This case challenges the New York State Office of Professional Discipline's (OPD) refusal to investigate a complaint asserting Dr. John Francis Leso, a New York State –licensed psychologist, engaged in unethical conduct when he allegedly designed and participated in the abusive treatment of detainees at GuantÃ¡namo Bay.
In a petition filed on Nov. 24, 2010 in New York State Supreme Court, the NYCLU and the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) ask the court to direct OPD to investigate a misconduct complaint against Leso, who allegedly led the behavioral science consultation team at GuantÃ¡namo Bay from June 2002 to January 2003. The CJA, a San Francisco-based human rights organization, filed a professional misconduct complaint with OPD in July 2010 calling for an investigation of Leso's role in the abusive treatment of detainees, and for revocation of his psychologist's license. The misconduct complaint was filed on behalf of Dr. Steven Reisner, a New York psychologist and an advocate against the use of torture. According to Reisner's misconduct complaint, Leso led the first team of mental health professionals assigned to support interrogation operations at GuantÃ¡namo. Many of the techniques and conditions that Leso is accused of devising were applied to people held at GuantÃ¡namo and eventually to detainees held in U.S. custody in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The complaint filed with OPD alleges that Leso participated in the brutal interrogation and mistreatment of detainee Mohammed al Qahtani from Nov. 23, 2002 to Jan. 11, 2003. As further alleged, Leso was present when interrogators menaced al Qahtani with dogs, forcibly injected him with fluid causing painful swelling of his limbs, deprived him of sleep and denied him opportunities to pray. Leso allegedly advised the interrogators on how to keep the detainee awake, disoriented and vulnerable. For example, during one session, he advised interrogators to place al Qahtani in a swivel chair to keep him awake and prevent his eyes from fixing on one place. The CJA complaint concludes that as a result of this abuse, al Qahtani demonstrated behavior consistent with extreme psychological distress, including talking to himself, reportedly hearing voices, and crouching in a corner of his cell covered by a sheet for hours on end. The OPD, nevertheless, declined to investigate the complaint against Leso. It did so upon the assertion that the ethical rules that OPD is obligated to enforce only apply to conduct that occurs in the context of a therapist-patient relationship.
OPD concluded that no such relationship existed between Leso and those who were interrogated at GuantÃ¡namo. But what the OPD ignored are official rules prohibiting the unauthorized practice of psychology and barring immoral conduct by licensed therapists. The NYCLU petition argues that the conduct that Leso is alleged to have undertaken would clearly fall within both of these two ethical proscriptions. Leso has never faced a criminal or civil trial for his actions, and his license remains in good standing. To this date, no U.S. official has been held accountable for the cruel treatment of detainees at GuantÃ¡namo Bay. On Aug. 11, 2011, State Supreme Court Justice Saliann Scarpulla granted the defendants' motion to dismiss the case.
State Supreme Court, New York County, Index No. 10115400 (direct)