But this was no ordinary case. The employee, Kevin M. Shipp, was a veteran Central Intelligence Agencyofficer. His home was at Camp Stanley, an Army weapons depot just north of San Antonio, in an area where the drinking water was polluted with toxic chemicals. The post includes a secret C.I.A. facility.
Declaring that its need to protect state secrets outweighed the Shipps’ right to a day in court, the government persuaded a judge to seal the case and order the family and their lawyers not to discuss it, and to later dismiss the lawsuit without any hearing on the merits, Mr. Shipp said.
More than half a decade later, Mr. Shipp is going public with his story. He contends that the events broke up his marriage and destroyed his career, and that C.I.A. officials abused the State Secrets Privilege doctrine in an effort to cover up their own negligence.
Jennifer Youngblood, a C.I.A. spokeswoman, denied any wrongdoing by the agency. “The C.I.A. takes great care to help protect the health and welfare of its employees,” she said.
Mr. Shipp recently completed a memoir filled with unclassified documents that he said backed up his assertions. He says that he submitted the manuscript to the agency for the required prepublication review but that it blacked out swaths of information, like accounts of his children’s nosebleeds, strange rashes, vomiting, severe asthma and memory loss.
Citing a confidentiality agreement he signed with the government, Mr. Shipp would not discuss where the secret facility was located, what its purpose was, which agency he worked for or what his duties were.
Still, he said, he was free to say that he worked at C.I.A. headquarters in Langley, Va., both before and after his stint at the facility. And public documents from a separate lawsuit, which he filed against his insurance carrier over a claim for his family’s destroyed belongings, make clear that he was stationed at Camp Stanley.
Mr. Shipp’s ex-wife, Lorena Shipp, and one of his sons, Joel Shipp, now 28, said in interviews that the C.I.A. had assigned Mr. Shipp to a high-ranking job at the facility to uncover suspected security breaches. The family moved to an Army-owned house at Camp Stanley in June 1999 and left in May 2001.
It is not clear what took place at the C.I.A. facility. But the camp had been used as a weapons depot for generations. Joel and Lorena Shipp described bunkers and many old weapons, including Soviet weaponry. They also said that they occasionally saw officials performing tactical drills, and that sometimes items were burned or buried there.
“The house that our family was moved into was planted on top of a lot of buried ammunition,” Joel Shipp said. “One time me and my little brother dug up a mustard gas shell.”
The Shipps soon began to get sick. First they got nosebleeds, then they developed symptoms that doctors said resembled H.I.V. infection or exposure to radiation, according to family members. Eventually, Kevin Shipp said, he discovered that the house was full of a spreading black substance.
Camp Stanley has a troubled environmental record. In August 2001, according to local news reports, military officials began distributing bottled water to residents nearby after it was discovered that toxins from the camp had polluted an aquifer in the area, contaminating the drinking water.
The Shipps said they were twice evacuated from the house after expressing concern about their sudden health troubles. But, Kevin Shipp said, his supervisor played down the problems, declaring that the house was fine after its air was tested — although the windows and doors were open at the time, Mr. Shipp said.
Suspicious of a cover-up, Mr. Shipp said he sent samples from the house to a scientist atTexas Tech University. His manuscript includes a Texas Tech report showing that the samples tested positive for toxic mold.
Eventually, the Shipps sued the C.I.A. using pseudonyms. Meanwhile, Mr. Shipp was transferred to the agency’s headquarters, where he became a polygraph operator. But his relationship with the agency was deteriorating, and the family began to suspect that they had been placed under surveillance.
Mr. Shipp said he quit in 2002 after he was accused of using a government credit card to pay for personal expenses; he says he paid the money back, but had been told by a supervisor to use the card for clothes and lodging after his family had to leave the house and their old clothes were destroyed.
A federal judge overseeing the case ordered the family and the C.I.A. into mediation. Mr. Shipp’s memoir includes a December 2003 settlement agreement — signed by a government counsel — under which the family would be paid $400,000 and would have to stay silent about the matter.
But two days later, he said, one of his attorneys, Clint Blackman, called him to say that the government had withdrawn the settlement. The case would be fought out in court.
The case was already sealed, and the Justice Department invoked the State Secrets Privilege — a judicially created doctrine that the government has increasingly used to win the dismissal of lawsuits related to national security, shielding its actions from judicial review.
