IMMEDIATE RELEASE



Press Release

October 7, 2003

No. 03-39

Contact:
Mokie Porter

(240) 485-1600


SHAD Veterans Win Significant Decision;
Court to Review
Government Officials’ Cover-Up

(Washington) – Military veterans used as unwitting test subjects in chemical and biological warfare experiments by the U. S. government in the 1960s won a landmark legal victory last Tuesday in federal court.  In a thoughtful 17-page opinion, U. S. District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer rejected an attempt to dismiss a lawsuit seeking damages for government officials’ cover-up of the experiments and denial of information to veterans potentially harmed by exposure to chemical and biological agents and simulants.  The Court ruled that the law and “common sense” supported her jurisdiction to hear the lawsuit.   

“This is a truly significant victory for veterans who may have been poisoned by agents of the nation they defended,” said Thomas H. Corey, president of Vietnam Veterans of America, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit.  “VVA, with the legal expertise of Shaw Pittman LLP, will continue to seek the truth about the deception of Project 112 and seek justice for those who were its unwitting subjects.” 

“The impact of this decision for veterans seeking to hold government officials accountable for their actions is hard to overestimate,” said Shaw Pittman partner David Cynamon, the lead attorney on the case.  “The Court found clear jurisdiction to hold government officials liable for the harm that they cause by deliberately misinforming the public.”  

Former Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara is among the defendants named in the class- action lawsuit for allegedly covering up medical information without which veterans of biological and chemical warfare testing cannot receive medical treatment.  The plaintiffs include veterans, their families, and Vietnam Veterans of America, who allege a deliberate and ongoing cover-up by federal officials to conceal and ignore relevant documents, many of which contain personal medical information that would allow veterans to seek benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. 

The case now shifts to determining whether the named officials are immune from liability for having knowingly misled veterans of SHAD/Project 112.  SHAD is the acronym for Shipboard Hazard and Defense; SHAD was part of a series of operational chemical and biological warfare vulnerability tests dubbed “Project 112.”

“We believe the law is clear that government officials cannot knowingly cover up government activities just to avoid responsibility or embarrassment,” Corey said.

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Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) is the nation's only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated to the needs of Vietnam-era veterans and their families.  VVA's founding principle is “Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.”

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