A fairly recent article appearing in Truthout on the use of Agent Orange in the Vietnam War brought to mind what is now considered ancient – lost- history: the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) aerial spraying of 2,4,5-T (TCDD) and related herbicides in the Tonto National Forest near the rural area of Globe, Arizona in the 1960s.
The case is somewhat documented on the Web and in newspaper articles available from the google newspaper archive. No one source, however, documents the story with more passion and determination than Ms. Billee Shoecraft. For the first time on the Web, a basic, but readable scan of Ms. Shoecraft’s 1971 first hand account titled Sue the Bastards is now available.*
In retelling the history of the use of defoliants near Globe, Ms. Shoecraft cites the April 7 and 15, 1970 Senate Committee on Commerce, Subcommittee on Energy, Natural Resources, and the Environment hearings Effects of 2, 4, 5-T on Man and the Environment. Shoecraft writes:
Except for a little mountain town named Globe, Arizona, these hearings might never have been held, and the use of these defoliants might not have been stopped in Vietnam and other areas around the world. As a result of those hearings, the world of deformities in plants, animals and humans may have a few less members, and the disease known as cancer may claim a few less victims. Possibly some of the findings disclosed may force us to realize that man as he now exists is on the verge of extinction. During the Senate hearings, it was disclosed that the chemical defoliants 2-4D and 2,4,5-T caused deformities in at least five animal species. A government study known as the “Bionetics Report”, which cost three and one half million dollars, was begun in 1963 and completed in 1968. This report had also shown that these chemicals produced deformities, but the information it contained was kept secret.** These chemicals were developed at Ft Detrick, Md., during World War ll to be used as biological war weapons. *** These are the chemicals that have been used in Vietnam against the enemy. These are the chemicals that were used by the government in Globe, Arizona. (p.vii)
Shoecraft’s story begins with the question “is it less of a crime to use biological war weapons in America than it is in Vietnam?” (p. viii).
Shoecraft’s almost autobiographical work is an homage to wild Arizona; it is a bittersweet account of living in a “little town at the foot of a mountain we love and would die for” (p.41). It is a story of the land ethic. In weaving her tale, Shoecraft illustrates the outside world is never far off; it permeates across time and space, often coming to rest in unexpected and critical ways. It is here that Globe, Arizona is forever connected to the some of the most destructive events of the Vietnam War, Operation Hades (renamed to Operation Ranch Hand).****
In attempting to reconstruct the details of the sprayings during the years 1965-1969, Shoecraft encountered what she describes as the “creeping sickness of bureaucracy” (p. 6). She writes of the lack of transparency and accompanying uncertainty of not knowing what chemicals were sprayed and in what amounts:
This area has now been exposed to five aerial sprayings covering a period of four years, with 2-4D’ 2,4,5-T’ and 2’4’5-f (Silvex) in various strengths and formulations What exactly was used where or when, or in what mixture, appears to be unknown. At least in the last spraying, June, 1969, water was substituted for oil, which more or less caused the chemicals to reach their targets undiluted. (p.7)
In Sue, Shoecraft describes the dramatic July 24, 1969 funeral procession from Globe to Phoenix, where an “ancient hearse” held a coffin of “fruit trees, garden plants, and other foliage which were allegedly killed” by Silvex (p. 37). Shoecraft is careful to point out the procession was not a ” ‘publicity stunt’ for ‘publicity’s sake.’ ” The somber event was the
Only way we knew to let you know about what had happened here that was so wrong! And that it must not happen anywhere again! This was the oniy way we knew to break the strangle hold of suppressing what we had already seen first hand about the effects of “phenoxy herbicides.”
I had always believed until this happened that if something has been done, unless it is intentional. which is wrong and the person’s attention is called to it, that he will try to make it right again. But this was not the case. The threat of more spraying was hanging over us. And those who had injured us showed no remorse or regrets. (p.41)
With other Globe citizens, including Bob McCray, Shoecraft sued the USFS and Dow Chemical for spraying “Kuron,” Dow’s trade name for the defoliant Silvex (2,4,5-TP). Two chemicals in Agent Orange, 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D, are found in Kuron.
Ms. Shoecraft passed away in 1977. A settlement was reached with Dow in 1981 with an accompanying gag order.
* Sue the Bastards appears to be out of copyright. If Shoecraft family members have objections to offering the text here, please contact me. For an additional account on the role of Ms. Shoecraft and the Globe sprayings, see Amy M. Hay’s (2012) “Dispelling the ‘Bitter Fog’: Fighting chemical defoliation in the American West.” Endeavour, 36(4), 174-185.
