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Tuesday, June 18, 2024 | Back issues
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Vets Sue CIA & Army for Cold War Drug Experiments

OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) - The army and CIA experimented on thousands of soldiers with dangerous drugs during the Cold War, dosing them with mescaline and other chemicals that left them with lasting impairments, the Vietnam Veterans of America says. With the help of Nazi scientists recruited through "Project Paperclip," the Army and CIA used at least 7,800 veterans as human guinea pigs at the Edgewood Arsenal alone, the federal complaint states.

Similar experiments were conducted at Fort Detrick, Md.

The experiments, whose true nature often was not disclosed to the human guinea pigs, left many of them with medical problems for decades.

Individual soldiers and the Vietnam Veterans of America claim the consent forms they signed at Edgewood Arsenal are invalid because they do not conform to international law and the Wilson Directive, which calls voluntary consent "essential." The soldiers claim the Army trained them to follow orders and as such they could not consent freely.

The Army covered up the experiments, started in the 1950s with names such as Bluebird, Artichoke and MKUltra, and denied medical care to the soldiers suffering from a number of maladies including post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder and memory loss, according to the complaint.

Soldiers were given mescaline, LSD, barbiturates and other drugs to test the effects. The army wanted to find ways to paralyze, confuse, hypnotize and secretly kill enemies, and promised the soldiers they would get medals for participating, according to the complaint.

"The Edgewood experiments were one of the key beneficiaries of the recruitment of over 1,500 Nazi scientists and technicians in 'Project Paperclip,' some of whom played a pivotal role in, e.g., the testing of psychochemicals and development of a new truth serum. Over half of these Nazi recruits had been members of the SS or Nazi Party. The 'Paperclip' name was chosen because so many of the employment applications were clipped to immigration papers," the complaint states.

Soldiers were dosed with at least 250 types drugs, and as many as 400 of them, according to the complaint. The drugs included anticholinesterase chemicals and other "nerve agents," a class of deadly drugs that includes sarin, one of the most deadly drugs known to man; amphetamines; anticholinergic drugs, which are incapacitating' barbiturates; irritants, including mustard gas and blistering agents; nettle agents such as phosgene, a deadly gas used in trench warfare in World War I; psychochemicals such as LSD, THC, mescaline and dimethyltriptine (DMT); and tranquilizers.

"Defendants videotaped many of the experiments involving 'volunteers; at Edgewood, as evidence by releases signed by many of the 'volunteers.' Varying does of each substance were administered to the 'volunteers,' typically through multiple pathways, including through intravenous, inhalation, oral and percutaneous."

The complaint adds that the "Defendants obtained materials from major pharmaceutical companies, which included drugs found to be commercially non-viable due to hazards and undesirable side effects (the so-called 'rejects'), such as phenylbenzeacetic acid or 'brown acid.' ... These experiments also used civilian 'volunteers' such as college students, who were paid small sums to participate, or prisoners."

The plaintiffs want the medical care they deserve and the consent forms and secrecy oaths deemed invalid. They are represented by Gordon Erspamer with Morrison & Foerster.

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