(Washington, D.C.)–– “Six and a half years ago, in an unprecedented legal action, Vietnam Veterans of America, along with San Francisco-based veterans organization Swords to Plowshares, joined with half a dozen veterans who ‘volunteered’ to participate in experiments that tested chemical and biological agents,” said John Rowan, VVA National President.
“Our law firm, Morrison & Foerster, was informed yesterday that a three-judge appellate panel in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had affirmed an injunction ordering the U.S. Army to provide all former test subjects with any newly acquired information about the substances to which they were exposed and which might impact their health. The panel also concluded that the military still has an obligation to provide the test subjects with medical care.
“We are heartened by the court’s affirmation of our position,” Rowan said. “Agencies of government can no longer ignore the complaints and questions of veterans who may have been harmed after having participated in the testing of more than 400 chemical and biological substances, including hazardous agents such as sarin and mustard gas and mind-altering drugs, including LSD.”
The testing program, which was centered in Maryland at Edgewood Arsenal and at Fort Detrick, was conducted at military installations throughout the nation, from Natick Laboratories in Massachusetts to Fort Ord in California. The highly secretive program, which involved the CIA and the Department of Defense, along with other branches of the military, spanned more than five decades.
The late Gordon Erspamer, then a litigation partner in the San Francisco office of Morrison & Foerster, explained why his firm had taken on a pro bono basis, the lawsuit: “Until this case is concluded, and all the victims are found and made whole, we cannot close this sad chapter in our history, when our government exploited the very citizens . . . it was supposed to protect.”