MatrixLeaks: August 2011

American Drug Industry Uses the Poor as Human Guinea Pigs

Over 40,000 human guinea pigs participate in drug testing experiments run by huge pharmaceutical companies in the United States annually. Most of these people are poor and “down-and-outers,” who need the money drug testing provides.Ever since the mid-1970s, when the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) issued stricter rules on informed consent, high compensation has been necessary to attract research subjects for pharmaceutical tests. This generally means that the lowest income people in the U.S. are the ones who participate, since few people with comfortable financial circumstances volunteer to be guinea pigs for the drug companies.

The nation’s drug testing processes seem to be based on the exploitation of America’s lowest classes. Last fall, The Wall Street journal published an article that reported Eli Lilly, maker of Prozac, uses homeless people to test drugs for FDA approval. The Eli Lilly program, which pays $85 per day, is reportedly famous “through soup kitchens, prisons, and shelters from coast-to-coast.” A nurse at the Lilly clinic in Indianapolis told the Journal that the majority of participants in the Phase I testing programs are alcoholics, although heavy drinkers and drug users are supposed to be excluded from experimental programs because the presence of alcohol or other drugs in the body compromises test results.

Participation in drug and medical studies is a serious gamble. No one knows the long-term side effects of the drugs volunteers take. Animal drug testing, however, the mechanism that is supposed to minimize the danger to volunteers of drugs that have never been tested on humans, is unreliable. For example, in the early 1990s, the FDA approved fialuridine for healthy human volunteers after it proved non-toxic to dogs. Dogs, however, have an enzyme that neutralizes the drug, which humans apparently do not. Five Phase II patients died after taking fialuridine.

Even Princeton University’s highly rated program raises questions about the ethics of drug testing. The Princeton site makes participation especially alluring to the poor. The unit runs a courtesy van for easy access to the facility. There is a bank within walking distance, and the unit gives volunteers a letter to guarantee they won’t have problems cashing their checks. Screening participants enjoy a free, all-you-can-eat lunch. Once admitted to the study, they get free meals, shelter, cable TV, and a video library.

The nation’s big drug companies have never been known for high-minded ethical standards. Before 1900, orphans and street urchins were used as control groups in drug experiments. Testing remained informal in the early part of the twentieth century, as companies issued experimental drugs to doctors to try out on sick patients. But after the thalidomide scare of 1962, Congress passed laws to standardize drug testing procedures. Animal tests were then required for all new drugs, followed by experiments on healthy human subjects, who were most often prisoners.

   Update by author Scott Handelman

“On November 13,1997, the FDA heard final comments on a Clinton Administration proposal that would require experiments on children and infants for the approval of new drugs that might be used in pediatric care. Following the ‘voluntary’ guidelines in current use, 75 companies are testing 146 new drugs on minors. The drug lords are fighting the proposed mandates—which will eventually require hundreds of new experiments—probably because they fear that minors harmed by the experiments will grow up and sue them. The drug companies allege that children who participate in the tests will be exposed to drugs that have not been deemed safe for adults, and that unnecessary tests will be performed.

“Meanwhile, in a study being conducted at the Warren Magnuson Clinic Center, at least one medically unnecessary drug study on children is already underway. The National Institutes of Health is administering Humatrope, a synthetic growth hormone developed by Eli Lilly, to mildly short children who are not growth-hormone deficient, in order to see the hormone’s effects on their adult height.

“Like their adult counterparts, some of the pediatric drug studies offer generous stipends. The Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio is presently recruiting children between the ages of two and ten for an FDA study of Proposetimol, a fever medicine manufactured by Upsa. After their children complete the ten-hour study, parents receive a $200 savings bond or $100 dollars cash.

“For information on human drug testing, contact Guinea Pig Zero, P.O. Box 42531, Philadelphia, PA 19101; E-mail: 

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CIA, US Military Operating Inside Mexico’s “Drug War”

The Mexican government acknowledged Sunday that US intelligence and military officials are deployed inside Mexico, but refused to confirm details of a published report on their role in the country’s “drug war” for reasons of “national security.”

