"Plutonium Files"
Book Review

This is an informal review with excerpts, by email, from Lynn Weed. To read the testimony from the official U.S. Government hearings, the section where three MKULTRA child victims were able to testify, click here.

From:             Lynn Weed
To:               Eleanor White
Subject:          Plutonium Files
Date sent:        Tue, 26 Jun 2001 15:24:03 -0000

Dear Eleanor,

The name of the book is "The Plutonium Files" by Eileen Welsome, Published 
by the Dial Press, Random House, Inc. NY 1999  ISBN 0-385-31402-7.  
Subtitle: "America's Secret Medical Experiments in the Cold War".  The book 
was a gift to me from Tom McClellan, a Manhattan resident, musician, fellow 
of victim of mc testing/abuses.

Some of these tests might have been precursors to what we are experiencing 

Pg. 253 "Thus the comments made at Fort Monroe show that even before the 
first large-scale troop maneuvers were held, the armed forces planned to 
ignore inhalation hazards and considered collecting the data with 
instruments that would result in lower reported exposures for troops.  These 
remarks, when combined with the cavalier attitude exhibited by Cooney and 
other high-ranking officers toward radiation hazards, strongly suggest that 
some troops rreceived greater doses than what has officially been reported.

Before the maneuvers began, the Pentagon's Joint Panel on the Medical 
Aspects of Atomic Warfare met to thrash out a shopping list of questions 
that needed to be answered at the upcoming bomb tests.  "It is of course, 
obvious," the panel acknowledge, "that a test of a new and untried atomic 
bomb is not a place to have an unlimited number of people milling about."  
The top-secret panel was formed in 1949, the year the Soviets exploded their 
first bomb, but it's not clear when it was dissolved.  Little was known 
about the Joint Panle until 1994, when a stack of its records was obtained 
by the Clinton Committee.  Those records show that James Cooney, Louis 
Hempelmann, Robley Evens and Hymer Friedell served as members of 

Among other things, the "shopping list" prepared by the Joint Panel called 
for an investigation into the Psychological effects of nuclear explosions on 
troops, research into the efficiency of protective clothing and devices, the 
measurement of radioisotopes in the body fluids of weapons test personnel, 
orientation flights in the vicinity of nuclear explosions, and studies on 
the effects of the atomic flash on the human eye.  It so happened tht the 
psychological tests, the orientation flights, and the flashblindness studies 
would all begin in the fall of 1951 and continue for the next decade."

continuing on pg 263

"Afterward, the troops went to a decontamination station where they were 
swept off with brooms and monitored for radiation.  "If the radiation 
intensity could not be lowered to 0.01 r/hr the individual was to shower and 
change his clothing, and vehicles were to be washed," an official summary of 
the test noted.  Some of the soldiers underwent psychological testing to 
determine the effectiveness of indoctrination programs.  Researchers from 
HumRRO, the Human Resources Research Organization, an Army contractor based 
George Washington University, found the troops' confidence in the use of 
atomic weapons had "increased materially".  But psychologists from the John 
Hopkins University Operations REsearch Office, known as ORO, claimed their 
studies showed deep worry and anxiety among the troops despite the 
indoctrination lectures."

There is also a reference to the "Cardoza" ruling in NY which is very 
significant for a lawsuit based on unauthorized testing.

p. 213
"In 1908 a woman named Mary E. Schloendorff sued the Society New York 
Hospital, [(unrelated to radiation experiments )comment added to text] 
claiming that she had not given her consent for an operation in which a 
fibroid tumor was removed from her stomach.  Following the procedure, she 
developed gangrene in her left arm and several fingers were amputated.  Upon 
appeal Benjamin Cardoza, who later went on to become a Supreme Court Judge, 
issued his now-famous ruling, "In the case at hand, the wrong complained of 
is not merely negligence.  It is trespass.  Every human being of adult years 
and sound mind has a right to determine what shall be done with his own 
body; and a surgeon who performs an operation without his patient's consent 
commits an assault for which he is liable in damages."

Concerning funding:
p. 208, 209

"Researchers throughout the United States used the radioisotopes in 
thousands of human experiments.  As these experiments involved minute 
amounts of radioactive materials, they are often called "tracer studies".

