National Public Radio, Inc. and Colorado Public Radio recently filed a new Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. They seek the release of records from U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), the Air Force, and the Army concerning the Karshi-Khanabad Air Base (“K2”) in Uzbekistan, where U.S. service members were deployed from 2001 through 2005.
According to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform, service members deployed to K2 were exposed to multiple toxic hazards, including burn pits. The plaintiffs previously requested this information, but the defendants failed to respond to those requests.
The plaintiffs now want the court to order the defendants to comply with FOIA and release the requested records immediately.
Reports Show Veterans Exposed to Toxic Chemicals in Afghanistan
It was after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S. that the military established Camp Stronghold Freedom at K2. The Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps used the base for support missions in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2005.
In December 2019, McClatchy reporter Tara Copp reported on veterans who were exposed to toxins at the base. According to Copp, more than 60 U.S. military personnel deployed to the site were diagnosed with cancer or died from the disease.
McClatchy obtained documents showing reports of radiation at the base, contamination with chemical-weapons remnants, ponds glowing green, and black goo oozing from the ground (the result of byproducts dumped when the Soviets used it as an air facility).
The documents also revealed that the Defense Department was aware that the base was toxic from the start, noting that ground contamination posed a risk to U.S. forces.
Veterans who served on the base and then fell ill have asked the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs to study the issue, but have received little response.
On January 19, 2021, President Trump issued Executive Order 13,982 titled “Care of Veterans with Service in Uzbekistan.” It directed the Secretary of Defense to conduct a rigorous study investigating toxic exposure to members of the armed forces deployed to K2 between October 1, 2001, and December 31, 2005.
Toxic Contamination a Theme at Military Bases
On December 6, 2021, the plaintiffs sent a total of 10 FOIA requests to the defendants seeking records related to the impact of deployment to K2 on the health of U.S. service members.
CENTCOM acknowledged these requests but did nothing further. The Air Force didn’t respond at all. The Army acknowledged receipt of the requests but then failed to follow up.
Because they’re not getting the records they requested, the plaintiffs are requesting the court compel the defendants to release them.
This issue is similar to the one that is currently being litigated in North Carolina. At Camp Lejeune, a military base there, service members and their families were exposed to contaminated water for years. The military concealed the problem for decades. The Camp Lejeune Justice Act passed last year and promises to provide veterans with long-overdue compensation for toxic chemical-related illnesses.
Exclusively focused on representing plaintiffs—especially in mass tort litigation—Roopal Luhana prides herself on providing unsurpassed professional legal services in pursuit of the specific goals of her clients and their families. While she handles complex cases nationwide on behalf of consumers, Ms. Luhana resides with her family in Brooklyn, New York.