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News :: Human Rights
Protections for human subjects of classified experiments still lacking
06 Mar 2004
Protections for human subjects of classified experiments still lacking
Protections for human subjects of classified experiments still lacking
North Bay Progressive, December 22, 2003-January 23, 2004,
Volume 2, Issue 9, Page 11.
By Cheryl Welsh

(11-10-03) Ten years have passed since unethical radiation experiments
were publicly revealed in 1990s front page news and the Office for
Human Subject Research, OHRP, recently confirmed that there have been
no changes in federal regulations on human subjects of classified
research since then. In 1995 the Advisory Committee on Human Radiation
Experiments, (ACHRE) reported that the federal government was
"blameworthy for not having had policies and practices in place to
protect the rights and interests of human subjects" in several
thousand experiments. President Clinton adopted one of the ACHRE
recommendations in a 1997 presidential memorandum requesting that
federal agencies modify their policy governing classified research. A
1998 Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) proposed rule on
the Clinton memorandum has stalled and secret unethical
experimentation could happen again.

This is the second time a major scandal involving human experiments
for national security purposes has occurred. Past military and CIA
experiments with toxic chemicals and for behavior modification were
headline news in the 1970s. Congressional hearings uncovered illegal
and extensive government programs including the CIA's now infamous
MKULTRA mind control experiments. As a result, a series of
presidential executive orders were implemented.

President Reagan's 1981 executive order, E.O. 12333, is the only
current law governing classified experiments by intelligence
agencies. Legal experts say it is unenforceable for several reasons,
one being that a provision of the executive order states, "Nothing
contained herein or in any procedures promulgated hereunder is
intended to confer any substantive or procedural right or privilege on
any person or organization."

Federal regulations are ineffective

Adopted by 17 federal agencies, the current regulations on experiments
are called "The Common Rule". The rules cover both classified and
unclassified experiments and include the cornerstone of human
experimentation law, informed consent of the research subject. But
experts agree the regulations lack any mechanisms for how classified
research can be reviewed and conducted with informed consent.

Efforts to adopt a regulation on classified research have failed. A
new draft regulation has been circulated but it's current status could
not be confirmed. Some experts say US national security policy on
weapons development is the main reason for the lack of effective
protections for human subjects of classified experiments.

9-11 secrecy law increases risk of unethical experiments

"It borders on the scandalous that we still don't have rules in place
that would at least begin to protect the people who are in those
trials," warned Jonathan D. Moreno in a 2002 news account. Dr. Moreno,
a University of Virginia ethicist reported that President Bush had
given the Secretary of Health and Human Services [HHS] the authority
to classify information as secret. Moreno said "that could allow the
Defense Department or CIA to undertake secret human experiments with
the HHS."

Dr. Andrew Goliszek, author of the 2003 book, History of Secret
Programs, Medical Research, and Human Experimentation warned, "While
there is much debate, there are no clear guidelines or legislation
that would prevent the government from conducting secret research in
order to stay one step ahead of terrorists who would use bio weapons
against us."

Proposed legislation fails

Fred Allingham is executive director of the National Association of
Radiation Survivors, NARS, a network of 11,000 radiation
survivors. Allingham recently described NARS legislative work. "Five
to eight years ago, our members brought a proposed Nuclear Ethics Law
to their local congresspeople (over 200) asking them to sponsor such a
piece of legislation in order to make it not only a civil wrong but a
criminal wrong, to expose people to radiation deliberately for
experimental purposes... Not one congressman touched it. We
... decided we are going to try again."

Former Senator Glenn of Ohio described his 1997 bill as "the nation's
first criminal sanctions for medical researchers who fail to obtain
consent from people participating in experiments." The bill did not
pass. Congressman Diane Degette of Colorado will reintroduce her 2002
bill on experimentation very soon, her office reported last week.

No national statute on protections for human subjects of classified
experimentation that would help to prevent national security
experiments like the radiation or mind control experiments has passed.

Lack of justice in the courts

Lawyers of radiation and mind control experiments litigation describe
a nightmare of legal hurdles. Courts give great deference to national
security and the government is immune to many types of lawsuits. While
the government admitted to wrongdoing, not one government official or
researcher involved in mind control or radiation experiments has been

A 1994 US News account reported few victims of the drug and behavior
control experiments were told what was done to them and most were
never compensated. Radiation victims report a similar tragedy. A huge
number are not eligible for the available legislative compensation
because of extremely demanding requirements.

No change in sight

Commenting on the total lack of legal protections, law professor Alan
Scheflin stated, "The message to scientists and governments around the
world is that you can get away with unlawful experiments on unwitting
victims with impunity." New classified weapons comparable to the
atomic bomb have actually been in development for a long time and
classified, unethical human experiments are inevitable, without major

Coping with the Weapons of Tomorrow, a 2003 International Committee of
the Red Cross (ICRC) conference featured a discussion of concerns
about new nonlethal weapons using electromagnetic energy. A
disarmament expert read from the 1975 Geneva protocol treaty debates
about the then-future weapons including, "...geophysical, ecological,
electronic and radiological warfare as well as devices generating
radiation, microwaves, infrasonic waves, light flashes and laser

According to Dr. Colin Ross, author of Project Bluebird, on CIA
experiments, new nonlethal weapons "are beamed at individuals in order
to control them." Dr. Ross predicted, "It is implausible that there
hasn't been some clandestine experiments of nonlethal weapons on
individuals today."

This work is in the public domain
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