Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Ask not what your country can do to you

By Karen Gullo
Jan. 7 (Bloomberg)

Vietnam Veterans of America and six former soldiers sued the Central Intelligence Agency over once- secret experiments on human subjects during the 1960s and 1970s to test chemical and biological weapons and drugs.

The group and the veterans say they and others were treated like guinea pigs in tests involving nerve gas, sarin gas, hallucinogenic drugs and mind-control tests that left many civilians and military people who volunteered for the program with permanent disabilities. The tests began in the 1940s and continued to about 1976, they said.

“What is not historical about these tests is the impact they had on the enlisted men,” Gordon Erspamer, an attorney with Morrison & Foerster in San Francisco, said at a news conference in San Francisco. “They have never been compensated, they have been denied health care, they have been left alone for more than 30 years.”

The lawsuit was filed in San Francisco today and names the CIA, the Defense Department and other agencies as defendants. It seeks a court order forcing the government to notify and provide health care to those who participated in the experiments.

Paul Gimigliano, a CIA spokesman, didn’t immediately return a message.

Between 1950 and 1975, about 6,720 soldiers took part in experiments involving 254 different chemicals at U.S. Army laboratories at Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland, according to “Health Effects from Chemical, Biological and Radiological Weapons,” a 2003 training manual by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Congressional hearings about the experiments held in 1974 and 1975 led to disclosure of the program, notification to subjects and compensation for a few families of soldiers who died during the tests, according to the manual.

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