** Secret no more, the three volumes of the Bionetics reports are available below:
Evaluation of Carcinogenic, Teratogenic, and Mutagenic Activities of Selected Pesticides and Industrial Chemicals. Volume I. Carcinogenic Study, 1963 – August 1968: bionetics_eval_vol1_PB223159
Evaluation of Carcinogenic, Teratogenic, and Mutagenic Activities of Selected Pesticides and Industrial Chemicals. Volume II. Teratogenic Study in Mice and Rats, 1963 – August 1968: bionetics_eval_vol2_PB223160
Evaluation of Carcinogenic, Teratogenic, and Mutagenic Activities of Selected Pesticides and Industrial Chemicals. Volume III. Mutagenic Study in Bacteria, 1963 – August 1968: bionetics_eval_vol3_PB223161
Thomas Whiteside’s February 7, 1970 New Yorker article titled “”A Reporter at Large: Defoliation” is reprinted in the Senate hearings. The article recounts the delay in publishing the Bionetics volumes (p.113-115). Whiteside identifies the role of law student Anita Johnson of “Nader’s Raiders” in first recognizing the significance of the report(s).
*** See p.108 and p. 128 of the Senate hearings; the hearings are illuminating for their discussion of Rocky Mountain Arsenal by Congressmen Richard McCarthy (D-NY) on p.152. The 1969 Mrak report, or the Report of the Secretary’s Commission on Pesticides and their Relationship to Environmental Health, Parts I and II (Chairman E.M. Mrak) U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, is also discussed at length.
**** Operation Ranch Hand is the code name for herbicide spraying by the U.S. Air Force in Southeast Asia from 1962 through 1971. See William A. Buckingham, Jr.’s Operation Ranch Hand: The Air Force and Herbicides in Southeast Asia, 1961-1971 (Office of Air Force History, 1982), Retrieved from http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a121709.pdf
Also see Alvin L. Young, et al., The Toxicology, Environmental Fate, and Human Risk of Herbicide Orange and its Associated Dioxin (USAF Occupational and Environmental Health Laboratory, Aerospace Medical Division, 1978), Retrieved from http://oai.dtic.mil/oai/oai?verb=getRecord&metadataPrefix=html&identifier=ADA062143 and D.A. Butler’s (2005). Connections: The early history of scientific and medical research on Agent Orange. Journal of Law and Policy, 13, 527-552.
Approximately a year ago, I used W. R. Derrick Sewell’s article “Weather and Climate Control” as a basis for a Freedom of Information Act request. In his article, Dr. Sewell cites a table that outlines planned and estimated funding for weather modification projects by federal agency. According to Interdepartmental Committee for Atmospheric Science (ICAS) data cited by Sewell, the Bureau of Reclamation (Department of the Interior) and National Science Foundation received the largest amount of funding during the years 1966-1973, with the Department of Defense, third in line (Sewell, 1973, p. 34). Using this information, I requested “any and all records regarding the historic use of weather modification, climate modification, geoengineering, and environmental and geophysical warfare operations and programs.” In the request, I also asked for records on Project Foggy Cloud, Project Overseed, Project Skyfire, the Santa Barbara Project, GLOMEX, BOMEX, NORPAX, Pop Eye, Blue Nile, Intermediary, and Compatriot. An exercise in FOIA futility, I received little response from agencies.
Agencies responded to requests as follows:
Air Force: Forwarded from DIA, the National & Air Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) responded:
A classification review was conducted with the utmost diligence to determine if the record you requested may be released in whole or in part. After reviewing the document it has been determined that some information can be released, but the FOIA requires that other portions be withheld because of classification and personal privacy interests. Listed below are the exemptions that apply to the requested document: United States Code, Title 5, Section 552(bxl); Executive Order 13526; united states Code, Title 5, Section s52(bx3), l0 u.s.C. 424. Section f.a(c); and United States Code, Title 5, Section 552(bX6).
NASIC released one document, heavily marked and not dated. The markings are fascinating reading as is info on “low-tech” weather mod: NASIC_weathermod_FOIA
CIA: Forwarded from DIA, the CIA responded they
Reviewed the material and determined it is currently and properly classified and must be denied in its entirety on the basis of FOIA exemptions (bXl) and (bX3). Exemption (b)(3) pertains to information exempt from disclosure by statute. The relevant statute is the Central Intelligence Agency Act of 1949,50 U.S.C. $ 4039, as amended, Section 6, which exempts from the disclosure requirement information pertaining to the organization and functions,-including those related to the protection of intelligence sources and methods.
DARPA: Released Climatic Reconstruction: A Synopsis of Methods and Data authored by N.A Frazier (August 3, 1971). The report discusses the Advanced Research Project Agency’s Nile Blue project.
