An advocacy group working on behalf of Vietnam veterans has asked a federal judge in California to sanction the CIA, saying the spy agency has been blocking efforts to uncover its role in alleged experiments on US soldiers from the 1950s to 1970s.
The Vietnam Veterans of America filed a lawsuit on behalf of six Vietnam War veterans in January, 2009, claiming that the CIA had used an estimated 7,800 US service members as “guinea pigs” in experiments involving “at least 250, but as many as 400 chemical and biological agents,” according to Courthouse News.
Among the chemicals the lawsuit alleges were used on the soldiers were LSD, sarin and phosgene nerve gases, cyanide, PCP and even THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.
The lawsuit described it as a “vast program of human experimentation” that was “shrouded in secrecy” and carried out without the informed consent of the experiment subjects.
“In 1970, [the CIA] provided Congress with an alphabetical list showing that they had tested 145 drugs during Projects Bluebird, Artichoke, MKULTRA and MKDELTA,” the lawsuit stated, as quoted at Courthouse News.
As the defendant in the suit, the CIA is obliged, by judge’s orders, to hand over data relevant to the lawsuit. But the VVA has asked a judge to sanction the CIA, saying the agency has ignored or blocked its requests for information, and has released only a small portion of the relevant documents.
The VVA’s first attempts to obtain CIA data on the experiments “have been pending for over a year, during which time [the CIA] have attempted to sidestep their discovery obligations at every turn, withholding (or even refusing to search for) large volumes of relevant, responsive documents [and] refusing to provide … witnesses to testify about their document searches and certain substantive topics,” the motion (PDF), filed in a California federal court this week, states.
The VVA says the CIA had refused to use “a routine protective order” that would restrict any sensitive CIA data to within the courtroom, and instead blacked out large parts of relevant documents. The plaintiffs say the CIA refused to provide the names of the test subjects involved, allowing only the names of the six defendants who filed the lawsuit.
“Even more unbelievably, it appears that defendants have yet to search even the most obvious location for documents — Edgewood Arsenal itself,” the motion states, referring to the location northeast of Baltimore where the experiments are said to have been carried out.
The motion states the CIA “served no responses or objections whatsoever” to the VVA’s second and third requests for information.
The motion asks that the judge, in addition to sanctioning the CIA, also order the CIA to pay the VVA’s costs associated with its attempts to obtain CIA information.
Judge James Larson of the US District Court in northern California will begin hearing arguments in the case on Sept. 29.
The VVA describes itself as “the only national Vietnam veterans organization congressionally chartered and exclusively dedicated to Vietnam-era veterans and their families.”
A 2003 report (PDF) from the Department of Veterans Affairs states that “between 1950 and 1975, about 6,720 soldiers took part in experiments involving exposures to 254 different chemicals, conducted at US Army Laboratories at Edgewood Arsenal, MD. Congressional hearings into these experiments in 1974 and 1975 resulted in disclosures, notification of subjects as to the nature of their chemical exposures, and ultimately to compensation for a few families of subjects who had died during the experiments.”