By NICK MCCANN
Courthouse News Service, April 09, 2012
Vietnam Veterans of America filed a class action against the U.S. government in 2009, claiming that at least 7,800 soldiers had been used as guinea pigs in Project Paperclip. The experiments were allegedly conducted at the Baltimore-area Edgewood Arsenal. Soldiers were allegedly administered at least 250 and as many as 400 types of drugs, among them Sarin, one of the most deadly drugs known, amphetamines, barbiturates, mustard gas, phosgene gas and LSD.
Using tactics it often attributed to the Soviet enemy, the U.S. government sought drugs to control human behavior, cause confusion, promote weakness or temporary loss of hearing and vision, induce hypnosis and enhance a person's ability to withstand torture, according to the complaint. The veterans say that some soldiers died, and others suffered seizures and paranoia.
They say the CIA knew it had to conceal the tests from "enemy forces" and the "American public in general" because the knowledge "would have serious repercussions in political and diplomatic circles and would be detrimental to the accomplishment of its mission."
The veterans' claims have changed over the course of discovery, and there are four remaining legal claims against the CIA, Defense Department, Army and Department of Veterans Affairs:
"1) whether the DOD and Army failed to provide adequate notice to test participants including notice of chemicals to which they were exposed and any known health effects; 2) whether the DOD and Army failed to provide medical care to test participants for any conditions arising out of participation in testing programs; 3) whether the Army, DOD, and CIA have failed to release participants from secrecy oaths; and 4) whether the Department of Veterans Affairs is an inherently biased decision-maker."
The veterans are still fighting for access to certain documents that the four agencies have withheld from discovery as privileged. The government is required to provide a privilege log explaining the reason why certain documents or information is not available. In a 17-page order Friday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley found most of the information requests would burden the government, but the Department of Veterans Affairs waived its privilege claim for certain documents.
Corley balked at the DVA's claimed that the veterans could not seek production of these documents because they already conducted depositions. "This argument is not well-taken," she wrote. "Plaintiffs were between a rock and a hard place because of defendants' delayed production."
There is some overlap, however, since DVA has withheld them as being duplicative or protected by attorney-client and work-product privilege.
In addition to those documents, the court deliberative process privilege still shields certain studies and a Government Accountability Office report from 2007-09. But the DVA must produce the GAO report for the court to review in camera.
Corley also called for an in camera review of documents that the Defense Department withheld on the basis of deliberative process privilege.
Veterans can also access an encrypted mailbox that DVA Affairs created to verify test subjects in mustard gas and Edgewood Arsenal experiments, Corley said, but it would be too burdensome for the department to produce 650 veteran claim files related to mustard gas exposure.
Early in the case, the CIA produced 17,000 pages of redacted documents related to its LSD tests, but the veterans sought 11 unredacted documents totaling 56 pages.
The court agreed with the CIA that it would be too burdensome for the agency to locate those documents because
This week, the veterans are also expected to receive two unclassified magnetic tapes from the 1970s that could contain data about testing at Edgewood Arsenal.
Corley said the veterans can take the depositions of Joe Salvatore and Dr. Kelley Brix because their names came up in newly disclosed documents. The pending production that Corley ordered Friday could also lead the veterans to resume deposition of David Abbott.
The parties must meet and confer on the case schedule and submit a proposed calendar by April 19.
"CIA Wants Out of 'Human Guinea Pig' Case" - "The CIA asked a federal judge to dismiss it from a case in which U.S. veterans claim the government used them as human guinea pigs in Cold War-era drug experiments. The CIA claims veterans can't sue the it because they cannot prove they took 'secrecy oaths.' ... "