Congress allocated $175 million to the AEC in 1947 with up to $5 million to 
be reserved for cancer research that did not duplicate the work of other 
public or private agencies.  At that time the $5 million was a huge sum, and 
more money than some AEC officials believed could bespent on legimate 
projects.  Under Shields Warren's direction, three AEC cancer hospitals were 
eventually set up:  the Argonne Cancer REsearch Hospital, located in Chicago 
next to Billings Hospital, the Oak Ridge Institute of Nuclear Studies in 
Tennessee and a 48 bed facility at Brookhaven National Laboratory near 
Upton, New York.  During the next 3 to 4 decades, scores of human 
experiments using radioisotopes and external radioactive sources were 
conducted at these facilities."

Concerning the "wall of silence ... cracking"

Although information on the human radiation experiments occassionally made 
its way into obscure journals, the scientists managed to pursue their 
studies without drawing much public attention to their projects.  This was 
due in large part, of course, to the deliberate efforst on the part of the 
researchers and their government funders to keep the experimentation quiet.  
But the silence was also the result of the media's complacency and lack of 
sophistication.  Activities related to nuclear weapons involved a 
labyrinthine bureaucracy and complicated scientific and technical issues, 
and spokesmen for the nuclear weapons industry were adept at manipulating 
the press.  Controversial information was difficult to obtain and oftentimes 
documents were deliberately classified to keep them away from reporters.  
With tight deadlines and long obstacles, many journalists wound up reporting 
what they were told.  Slowly though, the wall of silence began to crack."

p.  423

" The test ban victory notwithstanding.  O"leary recognized that if she was 
going to succeed in making any permanent, long-term reforms, she would have 
to begin by reversing the "culture of secrecy" that had been created by the 
Manhattan Project.  that meant, among other things, declassifying documents 
and revising the long-standing practiceof compartmentalization -- the old 
idea promulgated by General Leslie Groves that workers should know only what 
they need to know to do their jobs and nothing more.  Gover's policy was 
beginning to backfire.  "


" O'Leary also changed the name of the Office of Classification to the 
Office of Declassification and instructed A. Bryan Siebert, the director to 
develop a plan for making more documents available to the public.  Siebert 
readily embraced O'Leary's oders:  "I have been in the program for 20 to 30 
years and it has been clear to me that classification has been used against 
the public time and time again.  I thought it was wrong"  he said.  "

This is out in print and paperback.  The issues it raises are the same 
issues we are raising.


From:             Lynn Weed
To:               Eleanor White
Subject:          re:  "The Plutonium Files" related issues
Date sent:        Tue, 26 Jun 2001 22:53:48 -0000

Dear Eleanor,

It seems that the radiation studies may have been early versions of what 
they are doing to us now -- or that our "testing" is somehow being 
rationalized as being necessary for military "readiness". I'm sending these 
excerpts from the book:

p. 346, 347 ("The Plutonium Files" by Eileen Wilsome)

     "Often the patients were moved to a private room after irradiation so 
that their mental state could be better evaluated.  What's more, the doctors 
told their military funders, "there are no other patients receiving 
radiation therapy with whom the patient can exchange experiences."  These 
psychological studies were another important component of the experiment and 
became more elaborate as the years went on.  Tests were administered to 
measure the patients' depression, hope, denial, and pessimism.  Brief 
interviews were conducted before and after irradiation and then "scored" for 
cognitive dysfunction.  Many of the patients were so sick after they were 
irradiated that they could not complete all the testing.  Herb Varin 
remembers his mother Nina Cline, complaining about the constant barrage of 
questioning.  "I tell them I'm feeling terrible but they just want to talk 
to me,"  Varin recalled his mother saying.  The psychological research was 
pertinent to the military, the Cincinnati doctors wrote, because of the way 
TBI affected thought processes:

       Following exposure to acute whole or partial body radiation it        
is possible that there will be significant impairment of the        decision 
making capability of key personnel who have major        command 
responsibilities.  This concern has  become more        important in recent 
years since the findings that complex        electronic systems can be 
rendered inoperative by very high        doses of radiation.  Thus it is 
necessary to maintain        dependence on the human being.  It is quite 
possible that even        moderately high doses or dose rates could produce 
impairment of        cognitive processes either of an obvious or of a subtle 
nature        which in moments of stress would impair or defeat a military   
      operation.  In order to gain understanding of such possible        
changes it is necessary to seek changes in cognitive processes        and 
decrease in the capability to perform highly technical        processes."

