nonconsensual human experimentation in the USA
Allen L. Barker
alb at datafilter.com
Tue Feb 11 08:26:24 EST 2003
This is a good time to remember back when the shuttle Challenger
exploded in 1986. As Geoffrey Sea wrote in a _Columbia Journalism
Review_ article, he was close to getting a _New York Times_ reporter
to investigate the human radiation experiments (which finally came out
in 1993). The explosion, though presumably completely unrelated, took
the attention of the reporter away from the human radiation
The Radiation Story No One Would Touch
On January 28, 1986, the date of Diamond's intended arrival, I am
working at my desk with the television turned on but the sound
off, as I often do. I am distracted at one point by a striking
picture on the TV screen: a beautiful white plume of smoke
unfurling against the azure sky. It is the explosion of the space
shuttle Challenger. Within the hour Diamond calls to say that he
will be investigating the Challenger disaster -- and thus won't
becoming to Ohio any time soon. He tells me to wait until he's
done with the Challenger story. I wait for three months.
The reports of the radiation experiments finally got accurate and
appropriately outraged press coverage in late 1993, almost a decade
after a congressional committee had released a report detailing most
of those shocking abuses. But those were only one small group of many
research programs which had used US citizens as nonconsensual guinea
pigs. These other, *known* abuses have never been fully reported or
the victims notified. At a time when we are thinking of the lost
astronauts and their families, perhaps we should remember these
citizens and their families as well:
The Cold War Experiments
Radiation tests were only one small part of a vast research
program that used thousands of Americans as guinea pigs.
_U.S News and World Report_, January 24, 1994.
...the government has long ignored thousands of other cold war
victims, rebuffing their requests for compensation and refusing
to admit its responsibility for injuries they suffered.
Continued secrecy and legal roadblocks erected by the government
have made it virtually impossible for victims of these cold war
human experiments to sue the government successfully, legal
Many of the stories of people whose lives were destroyed by
mind-altering drugs, electroshock "treatments" and other military
and CIA experiments involving toxic chemicals or behavior
modification have been known for almost 20 years. But U.S. News
has discovered that only a handful were ever compensated -- or
even told what was done to them.
Admiral Turner, in his 1983 deposition, conceded that "a
disappointingly small number" were notified but defended the
agency's continuing refusal to declassify the names of the
researchers and universities involved. "I don't think that would
have been necessarily the best way," Turner said. "Not in the
litigious society we live in."
Continuing with the astronaut theme, Senator John Glenn introduced a
"Human Subjects Protection Act" in 1997. The bill was killed in
committee. Below are some excerpts from his introductory remarks.
Such a bill is *still* needed, for the reasons Glenn outlined.
You just think about your own family, your own son, your own
daughter, or grandchildren who might be, the next time they go to
a doctor, the subject of some medical experiment that they are
not even told about. I do not think there can be many things more
un-American than that.
Well, is there really a problem out there? Is this just a paper
loophole that I am trying to close?
Unfortunately, Mr. President, there are ongoing problems with
inappropriate, ethically suspect research on human subjects. It
is difficult to know the extent of such problems because
information is not collected in any formal manner on human
research. The Cleveland Plain-Dealer in my home State of Ohio has
recently reported in a whole series of articles, after much
investigation of this issue. And I quote from them:
What the government lacks in hard data about humans, it more than
makes up for with volumes of statistics about laboratory
animals. Wonder how many guinea pigs were used in U.S. research?
The Agriculture Department knows: 333,379. How many hamsters in
So we have all this data on animals and little on human beings. I
would hasten to add that the guinea pigs the Plain-Dealer refers
to are the four-legged kind too and not the guinea pigs that are
humans being used for research. The reason we know so much about
the use of animals in research is that we have laws governing the
handling and treatment of them. For example, the Animal Welfare
Act requires that certain minimum standards be maintained when
using animals in research.
Let me give you some recent examples which indicate why,
notwithstanding the common rule and the other protections that
are in place, I think additional protections are needed in
Finally, this is a good time to remember that back in 1962 the Joint
Chiefs of Staff came up with plans to deliberately create a pretext
for war with Cuba. Among the many shocking ideas they considered, one
plan called for blaming the Cubans should John Glenn's rocket explode.
This is not to suggest anything about the recent shuttle explosion,
but is a good reminder that eternal vigilance must be eternally
Book: U.S. Military Drafted Plans to
Terrorize U.S. Cities to Provoke War With Cuba
The Joint Chiefs even proposed using the potential death of
astronaut John Glenn during the first attempt to put an American
into orbit as a false pretext for war with Cuba, the documents
Should the rocket explode and kill Glenn, they wrote, "the
objective is to provide irrevocable proof ... that the fault lies
with the Communists et all Cuba [sic]."
The actual Northwoods report, in pdf format, is available online at
the National Security Archive:
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