Mexico’s National Security Council issued a statement August 7 in response to a front-page article in the New York Times which reported that the Obama administration has sent “new CIA operatives and retired military personnel” to the country and is “considering plans to deploy private security contractors” in an effort to escalate the bloody war against drug cartels.

The Times article, written by Ginger Thompson, who was the paper’s Mexico City bureau chief for nearly 15 years, reported that the military and intelligence officials were operating out of a military base in the north of Mexico. The paper acknowledged that it was withholding the location of the base at the request of the US administration.

The Mexican government statement claimed that the US personnel “do not engage in any operations nor do they carry weapons”, and that their presence and activities were in keeping with “current Mexican legislation” and “full respect” for the country’s “norms and national jurisdiction.”

As the Times article made clear, however, the operation has been crafted by Washington and the right-wing Mexican government of President Felipe Calderon “to get around Mexican laws that prohibit foreign military and police from operating on its soil.”

Thus, in addition to agents of the CIA and the Drug Enforcement Administration, the operation includes the participation of civilian officials and “retired” military personnel from the Pentagon’s Northern Command.

The US military and intelligence operation has, according to the Times, “trained nearly 4,500 new federal police agents and assisted in conducting wiretaps, running informants and interrogating suspects.” In addition, “The Pentagon has provided sophisticated equipment, including Black Hawk helicopters, and in recent months it has begun flying unarmed surveillance drones over Mexican soil to track drug kingpins.”

Perhaps most ominously, the Times report cites former DEA officials as stating that Washington and the Mexican government are “considering a proposal to embed a group of private security contractors” inside an elite Mexican counter-narcotics unit that is carrying out many of the “kill or capture” operations against suspected drug traffickers. As the experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan with “contractors” such as Blackwater have shown, the use of such elements will inevitably spell a further escalation in the bloodshed that has claimed nearly 50,000 lives in the past six years.

The newspaper added that the US CIA-military “compound had been modeled after ‘fusion intelligence centers’ that the United States operates in Iraq and Afghanistan to monitor insurgent groups.”

The similarities with the counterinsurgency, “war on terror” operations being waged by the US in the Middle East and Afghanistan are also reflected in the thinking of Mexican officials quoted in the article. It cites one unnamed senior Mexican official as insisting that the US drug war intervention “can’t be a two-, three-, four, five- or six-year policy. For this policy investment to work, it has to be sustained long-term.” In other words, another “long war,” this one waged in US imperialism’s “backyard.”

Significantly, the Obama administration has named as its new ambassador to Mexico—his predecessor Carlos Pascual was forced to resign in March after embarrassing disclosures in classified embassy cables released by WikiLeaks—Earl Anthony Wayne, who was called back from Kabul, where he served as the deputy ambassador to Afghanistan, assigned to coordinate US policy with the NATO-led occupation force.

Mexican critics of the Calderon government, including attorneys’ associations, human rights groups and others, insist that the joint operation is being carried out in violation of Mexico’s laws and constitution and represents a fundamental surrender of the country’s sovereignty to its powerful imperialist neighbor to the north.

In its editorial Monday, the Mexican daily La Jornada stated that the Timesreport “confirms the flagrant violation of the national legal framework by foreign agents deployed on our territory, and even more serious, by Mexico’s federal authorities who have tolerated and even promoted this assault on national sovereignty and constitutional principles.”

The editorial went on to denounce US security “cooperation” as part of a “double game” in which Washington offers aid to the Mexican government’s “drug war,” while facilitating the flow of arms to the drug cartels and the profitable laundering of drug money by major US financial institutions.

The CIA-US military presence was also denounced by the National Association of Democratic Lawyers (ANAD). The organization’s president, Manuel Fuentes Muñiz, said that the Times report “reveals a heavy dependence of [the Calderon government] on the United States with respect to the investigation of crimes, in other words, colonialism in regard to criminal investigation and justice.”