Department of the Interior referred me to the Weather Modification and Atmospheric Research Reports, 1952 – 1993 (Record Group 115: Records of the Bureau of Reclamation, 1889 – 2008). DOI also sent the following enclosure, which upon review has little to do with my request: BOR-2013-00110.
DIA fowarded the request to the Air Force, CIA, NSA, and “other government agencies”:
A search of DIA’s systems of records located four documents (17 pages) responsive to the subject of your request. All documents have been referred to other government agencies for their review and direct response to you as they did not originate with DIA.
NSA (DIA referred) found:
The responsive document has been reviewed by this Agency as required by the FOIA and has been found to be currently and properly classified in accordance with Executive Order 13526. This document meets the criteria for classification as set forth in Subparagraph (c) of Section 1.4 and remains classified TOP SECRET as provided in Section I.2 of Executive Order 13526. The document is classified because its disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security. Because the document is currently and properly classified, it is exempt from disclosure pursuant to the first exemption of the FOIA (5 U.S.C. Section 552(bX1)).
I did not file any appeals with these agencies.
Dr. Sewell cites the table as originating in the following document: Interdepartmental Committee for Atmospheric Science. (1971). A national program for accelerating progress in weather modification, Report 15a. PB 203793, ICAS Report 15a. Springfield, VA: National Technical Information Service.
In response to last week’s news regarding the Army’s Dugway Proving Ground inadvertently distributing live samples of anthrax to labs in nine states, USA Today (May 28) is running a special investigation into biolabs. The report is authored by Alison Young and Nick Penzenstadler. Through their investigation, Young and and Penzenstadler found that
Oversight of biological research labs is fragmented, often secretive and largely self-policing, the investigation found. And even when research facilities commit the most egregious safety or security breaches — as more than 100 labs have — federal regulators keep their names secret.
Of particular concern are mishaps occurring at institutions working with the world’s most dangerous pathogens in biosafety level 3 and 4 labs — the two highest levels of containment that have proliferated since the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001. Yet there is no publicly available list of these labs, and the scope of their research and safety records are largely unknown to most state health departments charged with responding to disease outbreaks. Even the federal government doesn’t know where they all are, the Government Accountability Office has warned for years.
In the early days of the Web, the Sunshine Project, which ceased operations in 2008, was the watchdog source for information on the nation’s labs. Remnants of their Web pages may still be found at the Wayback Machine. Sunshine created one of the first maps available on the Web of facilities dotting the U.S. Sunshine’s online archive of Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) meeting minutes obtained under FOIA are still live. In 2004, Sunshine published an eight-month survey of 390 IBC committees across the United States titled Mandate for Failure The State of Institutional Biosafety Committees in an Age of Biological Weapons Research (here’s a copy).
What the USA Today investigation identifies is a continuing lack of publicity and transparency regarding the biolabs, and that oversight remains problematic.
U.S. Government Accountability Office. Chemical and Biological Defense:Designated Entity Needed to Identify, Align, and Manage DOD’s Infrastructure. GAO-15-257, June 25, 2015. (Contains maps).
U.S. Government Accountability Office. List of GAO reports on BSLs (2007-2015).
Today the Army begins destruction of decades old mustard gas at the Pueblo Chemical Depot. The technology used to destroy the chemical weapons is the Explosive Destructive System or EDS. I first learned about the EDS while serving on the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Restoration Advisory Board and attending an alternative tech meeting hosted by the NSCMP (Non-Stockpile Chemical Materiel Project).
The lost history of how the EDS came to Colorado – to the United States really – is documented at one of my other blogs as the puzzling case of the NSCMP and RMA. Enjoy reading about bureaucracy!
I recently published an article using secrecy as a form of regulation as theorized by the Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy. The Commission, commonly referred to as the Moynihan Commission for its chairperson Sen. Daniel P. Moynihan, used secrecy as a form of regulation to critique historical and ongoing U.S. government information policies.
Below is the citation and abstract for this article:
Maret, S. (2014). The Moynihan Commission’s secrecy by regulation and its value to environmental sociology. Sociological Imagination, 50(2), 105-137.
In 1997, the Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy devised the model of secrecy as a form of regulation to characterize the concealment of information within the Executive Branch. This article expands on the Commission’s conceptual work, applying it to those cases where information is cloaked from public scrutiny by environmental laws and policies, and results in unequal information between parties, or asymmetry. I theorize in this article that secrecy as a form of regulation is an important model in exploring how environmental laws and policies “regulate,” conceal, ignore, and remove information from public discourse. Secrecy as a form of regulation is also shown in tension with those environmental laws and policies that mandate the right to know, thus raising questions about authentic transparency.
[Due to copyright, head to your local library and request through interlibrary loan].