"I Could Tell You, but Then I'd Have to Kill You": Classified Information in the Psychiatric Evaluation

R. D. Malone and D. M. Benedek,
Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law 30(2): 232-237, 2002.
Psychiatrists and other mental health professionals are presented with special challenges when their patients are involved in covert operations or other matters of national security. The patients' involvement may, by legal necessity, limit disclosures during the evaluation. Such situations may be encountered with varying degrees of frequency by military psychiatrists or consultants to various federal or law enforcement agencies involved in classified or undercover activities. The need to assess relevant psychosocial stressors while avoiding prohibited disclosure, the legal requirements to report potentially adverse information, or the procedure to gain legal permission to discuss classified details may present novel challenges for therapists in such evaluations. In this article, we present a case report illustrating these challenges and review applicable regulations and public law governing the disclosure of classified information. We also discuss common pitfalls and strategies for handling such situations.