The ANAD president added that the operation “is not only a demonstration of the governmental incapacity of the Mexican authorities in the struggle against transnational organized crime, but also a surrender of sovereignty and a shameless violation of the constitution.”

National Union of Jurists president Eduardo Miranda Esquivel said that the operation revealed in the Times report represented “a silent invasion of the national sovereignty by the United States government.” The Calderon government, he said was supporting the “economic, political, cultural and now police-military penetration and intervention by the United States in Mexico.”

The revelations concerning the secret CIA-US military operation came as the Mexican national legislature moved ahead with its consideration of a proposed new National Security Law which would provide a legal sanction for the kind of martial law operations—and the wholesale abuses of human rights accompanying them—that have been carried out by the Calderon government in the name of a drug war. On August 2, the Mexican Senate approved the legislation, and committees in the Chamber of Deputies subsequently endorsed it as well. It must still pass the full lower house.

The legislation, much of it similar to the Patriot Act imposed under the George W. Bush administration in the US as part of the “global war on terror,” would also facilitate electronic surveillance against Mexican citizens, warrantless searches and the detention of suspects without charges.

The legislation empowers the Mexican government to introduce martial law measures under conditions that “place in danger the stability, security, peace and order” of the country or any region, state or city within it.

These measures will inevitably be used not just in the so-called drug war, but also against resistance by the Mexican working class to the attacks on its living standards and basic rights.

The approval of the new law by the committees in the Chamber of Deputies was condemned by Javier Sicilia, the leader of the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, which had initiated discussions last month with the legislative branch with the aim of blocking the repressive measures.

Sicilia, a well-known poet whose 24-year-old son was killed with six other youths in Cuernavaca last March, has led marches and protests against Mexico’s violence and the government’s drug war policy.

In voting for the legislation, Sicilia said, the Mexican legislature was “approving a law legalizing a war that is imposed by the United States and is a source of so many tears and so much pain.”

The legislators, he charged, had acted out of “disdain for not just our 50,000 dead, our more than 10,000 disappeared and our more than 120,000 displaced, but it was also out of a disdain … for flesh and bone human beings who are living in our nation today, and who tomorrow, under the auspices of the law, will swell the graves of the dead and the criminals’ reserve army.”

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Lying about war, Part 2

The morning of June 20, 2006, an email message circulated amongst US Defense Department officials.” Jed Babbin, one of our military analysts, is hosting the Michael Medved nationally syndicated radio show this afternoon. He would like to see if General [George W.] Casey would be available for a phone interview,” the Pentagon staffer wrote. “This would be a softball interview and the show is 8th or 9th in the nation.”

Why would the Pentagon help set up a radio interview? And how did they know that the interview would be “softball”?

From early 2002 to April 2008, the Department of Defense offered talking points, organized trips to places such as Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, and gave private briefings to a legion of retired military officers working as media pundits. The Pentagon’s military analyst program, a covert effort to promote a positive image of the Bush administration’s wartime performance, was a multi-level campaign involving quite a few colorful characters.

One Pentagon pundit arguably steals the spotlight: Jed Babbin. A former Pentagon official himself, the retired Air Force officer served as a deputy undersecretary of defense with the George H.W. Bush administration. Since then he has kept busy authoring books, serving as a contributing editor to the conservative monthly American Spectator, frequently filling in for right-wing radio hosts such as Laura Ingraham and Hugh Hewitt, and appearing as a military pundit on cable television.

Babbin repeatedly appears in the Pentagon pundit documents, usually either emailing his American Spectator articles to Pentagon officials, or using his special access to arrange interviews with high-ranking government and military officers for his articles and radio guest host gigs.

