Ex-sergeant compensated for LSD experiments Tests by Army, CIA done at Edgewood

March 07, 1996|By Bob Erlandson | Bob Erlandson,SUN STAFF

After an 18-year legal battle, a former Army sergeant has been awarded $400,577 because Army and CIA scientists at Edgewood Arsenal gave him LSD as part of a secret research project.

The award, on a 2-1 vote by an arbitration panel this week, is the maximum allowed by a private claims bill that Congress passed in 1994 to redress this case.

"I'm the little guy who fought City Hall and finally won," James B. Stanley said yesterday from his home in Palm Springs, Fla.

According to court documents, the hallucinogenic drug altered Mr. Stanley's personality, leading to the decline of his once-bright military career, and helped wreck his first marriage.

The government fought Mr. Stanley at every step, winning a 5-4 Supreme Court ruling against him in 1987 on grounds that the military enjoyed immunity. However, a stinging dissent by then-Justice William J. Brennan Jr. helped pave the way for the bill in Congress, which finally put Mr. Stanley's case before the arbitrators in Palm Beach Circuit Court.

The 62-year-old veteran of Korean and Vietnam combat compared his experience with Nazi medical experiments on concentration camp inmates.

"We tried them at Nuremberg for it and then we turned around and did the same thing," said Mr. Stanley, who left the Army in 1970 and served for 22 years as a Palm Beach County deputy sheriff. "The CIA was out of control on this."

In 1958, Mr. Stanley, then an Army master sergeant at Fort Knox, Ky., volunteered to help test new chemical-warfare clothing and gas masks at Edgewood Arsenal. Instead, Army and CIA scientists gave him LSD in glasses of water.

Mr. Stanley, a West Virginia native who enlisted at age 15, said he first learned about the LSD testing when the Army contacted him in 1975 about a follow-up study. He filed a suit in federal court in Florida in 1978.

Mr. Stanley said he had flashbacks and hallucinations for several years after he left Edgewood and returned to duty at Fort Knox. His personality changed, and at one point he could not recall assaulting his wife and six children. He was divorced and remarried in 1970.

Mr. Stanley was among several thousand people who were used to test LSD, another potent psychochemical called BZ and other drugs without their knowledge, according to testimony before Congress after disclosure of the programs.

John F. Romano, a Palm Beach lawyer who represented Mr. Stanley, said several similar suits were filed after the 1975 disclosure of the secret LSD experiments, but most were dropped after lower courts rebuffed them. Mr. Stanley persevered, however.

"I am very, very satisfied with the case, but I won't be happy until the government apologizes to Mr. Stanley," Mr. Romano said.

Rep. Harry Johnston, a Florida Democrat (D., Fla.), who sponsored the private bill to compensate Mr. Stanley, said: "I'm pleased that Jim Stanley has finally reached the end of his long odyssey. The circumstances surrounding his experience continue to boggle the mind, and I'm not sure he can ever be fully compensated for the harm done to him by the United States Army."

"It's the longest case I've ever been in," said Ward Wagner Jr., who also was also a lawyer for Mr. Stanley from the outset. "They perpetrated a fraud; they experimented on him without telling him and without his knowledge."

Such drug testing is a thing of the distant past, said James Allingham, public affairs officer for the Edgewood Area Biological and Chemical Defense Command. LSD experiments ended in 1967 when it was determined that the drug was too unpredictable for military use, according to testimony before Congress in 1975. Mr. Allingham said the Army's stock of BZ was destroyed years ago.

Volunteers now are required to be informed and to give "informed consent" for any testing.

The only human testing is done by the Army Medical Research and Development Command at Fort Detrick, Mr. Allingham said. The tests are to determine medical treatment to counteract battlefield contamination and diseases found any place

American soldiers might have to serve.

Pub Date: 3/07/96

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