Gitmo military psychologist draws MU protest

The University of Missouri is defending its recruitment of a retired Army psychologist who has faced abuse accusations at the Guantanamo Bay military prison and now wants a top administrative job.

About two dozen members of the mid-Missouri chapter of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, an anti-war group, protested Friday afternoon outside Hill Hall, which is home to the College of Education. The college has selected Larry James as one of two finalists for a job overseeing 60 employees as division executive director.

James is dean of professional psychology at Wright State University in Ohio. He previously served as chairman of the psychology department at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and led a team of psychologists assigned to interrogators at the U.S. detention center in Cuba for five months in 2003 and again in 2007-08.

Michael Pullis, the MU professor leading the hiring search, told the protesters Friday that James “has not been sanctioned for any professional or ethical misconduct by any state or appeals court, or any licensing board or accrediting body.”

He further noted that James won a Bronze Star and other honors in a 22-year military career. Among his other duties, James coordinated mental health resources at the Pentagon after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. He also oversaw interrogations at the Abu Ghraib detention center in Iraq in 2004, after the infamous photos surfaced that showed guards abusing detainees.

In 2010, the Harvard Law School's International Human Rights Clinic filed a complaint against James alleging that he witnessed the “systematically” abusive interrogation of military prisoners at the U.S. naval base in Cuba but failed to intervene. The complaint says James initially watched without intervening while an interrogator and three guards subjected a near-naked man to sexual humiliation by forcing him to wear women's underwear and only intervened when he was concerned someone might get hurt.

James denies the allegations and maintains that he was tasked with ending alleged abuse at both prisons.

A state licensing board in Ohio declined to discipline James, as did a similar panel in Louisiana, where he is also licensed.