Former CIA agent claims the military poisoned his family at Camp Stanley — and used national security concerns to cover it up
Published: October 12, 2011
The ugly side effects surfaced soon after Kevin Shipp transferred in 1999 from CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., to Camp Stanley, the sprawling U.S. Army weapons depot just north of San Antonio. His now ex-wife, Lorena Shipp, suddenly began to suffer near-constant migraines. Rapidly increasing bouts of confusion and short-term memory loss were so severe the family feared she was bordering on dementia. “I thought she was dying,” Kevin Shipp said in a recent interview with the Current.
Son Joel Shipp, then 17, and his two younger siblings battled nosebleeds, strange rashes, bleeding gums, and frequent vomiting, as well as emergency-room trips for breathing difficulties. A doctor later noted Joel’s immune system had been ravaged.
The Shipps claim that for two years, between the summers of 1999 and 2001, the government housed them in an Army-owned home infested with a variety of bacteria and mold — including the so-called “black” mold Stachybotrys — leading to a rash of illness that would plague the family for years to come. But what started as a simple personal injury lawsuit against the government spun out of control, according to veteran CIA officer Kevin Shipp, sparking a years-long battle with the federal government that reads like spy novel: mysterious illness, shadowy surveillance, and a government cover-up that destroyed a marriage and career.
After years of wrangling in secret, the Shipps claim the government swayed a federal judge to quash the family’s case against it, saying the need to protect government secrets trumped the family’s right to a day in court.
Kevin Shipp speaks in circles, shackled by a strict confidentiality agreement he signed years ago with his former employer, the CIA. He vaguely references the “agency” he worked for between 1999 and 2001, unable to discuss where he was posted or what he was tasked with.
Shipp joined the agency in 1985, at one time serving on the protective detail for the CIA director, working out of the agency’s headquarters both before and after his family’s time at Camp Stanley.
Bexar County district court records from a separate insurance lawsuit Shipp filed in 2001 confirm he and the family lived at Camp Stanley a decade ago, though Shipp is blocked from saying why, or even if, he was there. He speaks only of the “facility” where the health problems started, and how, in his mind, agency officials abused the so-called state secrets privilege, a tool the government can use to dismiss court cases related to national security and sidestep judicial oversight, to cover up their own carelessness.
“What happened to my family, it was absolutely horrible. … I watched my kids get injured, and instead of facing up to it the government chose to cover it up,” he said.
Details on Shipp’s assignment at Camp Stanley are sketchy — both Joel and Lorena Shipp, who confirmed the family’s stay on base in separate interviews with the Current, say only that he was stationed there to uncover security breaches. Joel recalls a Camp Stanley commander urging the family to live on base due to his father’s “high-ranking position.”
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