In February 2006, Babbin emailed Pentagon legal advisor Thomas Hemingway. “I’m subbing for Hugh Hewitt again tomorrow and want to bash the UN report,” he wrote, referring to an inquiry into conditions at Guantánamo Bay that led the United Nations to call for the detention center to be closed. “I asked for [US Army Major General] Jay Hood and got the answer that the military isn’t going out on that now. Can you do it? Please call asap.” Babbin didn’t just use Pentagon public affairs staffers as his radio bookers. He also asked them for their thoughts on what he should say, as a pundit.

“I just got a call from Jed Babbin,” wrote one Pentagon public affairs officer in October 2006. “He is going to be on [the CNBC show] Kudlow [& Company] tonight and want [sic] to be prepared if they ask him about the [Al-Qaeda] threat to Saudi oil fields. . . . Anything we could share with him??”

The Pentagon was also more than proactive. “[Fox News’] Hannity and Colmes is having Jed Babbin on today to talk about North Korea,” emailed Pentagon public affairs staffer Dallas Lawrence to Ruff and Whitman in February 2005. “We are getting Jed a one pager on the status of forces in the Korean Peninsula (the message being, we still have a massive deterrent there for [North Korea]). We will also put him into touch with State for talking points on the 6 party talks.”

In a phone interview, Babbin defended his communications with the Pentagon. “I am a journalist,” he told me. “I have information that’s given to me by sources of all sorts. Private information is what you normally do in Washington. You get confidential sources and you rely on them. I’m not compromised. I can’t speak for anybody else other than myself, but I have no relationship with defense contractors, I have no contracts with the Pentagon. There’s no conflict there.”

But Babbin’s contacts with the Pentagon are still problematic, according to Kelly McBride, Ethics Group Leader at the Poynter Institute for media studies. “When you hire a former general [as a media commentator], you’re hiring him for his expertise and his ability to independently analyze what’s going on,” she explained. “If you’re assuming because he’s retired he has a measure of independence and then you find out, no, he’s actually been to all these trainings where he’s received talking points, that’s a problem. You have promised your audience that you’re going to deliver them independent analysis—not a mouthpiece for the Pentagon.”

That raises the question of whether the responsibility to ensure the integrity and independence of military analysts lies with the pundits themselves or with the media outlets that hired them. In this case, says McBride, it’s the latter.

“The journalists had the obligation to figure out if their sources were independent,” she said. “Each show decided how they were going to use these people, and at that point, somebody should’ve been having a conversation about what they’re bringing to the product and how that works, and then finally, there should be an overall standard that says when we hire people, here is what we should ask of them.”

In his defense, Babbin said that “everyone I wrote for and so forth knew I was talking to people in the Pentagon.” Babbin also went on government-funded trips to Iraq and Guantánamo Bay, but said he doesn’t believe that any of the media outlets he writes or appears on-air for have policies against such activity. So, Babbin concludes that he had no conflicts of interest.

Do the media outlets that Babbin appeared on feel the same way? Salem Radio Network, which produces both “The Hugh Hewitt Show” and “The Michael Medved Show,” radio programs that Babbin appeared on while participating in the Pentagon’s pundit program, refused comment. Phone calls to the American Spectator and WMET of Washington, DC were not returned.

Todd Meyer, a producer for Greg Garrison’s show on Indianapolis radio station WIBC, one of Babbin’s more frequent stomping grounds, said, “I’m not sure if Jed mentioned he was a part of [the Department of Defense’s military analyst program]. He might at some point. He said over the years, though, that he’s been part of many, many briefings at the Pentagon, most when he was actually working there under Bush.”

Meyer added that Babbin was never presented on the show as an independent analyst. “Jed Babbin is the editor of Human Events, he wrote for National Review, he wrote for American Spectator. He’s conservative,” stressed Meyer. “We’re a conservative talk show. Mr. Babbin’s been on our show many, many times over the years and he comes from a conservative background. He was privy to a number of briefings. We took advantage of hearing what was in those briefings.”

But is being conservative synonymous with being a mouthpiece for the Pentagon?

Babbin contends that he was nothing of the sort. “If they were buying my loyalty, they got a pretty bad bargain. If they thought they were buying my reporting, they really had a very poor investment. Look at my stories, look at what I’ve written. I’ve been very highly critical at times of the president and a lot of the people who conduct the war.”

