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
Soon afterward, the Shipps claim base officials began to closely monitor the family. Mysterious figures began following Joel to and back from high school. Lorena says base officials who were called to testify in their separate Bexar County insurance claim lawsuit later said they were ordered to destroy documents related to contamination and repairs on the Shipps’ house. Court records show a number of base officials testified in the insurance case, but transcripts of the testimony were not readily available. Further fueling suspicions, the Shipps claim some of the guards on base told the family they were ordered to conduct surveillance, at times spying on the family from the nearby woods.
The family was eventually evacuated from the home, and a decontamination team in hazmat suits emptied the house, destroying most of the family’s belongings, Lorena said. “The only thing we were really left with was the clothes on our back,” said Joel.
After leaving the base, the Shipps sued the federal government (though they used pseudonyms due to a gag order the government placed on the entire family). The government was so tight-lipped that a copy of gag order itself was even kept secret from the family for months. When the family’s lawyer finally persuaded a judge to release it, the vast majority was redacted and illegible.
Kevin Shipp said he quit the CIA soon after moving back to Langley in 2002, noting that his relationship with the agency had become increasingly combative. In the end, the agency was looking for ways to squeeze him out, he said. When the family’s belongings were destroyed with the house, the CIA agreed to pay for the family’s lodging expenses elsewhere... and then reneged on the deal and accused the family of stealing from the agency.
A federal judge eventually ordered the family and the CIA into mediation, and by 2003 the two parties struck, and signed, an agreement awarding Joel Shipp $175,000, and Lorena and Kevin Shipp $225,000, in exchange for their silence. The settlement also called for an official letter of apology from the U.S. government “for the events that gave rise to this matter.”
“We all went back to the house, we had dinner, and we thought it was over, you know? Closure,” said Joel.
Two days later, the family’s attorney called saying the government had reneged. “They basically said that they wouldn’t settle at that amount, and if we did not accept $100,000 total for everybody, then they’re going to shut us down for national security reasons and we’ll never speak of this again,” Joel said.
“That was an outrage for me,” said Kevin Shipp, “essentially blackmailing us to take a lower settlement.”
When the family tried to take the case to court, the Justice Department stepped in, according to the family, invoking state secrets. “There’s nothing classified about us being sick, that has nothing to do with national security,” Lorena said. “That is, unless there’s something that made us sick we don’t know about that they refuse to tell us.”
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