psychologists brought complaints against Dr. John Leso in New York and Dr. James Mitchell in Texas, both of whom allegedly participated in the torture of detained individuals in Guantánamo and a CIA black site. The Ohio, Texas, and New York psychology boards dismissed the three complaints, which totaled over 100 pages and were supported by over 550 footnotes, without so much as a formal hearing.

Attempts to seek judicial review of these licensing board decisions have proven unfruitful thus far, as courts in all three states have effectively deferred to the boards and showed themselves similarly unwilling to review the merits. Meanwhile, Drs. James, Leso, and Mitchell continue to hold licenses to care for patients. Dr. James continues to hold a license to care for patients in Ohio.

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