APA's Expert Panel in the Congressional Review of the USS Iowa Incident

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role of APA's expert panel & equivocal death analysis in Congressional review of USS Iowa incident, 1989

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In 1989, an explosion aboard the USS Iowa killed 47 sailors. The navy attributed the explosion to the intentional suicidal acts of Gunners Mate Clayton Hartwig, a conclusion supported primarily by an "equivocal death analysis" conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The US House of Representatives Armed Services Committee (HASC) was highly critical of the FBI's report and the navy's conclusions, in part because of the peer review provided by 12 psychologists organized by the American Psychological Association (APA). This article (1) reviews the nature of equivocal death analysis and related reconstructive psychological evaluations, (2) describes the nature of APA's consultation and involvement with the HASC, (3) discusses the conclusions reached by the HASC and the influence of the APA panelists, and (4) suggests limitations on the use of equivocal death analysis and related procedures in light of scientific concerns and ethical considerations.

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American Psychologist, v. 48, issue 1, p. 8-15