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Federal Court Upholds First Amendment Claim of Air Force Sgt.

Originally published on 8/25/2006

Federal Court Upholds First Amendment Claim of Air Force Sgt. Punished for Speaking Out About Tainted Vaccine; TRI Attorneys Allowed to Move Forward with Action Against Military Officials

WILMINGTON, Del. — Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute have successfully thwarted attempts by the U.S. government to dismiss the First Amendment lawsuit of Air Force Sergeant Jason Adkins. The U.S. District Court in Delaware denied a motion by the Department of Defense to dismiss the entire case of an Air Force officer who was sanctioned after voicing concerns that he could be suffering the ill effects of a tainted anthrax vaccine.

In allowing the First Amendment claim of Sgt. Adkins to move forward, the district court rejected the Defense Department’s arguments that the government was immune from suit and that Sgt. Adkins did not have the right to seek relief for the alleged retaliation.

Recognizing the validity of the constitutional claims, District Court Judge Joseph J. Farnan, Jr. authorized TRI attorneys to begin obtaining information from military officials about the facts behind the alleged punishment of Adkins. Judge Farnan granted the government’s motion to dismiss a second claim, ruling that Adkins did not have enough information to show that the defendants ordered or approved of workplace harassment which Adkins endured after he filed his lawsuit.

The free speech retaliation suit, which named Adkins’ supervisors in the Air Force, as well as James Roche, the Secretary of the Air Force, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and others, was filed in federal district court in Wilmington, Del., by Institute affiliate attorneys Thomas S. Neuberger and Stephen J. Neuberger of the Neuberger Firm.

“The military is not above the law in our system of government,” stated John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “Furthermore, this confirms that military personnel do have basic constitutional rights.”

All U.S. troops deployed overseas are required by the military to take a series of six or more anthrax vaccinations. Dover Air Force Base Sgt. Jason Adkins, a C-5 aircraft flight engineer and a decorated airman who served on the first C-5 aircraft flown into Baghdad in the Iraq War and other numerous classified special operations missions, received eight inoculations. However, testing by the Food and Drug Administration discovered squalene in numerous batches of the inoculations administered to Dover Air Force Base personnel. Research indicates that even trace amounts of squalene can stimulate the immune system, causing arthritis, neurological problems, memory loss and incapacitating migraine headaches.

In keeping with flight safety protocol, on Oct. 21, 2004, Sgt. Adkins reported to the Dover Air Force Base flight surgeon with a “crippling” headache and was subsequently grounded from a scheduled flight mission. Since his first day in the Air Force, Sgt. Adkins has been trained in one basic sacred safety principle—that flight officers with unsafe medical conditions are not to fly. Even during a flight, if crew members become ill or overly tired, they are encouraged to declare ‘safety of flight,’ at which point they are relieved of their duties, no questions asked, and always without any fear of discipline or repercussions. However, shortly after reporting to the flight surgeon, Sgt. Adkins was given a career-ending written reprimand and accused of dereliction of duty and faking his medical condition, allegedly in retaliation for having voiced his concerns that he might be suffering effects of the experimental anthrax vaccine.

Other military personnel have since echoed Sgt. Adkins’ concerns about the effects of the tainted vaccine. Institute attorneys filed suit in federal district court in 2004 in defense of the First Amendment rights of Sgt. Adkins.


Nisha N. Mohammed
Ph: (434) 978-3888, ext. 604
Pager: 800-946-4646, Pin #: 1478257
E-mail: nisha@rutherford.org