WASHINGTON—The phone call on that January 1988 morning stunned staffers at the American Association for the Advancement of Science: Forensic pathologist Robert Kirschner, a member of the AAAS Committee on Scientific Freedom and Responsibility, had just been thrown into a Kenyan prison. Before heading for Kenya, Kirschner had received official government approval to attend an inquest into the death of a prisoner whose case had become a cause célèbre following allegations of government torture. Suddenly it seemed that Kirschner himself might become a torture victim; in any case, he was being detained a long way from home and needed help.

Anxiously, the staff of AAAS ‘s science and human rights program rushed into the office of Executive Officer Alvin W. Trivelpiece and recounted the events. That’s when they received their second shock of the day: In their eyes, Trivelpiece seemed less concerned about the fate of a respected scientist and...

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