Not a flashback: medical doctor who ‘inspired’ torture program gets no-bid $31M Army contract

Yes, that is a present-day headline.

Someone pinch me, are we still living under the Bush administration?

A psychologist whose research was used in constructing the US’s program to torture terrorism suspects has been granted a -million no-bid Army contract to provide “resilience training” to US soldiers.

Mark Benjamin at Salon.com reports that University of Pennsylvania psychologist Martin Seligman’s research “formed the psychological underpinnings of the Bush administration’s torture program.”

The Army awarded the “sole source” contract in February to the University of Pennsylvania for resilience training, or teaching soldiers to better cope with the psychological strain of multiple combat tours. The university’s Positive Psychology Center, directed by famed psychologist Martin Seligman, is conducting the resilience training.

Army contracting documents show that nobody else was allowed to bid on the resilience-training contract because “there is only one responsible source due to a unique capability provided, and no other supplies or services will satisfy agency requirements.” And yet, Salon was able to identify resilience training experts at other institutions around the country, including the University of Maryland and the Mayo Clinic. In fact, in 2008 the Marine Corps launched a project with UCLA to conduct resilience training for Marines and their families at nine military bases across the United States and in Okinawa, Japan.

In a 2009 article, the New York Times described Seligman’s small but crucial role in the establishment of the “enhanced interrogation techniques” used on terrorism suspects before the techniques were suspended in 2008.

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—  John Wright