    Some of these tests were done anticipating space travel:

p. 358, 359 (IBID)

    "The radiation sources were located in a larger, outer, heavily shielded 
room.  the patients were able to move about freely while they were 
continuously exposed to a low-level sea of radiation.  Attached to the 
patient's body were electrodes and an umbilical cord that measured cardiac 
and respiratory signals.  The data were fed into a computer and stored for 
later analysis by NASA.  Occasionally rats were hung in between the walls of 
the two rooms and irradiated simultaneously with the human patients.

    LETBI cost $26 million.  The AEC picked up the tab for the design and 
construction of the chamber and NASA contributed $2.2 million which was used 
mostly to pay the salaries of Lushbaugh and a technician, and to buy some 
monitoring equipment.

   A third high-dose irradiation facility was constructed at the animal 
research laboratory run by the U of Tennessee's School of Agriculture.  
Referred to in some documents as HETBI, an acronym which apparently stood 
for the High Exposure Total Body Irradiator, the chamber delivered massive 
doses of radiation within minutes to plants, seeds, and large animals such 
as cows and horses.  It became operational in 1970 and was used by ORINS 
researchers to irradiate four patients undergoing bone marrow transplants.  
One worker who was irradiating seeds accidentally recevied a large dose of 
radiation in the high-exposure facility and developed acute leukemia ten 
years later.

   The exposures in LETBI mimicked the low, chronic radiation doses that 
astronauts were likely to encounter when they traveled through space.  The 
information, wrote the Oak Ridge scientists, was "increasingly more relevant 
to the occupational medical needs of deep space exploration where exposures 
are expected to be small, multiple and randomly timed." The HETBI data would 
be useful in the event of a serious accident "like that which could occur 
during extra-vehicular activities in space from the unexpected occurrence of 
a large solar flare or in an accident resulting from the use of nuclear 
energy propulsion systems."

  Records also reveal that the Army was funding a study on the irradiated 
patients to find out how single, repeated, or protracted doses affected the 
intestinal bacteria of exposed patients.  NASA was also provided this data 
"without additional costs."  Thus the data from patients irradiated in METBI 
and LETBI were used in multiple investigations:  Oak Ridge scientists used 
the information in their search for a biological dosimeter and to better 
learn      how to treat accident victims; NASA used the data in  its space 
missions; and the Army used the findings to better predict soldiers' 
reactions on the nuclear battlefield."

    The secrecy of unauthorized testing and the ethical and legal 
implications of secrecy --

p. 481-486   (IBID)

     " When Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary acknowledged that the federal 
government had conducted radiation experiments on its own people, thousands 
of callers had flooded a hot line set up by the DOE:  What was going on?  
Had we become a nation of paranoiacs?  A country of guinea pigs?  Or had 
O'Leary touched on something that resonated deeply with the American public?

Certainly the radiation experiments raised complex questons that go to the 
core of our society: the trust between a government and its people, the 
subjugation of individuals to the interest of the state, and the ethical 
dilemma associated with the development of weapons of mass destruction.

But what O'leary did in a dramatic and unexpected way was confirm the hunch 
that all was not well beneath the soothing no harm, do danger statements 
that accompanied the reports of nuclear blasts, spills, and accidents of the 
Cold War.  Her admission produced an electrifying response, something akin 
to the emotions a person might feel after being subjected to a lifetime of 
vague allusions and abrupt silences and suddently learning a dark family 
secret he or she had always suspected.

When the Nevada Test Site opened in 1951, the Atomic Energy Commission 
warned its public relations men to approach the tests "matter-of-factly" and 
not go overboard in emphasizing how safe the explosions were going to be.  
Such a campaign might be interpreted as one of the "lady doth protest too 
much", an AEC official cautioned.

The bomb project's public relations machine succeeded in keeping a lid on 
the experiments for fifty years.  Its spokesmen were able to blame the 
fallout controversy, the illnesses of the atomic veterans, and the diseases 
of the downwinders on sudden wind shifts, misinformed scientists, the 
overactive imagination of agine soldiers, and even Communits propagandists.  
But the radiation experiments revealed a deliberate intent, a willingness to 
inflict harm or the risk of harm, which could not be explained away so 
easily.  Somebody inserted the needle into the human vein, mixed the 
radioisotopes in the paper cup, or flipped the switch that delivered a 
potentially lethal dose of whole-body radiation.  There is no denying that:

    .  Thousands of Americans were used as laboratory animals in radiation 
experiments funded by the federal government.  Many of the subjects were not 
asked for their consent or given accurate information about the nature of 
these experiments.  Some didn't learn they or their loved ones had been used 
as guinea pigs until 1994 or 1995 .  Some still don't know, and never will.

