The United States, for its warts, has achieved much in its short 230-plus year history. It is a benevolent world superpower, for the most part, that serves as a beacon of hope and freedom for an increasingly oppressed world, even as it serves as a guardian against tyranny for as many as half of the world's nearly seven billion people.
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.
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
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."
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.
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."
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."
was to purchase mind control drugs from suppliers. Another was to form
relationships with researchers who might later be used as consultants at
the TOP SECRET level," he wrote. "The core purpose of these programs
was to learn how to enhance interrogations, erase and insert memories,
and create and run Manchurian Candidates."
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
drug and chemical experimentation, the program included the use of
radiological implants, hypnosis and subliminal persuasion, electroshock
therapy and isolation techniques, the report said.
In their suit,
the vets level similar charges - that the government was attempting to
develop and test substances capable of inducing mind control, euphoria,
altered personalities, confusion, physical paralysis, mania, illogical
thinking and other effects.
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
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
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
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
"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,"
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
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.
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.