Judging by the Pentagon pundit documents, the Department of Defense sees Babbin as an ardent supporter. “Babbin will do us well,” Pentagon PR staffer Bryan Whitman wrote in a March 2005 email. In June 2005, Larry Di Rita told fellow Pentagon public affairs officers, “We really should try to help [Babbin secure guests for his radio hosting gigs]. . . . He is consistently solid and helpful.” Another message, this one from Thomas Hemingway to Eric Ruff in June 2006, reads: “I’m sure all your folks are familiar with the tremendous support we’ve received from Jed.” And that’s in addition to the aforementioned “softball interview” comment.

While Jed Babbin was only one of some seventy-five retired military officers that the Department of Defense used as their so-called “message force multipliers” and “surrogates,” and while he wasn’t seeking defense contracts like some of his fellow pundits, his case is representative of the breakdown of transparency and accountability consequent to the Pentagon’s covert program. Babbin’s experience also shows that someone could consistently parrot the administration’s talking points, while believing himself to be independent and even, at times, critical of the official narrative.

But the pundits weren’t just selling government talking points. As Robert Bevelacqua, William Cowan and Carlton Sherwood enjoyed high-level Pentagon access through the analyst program, their WVC3 Group sought “contracts worth tens of millions to supply body armor and counterintelligence services in Iraq,” reported Barstow. Cowan admitted to “push[ing] hard” on a WVC3 contract, during a Pentagon-funded trip to Iraq.

Then there’s Pentagon pundit Robert H. Scales Jr. The military firm he co-founded in 2003, Colgen, has an interesting range of clients, from the Central Intelligence Agency and US Special Operations Command, to Pfizer and Syracuse University, to Fox News and National Public Radio.

Of the twenty-seven Pentagon pundits named publicly to date, six are registered as federal lobbyists. That’s in addition to the less formal—and less transparent—boardroom to war-room influence peddling described above. (There are “more than seventy-five retired officers” who took part in the Pentagon program overall, according to Barstow.)

The Pentagon pundits’ lobbying disclosure forms help chart what can only be called a military-industrial-media complex. They also make clear that war is very good for at least some types of business.

Fox News analyst Timur J. Eads works for the military contractor Blackbird Technologies. His job title there, “vice-president of government relations,” is often used to describe someone who crafts lobbying strategies but may not take part in lobbying meetings. So, it’s not surprising that Eads isn’t listed on Blackbird’s lobbying disclosure forms. (In 2007 and 2008, Blackbird lobbied Congress on “communications technologies” and the National Guard on “information systems.”)
From 2001 to 2003, Eads was in the lobbying trenches for EMC Corporation, a multinational “information infrastructure” company. Eads helped lobby Congress and a long list of federal agencies—including the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard—for “funding for data storage infrastructure.” EMC’s annual report (PDF) for 2003 lists the Air Force Materiel Command and Pentagon Renovation and Construction Program Office among its US government clients.

Prior to EMC, Eads lobbied for the major defense contractor Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC). In 1999 and 2000, he was on SAIC’s million-dollar-plus lobbying team, influencing federal spending on the armed services, foreign operations, national security and Veterans Administration, among many other appropriations bills.

A January 2009 public diplomacy conference was organized in Washington, DC to critically reconsider Smith-Mundt. Many presenters supported changing the Act; specifically, removing or watering down its restriction on domestic dissemination. Among the reasons given were that the restriction, which effectively divides the world into US residents and everyone else, is outdated in the global information age; that it hampers public diplomacy efforts; that it suggests to foreign audiences that U.S. government-provided information is suspect, since it can’t be shared with US residents; that it denies US residents useful information; and that it keeps US residents from accessing information necessary to evaluate work done overseas, in their name and with their tax dollars. On the other side, there were conference attendees who argued that the Smith-Mundt restriction doesn’t impact work in the field, and that it helps insulate sensitive international work from domestic political pressures.

