OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) – A federal judge refused to dismiss a lawsuit that claims the CIA used U.S. veterans as human guinea pigs in Cold War-era drug experiments.
Vietnam Veterans of America filed a class action against the Army and CIA in 2009, claiming that at least 7,800 soldiers had been used as guinea pigs in Project Paperclip.
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 CIA sought summary judgment and dismissal, claiming the Vietnam Veterans’ remaining claim on the validity of “secrecy oaths” had no merit. It claimed that the veterans “have not identified any service member who purportedly had such an oath with the CIA” and do not have “specific facts to support this claim at the time they filed their complaint (or at the present time).” (Parentheses in original.)
The parties disputed the number of claims at issue. While the CIA claimed the “secrecy oath” claim is the only one remaining, the veterans say the government had an obligation to notify them of the drugs’ effects and provide them health care.
The CIA said the court should grant it judgment because the veterans did not plead that the agency itself administered the secrecy oaths.
U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken refused to grant the CIA judgment on the pleadings because the veterans’ claims could “suggest that the challenged secrecy oath could be traced fairly to the CIA.”
“Plaintiffs plead facts about the CIA’s pervasive involvement in planning, funding and executing the experimentation programs,” Wilken wrote. “Plaintiffs also plead that the CIA had an interest in concealing the programs from ‘enemy forces’ and ‘the American public in general.'”
Wilken also granted the CIA’s motion for a protective order, which it says it needs because the veterans do not have any constitutional claims that they were entitled to notice and health care from the government.
The veterans “presently do not have any claims against the CIA for notice and health care” and “are not entitled to discovery,” the judge said.
All dispositive motions will be heard by the court on April 5, 2012.