The principles and standards of the APA Ethics Code apply first and foremost to the protection of those individuals or groups most directly impacted by the psychologist's professionally-related engagement in the world. The ethics code does, in at least one instance, emphasize larger societal goals that can take many forms. For the PENS tasks force, the national security goal, a largely societal emphasis, is the cornerstone of its recommendations (p. 2) see also  for a good discussion on the excessive attention in psychological ethics on the distal, societal benefits to the neglect of proximal, individual benefits).
The societal "national security argument" in the PENS report is that the potential distal protection of Americans supersedes the psychologist's responsibility to the most immediately vulnerable individual (i.e., the detainee) (p. 2). This is in every sense a utilitarian argument, suggesting that risking a certain degree of harm, whether mental or physical, to an individual (really many individuals over an extended period) is acceptable to reduce the possibility that many others will be harmed at a future date (see also  for a further explication of this argument).
We are skeptical of this particular assessment, assuming even that its basic foundations are reasonable. What is more, these utilitarian arguments rarely incorporate "all societies" within the formula; instead, the judgments historically tend to be biased to protect the proponent's own in-group, most often to the detriment of all others, i.e., the out-group .
In the PENS Report, the in-group utilitarian argument is defended through appeals to the ethics code. In particular, Principle B: Fidelity and Responsibility is used and its tenet that psychologists should be "aware of their professional and scientific responsibilities to society" [, p. 3]. Fidelity and Responsibility here is extrapolated by the PENS Report to "gathering information that can be used in our nation's and other nation's defense." (p. 2). We believe this application of Principle B is particularly idiosyncratic and over-reaching. There are other psychologist "responsibilities to society" in this context that tend to be more compelling, such as the responsibility to avoid participation in activities that could harm society's trust in the discipline. This explicitly utilitarian phrase, moreover, is only a small portion of Principle B, which more thoroughly asserts that psychologists should, "...seek to manage conflicts of interest that could lead to exploitation or harm" (p. 3). This clause, we believe, is far more apt to the present situation, characterizing the ethical dangers of psychologist-involvement in "war-on-terror" interrogations.
In general, any ranking of potential contributions to national security above protections of the most vulnerable human clients (and trust in psychologists as caregivers) is a high risk proposition for psychology as a profession . This is not only an unacceptable ranking of priorities; it is putting highly speculative claims that can never be substantiated above the reality of abuses that have indisputably been witnessed across settings and over multiple occasions, spanning at this point over half a decade. There is no real way to confirm or disconfirm the utilitarian assessment. The very nature of these interrogations and the conditions of detention have, however, been widely and repeatedly denounced across much of the world [44, 45]. And many expert political analysts have made sound arguments that they have placed everyone at higher risk for acts of terrorism. At a minimum, utilitarian arguments, to be valid, would need to encompass these unintended side effects of the government activities being aided by psychologists.
The truth is that APA interrogation policy has never adequately weighed the radiating international effects of detainee abuse, and their devastating impact on trust. With psychologists actively involved in detainee interrogations, reports of abuse are a threat to the whole profession. The damage to public trust may also be difficult to measure, but it is likely to be considerably more serious than any benefits believed to accrue from this policy. The utilitarian position is better framed as: what is best for the most people is what protects the dignity of the single individual, because the effects of endangering the single individual, to any degree, are far-reaching indeed .