It was an informed, in-depth debate, led by people with extensive State Department and military experience. But until Rep. Hodes spoke—during the last session of the day—no one mentioned that, until just nine months ago, there had been an active covert campaign to influence US public opinion: the Pentagon’s pundit program.

Let me posit what I believe should be the rule,” said outgoing Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs James Glassman, a keynote speaker at the conference. Domestic dissemination should be permissible, he suggested, “if the intent of the work involving domestic audiences is to influence foreign audiences.” According to Glassman the government’s motivation behind engaging US residents is key. “The reasonable way to judge whether the State Department should be prohibited from disseminating a film, or a television program, or a speech, or a magazine, is the intention of the department,” he declared. While “traditional American concerns about government involvement—not merely in influence, but in information—are deeply rooted and appropriate . . . intent should be our guide. If our target is foreign audiences, as it must be in public diplomacy, then we should be able to engage domestic individuals and groups in this effort.”
Glassman’s emphasis on intent is nothing new. In other words, it doesn’t matter whether material designed to influence foreign audiences—including, in the case of military information operations and psychological operations campaigns, material that may be misleading—is conveyed to US residents as “news.” All that matters is that the responsible government officials’ hearts are pure.

We know that the conveniently slippery standard of intent has already resulted in fake TV news that would make Soviet-era propagandists proud. As professor Marc Lynch noted at the conference, “Who knows what evil lurks in the minds of men? The Shadow knows, but State Department lawyers don’t, which makes it very difficult to build a regulatory foundation on questions of intent, particularly when . . . intent can be multi-faceted and highly complex.”

The State Department—and the US Information Agency, before it was folded into State—used to be responsible for public diplomacy. In 1999, then-President Clinton tasked numerous federal agencies with “influenc[ing] foreign audiences.” He established an International Public Information group, comprised of officials from the State, Defense, Justice, Commerce, and Treasury departments, along with the FBI and CIA. Post-9/11, the Pentagon’s budget ballooned and then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld proclaimed that communications must be “a central component of every aspect of this struggle.” As a result, the US military has become increasingly involved in public diplomacy.

On the question of Smith-Mundt, its ban on domestic dissemination has clearly been rendered moot by Google. Instead of using that as an excuse to burn down firewalls, the US government should follow strict media ethics standards, regardless of whether its intended audience is in Iowa or Islamabad. All public diplomacy communications and activities should be clearly attributed. Information operations and psychological operations, which require a lack of transparency, should be kept completely separate from public diplomacy and public affairs. Lastly, the military’s role in public diplomacy should be decreased and, perhaps, ended.

Instead of loosening propaganda restrictions by relying on intent, why not adjust to the global information era by ensuring clear attribution of all government communications? Truth is an obvious second standard, but public diplomacy, by definition, deals with issues in which the US government is an interested party. It’s therefore naive to claim that a standard of “truth”—which must transcend, or at least fairly acknowledge, competing interests—could be upheld.

Today, the broadcast and cable networks are steadfastly refusing to cover or otherwise address the Pentagon military analyst program, with very few exceptions. In this case, though, the pundits’ undeclared financial interests are only part of a larger and much more serious problem. These officers participated in a covert government program designed to shape US public opinion—an illegal program, and one that relied on the willingness of major media to play along, without asking too many questions. And that’s exactly what happened. The media outlets that featured the Pentagon’s pundits need to address both aspects of this debacle: that they failed to identify or disclose conflicts of interest, and that they helped propagandize US news audiences.

Increasingly, news audiences are realizing the many ways in which interested parties skew media coverage. Media outlets need to wake up to that reality and work to strengthen their safeguards in defense of the public interest. Their only alternative is to start composing their next weak and belated mea culpa, in a desperate attempt to protect their ever-dwindling credibility.

Diane Farsetta is the Center for Media and Democracy’s senior researcher.

Searchable versions of the Pentagon pundit documents available at

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