Ex-Hanford Contractor Blocks Memos’ Release
General Electric Co. doesn’t want the public to see three memos on the legality of human experiments conducted at Hanford in the early years of the Cold War.
The memos are mentioned in a GE letter that says some early Hanford radiation experiments “appear to have violated the criminal code of the state of Washington” and also may have violated federal law.
GE, which ran Hanford from 1945 until the mid-60s, is blocking a Freedom of Information Act request for the memos behind the 1963 letter.
Last year, The Spokesman-Review requested the memos concerning “voluntary and planned” human experiments at Hanford.
This spring, GE’s attorneys objected to their release, claiming they are protected by attorney-client privilege.
GE attorney Jules Pearlman’s memos sat in a Battelle Pacific Northwest Laboratory “Human Subjects” file at Hanford for nearly 30 years. But when the newspaper requested them, the U.S. Department of Energy said the memos were “misfiled” and never should have left GE.
Nevertheless, DOE has “strongly encouraged” GE to make the information public “in view of the interest in the subject matter and Energy Secretary (Hazel) O’Leary’s new Openness Initiative,” said Karen Randolph, DOE communications director in Richland.
“Counsel for GE has declined to disclose the memo despite our encouragement,” Randolph said.
The memos were mentioned in a 1963 letter from Carlos Newton Jr., manager of radiation dose studies at Hanford, to A.R. Keene, Hanford’s manager of radiation protection.
Earlier Hanford experiments on human test subjects “do not appear to have been in compliance with the criminal codes of the State of Washington and there is some question as to whether or not the experiments were conducted in compliance with federal law,” Newton said.
He also suggested it would be “difficult and unwise” for Hanford officials to keep an official paper trail for such experiments if they decided to continue them.