     .  Many of the doctors and scientists who performed these experiments 
routinely violated their patient's trust and engaged in deception.  They 
ignored the Hippocratic Oath, the 1946 American Medical Association 
guidelines, the Nuremberg Code, as well as policies adopted by the Atomic 
Energy Commission in 1947 and by the DEfense Department in 1953.  Civil and 
criminal laws may also have been broken.  Beyond everything else, the 
experimenters violated a fundamental right that belongs to all competent 
adults:  the right to control one's body.

    .  Although the majority of the experiments were the so-called tracer 
studies, which involved administering radioactive materials in quantities so 
small that they probably caused no harm, most scientists agree that no dose 
can absolutely be called safe.

     .   Some studies are known to have had very serious consequences.  The 
total-body irradiation experiments caused intense suffering and premature 
death in some patients.  The radium rod treatments and some of the 
radioactive iodine experiments increased the risk of head, neck and thyroid 
cancers and other secondary disorders."

. . .

  "The culture bred by the Manhattan Project caused a blanket of secrecy to 
be thrown over everything related to atomic weapons.  The secrecy was 
essential during the Manhattan Project, but it hardened into a protective 
and impenetrable shell after the war.  The secrecy cut researchers off from 
the healthy sunlight of inquiry that would surely have put a stop to some of 
the experiments and perhaps reduced the number of atmospheric tests.  Many 
of the scientists, such as Carl Heller and C. Alvin Paulsen were instructed 
to avoid publicity and several studies such as Eugene Seanger's, were halted 
only after they received public attention."

.  .    .

    "It's difficult to describe how pervasive, how all-encompassing this 
propaganda campaign was.  In the films of the atmospheric testing program 
now being declassified by the Department of Energy, military officials 
continually emphasize how safe the bomb tests are, how vital they are to the 
security of the free world, how glorious the future of mankind will be when 
the full potential of the atom has been realized.  "It's a huge fraternity, 
this order of the mushroom, and it's growing all the time," one narrator 

.    .   .

     For five decades the public remained largely ignorant of the systematic 
nature of human radiation experiments.  Secrecy, compounded by the insular, 
inbred nature of the atomic establishment, helped keep the experiments from 
becoming known.  But the fact is, the Manhattan Project veterans and their 
proteges controlled virtually all the information.  They sat on the boards 
that set radiation standards, consulted at meetings where further human 
experimentation was discussed, investigated nuclear accidents, and served as 
expert witnesses in radiation injury cases.  The Manhattan Project 
researchers also worked in a professional world that remained remarkably 
stable.  Once the project itself had been disbanded, the scientists got jobs 
in the weapons laboratories and at universities, many of which had contracts 
with the Atomic Energy Commission, and they remained in these jobs for the 
rest of their lives.

    The experiments conducted after the war generally were not secret.  But 
the results were published in obscure journals or laboratory health reports 
that were inaccessible to the public.  Furthermore, many of the policy 
discussions surrounding the purpose of the experiments were kept secret."

     .      .       .

    "Although many of the experimental subjects and their relativeswere 
disappointed by the government's response, the American people nevertheless 
gained a vast amount of knowledge from the documents about the Cold War.  
It's as if a submerged continent has risen to the surface.  There are peaks 
and valleys and still lost of shadows, but the contours are better 

    Much of the information is disturbing, shocking, and will serve as a 
cautionary tale about the corrupting power of secrecy, the danger of     
special interest groups, the excesses of science and medicine, and the need 
to monitor closely the activities of civilian and military weapons makers.  
The breathtaking advances in science and technology demand we always keep 
our ethical watch light burning.  No matter how rapid the pace of change, it 
can never outrun our core conviction that have stood us so well as a nation 
for more than two hundred years now, through many different scientific 
revolutions, "  President Clinton observed when he accepted the Advisory 
Committee's report." (IBID).