An Empirical Study of the Reports of APA's Peer Review Panel in the Congressional Review of the USS Iowa Incident

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The U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services Committee (HASC) review of the US. Navy's investigation of the U.S.S. IOWA incident provides a case study of the problems with reconstructive psychological evaluations. The US. Navy attributed the explosion on board the U.S.S. IOWA to the intentional suicidal acts of Gunner's Mate Clayton Hartwig, a conclusion supported primarily by an Equivocal Death Analysis (EDA) conducted by the FBI. Systematic analysis of the reports of the expert panelists who consulted to the NASC reveals that 11 of the 14panelists were critical of the conclusions reached by the Navy/FBI. There was considerable variability among the judgments of the panelists, who reached consensus only for broad categories. Because the reliability and validity of postmortem psychological reconstructions such as EDA and psychological autopsy have not been established, clinicians are urged to exercise caution in the use of such procedures and to be sensitive to ethical obligations to consumers when using such techniques.

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Journal of Personality Assessment, v. 61, issue 3, p. 425-442