But a few chapters in our history – slavery, oppression of the Native American tribes, causes of the civil rights movement, and moments of unconstitutionality on the part of our elected leaders – serve as more than simple blemishes on an otherwise admirable record of defending liberty and freedom. One such stain is the way we’ve treated some of our nation’s military veterans.
The maltreatment is summed up in a recent federal case. In late July, a group of veterans managed to win a court order forcing the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to hand over a trove of documents detailing the department’s alleged Cold War-era drug experiments on Vietnam vets. What’s problematic about this case isn’t the decision – the VA owes these veterans any answers they are seeking – but the fact that the case had to be filed at all.
According to court documents, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley, in Oakland, Calif., said in her ruling that the documents requested by the veteran-plaintiffs were “squarely relevant” to their claim that the government, through the VA, did not adequately notify veterans of chemicals they were purposely exposed to during experimentation, and – perhaps more importantly – what effects that exposure might have had on their physical and mental health.
Details of this sad episode in our history were contained in a 2009 class action suit. Filed by the Vietnam Veterans of America and individual soldiers, the suit charges the U.S. Army and the Central Intelligence Agency, with the help of former Nazi scientists, of using at least 7,800 vets as guinea pigs to test the effects of as many as 400 different types of drugs and chemicals. They included mescaline (psychedelic alkaloid), LSD (psychedelic drug), amphetamines, barbiturates, nerve agents and mustard gas.
The suit also says the government worked to cover up the testing and the nature of its experiments, which began in the 1950s under such exotic code names as “Bluebird,” “Artichoke” and MKUltra.”
The government launched “Project Paperclip,” the suit alleges, an all-out effort by the Army and CIA to allegedly recruit former Nazi scientists to help test various psycho-chemicals, as well as develop a new truth serum using the nation’s own vets as test subjects, Courthouse News Service reported.
“Over half of these Nazi recruits had been members of the SS or Nazi Party,” said the class-action suit. “The ‘Paperclip’ name was chosen because so many of the employment applications were clipped to immigration papers.”
According to Colin A. Ross, a psychiatrist and author of “The CIA Doctors,” said he pored over more than 15,000 documents he received from the nation’s premier spy agency detailing the “mind control” operations which he said took place between 1950-1972 “at many leading universities including Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Johns Hopkins and Stanford.”
The goal, simply, is mind control
In a report posted on the Citizens Commission on Human Rights International’s Web site, Ross said “MKUltra and related programs had several over-lapping purposes.”
Ross said all of that is documented “clearly and explicitly” in the declassified CIA documents he obtained, though he said it was merely “a glimpse into the tip of the iceberg of CIA and military mind control.”
“The experimental subjects were not told the real purpose of the experiments, did not give informed consent, were not afforded outside counsel and received no meaningful follow-up,” he wrote. “As described by the psychiatrists in published papers, experiments with LSD and other hallucinogens, combined with sensory deprivation, electroshock and other interrogation techniques, resulted in psychosis and death among other ‘side effects.’ The purpose of these experiments was to see how easily a person could be put into a psychotic state or controlled.”
In a review of the MKUltra program, which was launched in 1953, Wired.com said its goal was, simply, mind-control.
“1953: The agency launches one of its most dubious covert programs ever, turning unsuspecting humans into guinea pigs for its research into mind-altering drugs,” said the report, which said then-Central Intelligence Agency director Allen Dulles authorized the program.
“Dulles wanted to close the ‘brainwashing gap’ that arose after the United States learned that American prisoners of war in Korea were subjected to mind-control techniques by their captors,” said Wired.com.
“Loathe to be outdone by foreign enemies, the CIA sought, through its research, to devise a truth serum to enhance the interrogations of POWs and captured spies. The agency also wanted to develop techniques and drugs – such as ‘amnesia pills’ – to create CIA superagents (sic) who would be immune to the mind-control efforts of adversaries.”
The creation of so-called Manchurian Candidates – a programmable assassin, essentially – was also a goal of the program.
Besides drug and chemical experimentation, the program included the use of radiological implants, hypnosis and subliminal persuasion, electroshock therapy and isolation techniques, the report said.
Many of the experiments, the suit says, were conducted at Army facilities at Edgewood Arsenal and Ft. Detrick, Md. Some left a number of veterans saddled with debilitating health problems for decades to follow. Worse, the veterans say the government has neglected to provide follow-up medical care to mitigate the damages.
Some soldiers died from the testing, while others suffered physical and mental ailments including seizures and paranoia, an earlier ruling in the case noted.
In this latest bid for full disclosure, the VVA sought documents from the government that reveal the VA’s processes of identifying and notifying soldiers who may have been exposed to the chemical and biological tests.
No relevant medical purposes
In arguing against releasing the documents, attorneys for the VA said the agency should be exempted from doing so by the deliberative process privilege, which aims to shield the decision-making processes of government agencies.
Judge Corley did not buy the argument, ruling instead that that veterans group and others “have demonstrated a sufficient, substantial need to overcome the qualified deliberative process privilege.”
“The Court agrees that considerable discovery has been provided on this subject; however, having reviewed the thousands of pages of documents submitted for in camera review, the Court notes that these processes are far from clear or consistent, and in fact, seem to have undergone numerous modifications over time,” she wrote.
Corley ordered the VA to release more than 40 documents, which she said were “both relevant and unavailable from other sources given that the documents reflect processes which have evolved over time.”
Writes Ross, “The purpose of mind control experiments is controlling human behavior: making enemy combatants open up during interrogation; protecting secret information by erasing memories; making spies more resistant to interrogation because secret information is held by hidden identities and making people more prone to influence, social control and suggestion.
“The mind control experiments and operational programs violate basic human rights and all codes of medical ethics,” he said.
The government should never use American citizens or others for any sort of experimentation, at least without first getting consent. Using those who protect and defend us for the same is unspeakable.