A federal judge dismissed the case, and an appeals court in New Orleans, in a secret ruling, later upheld that dismissal, Mr. Shipp said. Mr. Shipp’s manuscript mentions several other lawyers who helped him in the case, including Mark Zaid of Washington, who has represented many intelligence officials in lawsuits against the government, and Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University law professor who has filed several lawsuits challenging claims of executive secrecy.
Mr. Blackman and Mr. Zaid confirmed that Mr. Shipp had been a client, but they declined to discuss any sealed lawsuit. Mr. Turley confirmed that he had been asked to consult on the case, but said he was never given details about it.
Mr. Shipp has moved to Florida and tried to rebuild his life. But angry at what had happened to his family, he says he has decided to go public, no matter the risk of talking about a sealed case.
“I decided to just sacrifice myself for the public to know what they did, how illegal it was, how flawed the State Secrets Privilege is, and how they used it to cover up the destruction of my family,” he said. “It’s just abominable what they did.”
Camp Stanley Storage Activity
Located northwest of San Antonio, Camp Stanley, a separate activity of Red River Army Depot, is a weapons and munitions supply, maintenance, test and storage activity. The post supports locations throughout CONUS and selected overseas areas. The post includes 4,000 acres with 630,000 square feet of storage space.
In 1990 the Leon Springs Military Reservation consisted of Camp Stanley, largely used for ammunition storage and testing, and Camp Bullis, utilized for firing ranges, maneuver areas for army, air force, and marine combat units, and for field training of the various medical units from Brooke Army Medical Centerqv at Fort Sam Houston.
The old San Antonio Arsenal, originally built in 1859, was poorly located and by 1919 had been surrounded by the downtown area. It was moved to Camp Stanley and by 1937 required an area of 1,760 acres. At this time Camp Stanley was devoted to storage and testing of ordnance materials, and all other military activities at the Leon Springs Military Reservation were conducted at Camp Bullis.
Camp Stanley, originally Camp Funston, was a subpost of the San Antonio Arsenalqv and operated as an ammunition storage depot. It was named Camp Stanley on October 2, 1917, for Brig. Gen. David Sloane Stanleyqv and designated at first as an infantry cantonment. It was located at Leon Springs Military Reservation, twenty miles northwest of San Antonio. Chinese refugees brought from Mexico in 1916 by Gen. John J. Pershingqv were transferred from Fort Sam Houston to Camp Stanley after World War I. They were finally registered as legal immigrants in 1922. In 1922 the camp became a subpost of Camp Travis and was to be used as a temporary garrison at peace strength.
In September 1933 Camp Stanley was transferred to the jurisdiction of the Ordnance Department, and new buildings were constructed to eliminate hazards. Magazine and igloo space totaled 232,100 square feet. On July 1, 1947, Camp Stanley was consolidated with the San Antonio General Distribution Depot and on July 1, 1949, was designated the Camp Stanley Area of Red River Arsenal, Texarkana, a class-two installation under the jurisdiction of the chief of ordnance. In 1985 Camp Stanley was a subpost of nearby Camp Bullis.
Recovered chemical warfare materiel (CWM) includes items recovered from range-clearing operations, chemical weapons burial sites, and other locations. When suspected recovered CWM is found, specially trained personnel are called to the site to assess the content and condition of the materiel and determine if it is safe for storage or transportation. Recovered CWM is currently stored at eight locations throughout the United States and on Johnston Island in the Pacific Ocean. The Non-Stockpile Chemical Materiel Project is developing transportable treatment systems to destroy recovered CWM, since U.S. law prohibits the destruction of non-stockpile chemical materiel at stockpile destruction facilities in the continental United States. Records show that in 1942 at least three mustard-filled shells were buried on site, but were recovered and destroyed in 1948. The Army is fairly sure no other chemical weapons exist, although the area has other hazardous wastes.
Camp Stanley has eliminated the operations of disposing of waste munitions in their land based open burning/open detonation unit. Another Department of Defense (DOD) facility, which is permitted, will dispose of waste munitions for Camp Stanley.
Phosphate-induced metal stabilization (PIMS) is a technology developed to treat the contamination in place, either by mixing the treatment amendments directly into the soil or by emplacing the amendments within a permeable reactive barrier to passively treat groundwater. A demonstration of an in-situ process using PIMS for remediation of lead-contaminated soil from training ranges was conducted at the U.S. Army’s Camp Stanley Storage Activity, a subinstallation of Red River Army Depot, in Boerne, Texas. The demonstration at Camp Stanley Storage Activity was the first field-scale demonstration of this technology.