Biological Warfare and the National Security State: A Chronology
08-10-2009, 06:28 PM
Biological Warfare and the National Security State: A Chronology
The history of bioweapons research in the United States is a history of illicit--and illegal--human experiments.
From the Cold War to the War on Terror, successive American administrations have turned a blind eye on dubious research rightly characterized as having "a little of the Buchenwald touch."
While the phrase may have come from the files of the Atomic Energy Commission as Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Eileen Welsome revealed in her 1999 book, The Plutonium Files, an investigation into secret American medical experiments at the dawn of the nuclear age, it is as relevant today as the United States pours billions of dollars into work on some of the most dangerous pathogens known to exist in nature.
That Cold War securocrats were more than a little concerned with a comparison to unethical Nazi experiments is hardly surprising. After all, with the defeat of the Axis powers came the triumphalist myth-making that America had fought a "good war" and had liberated humanity from the scourge of fascist barbarism.
Never mind that many of America's leading corporations, from General Motors to IBM and from Standard Oil to Chase National Bank, were sympathizers and active collaborators with the Third Reich prior to and even during World War II, as documented by investigative journalists Charles Higham in Trading With The Enemy, and Edwin Black in IBM and the Holocaust. Like much else in American history, these were dirty little secrets best left alone.
Soon enough however, these erstwhile democrats would come to view themselves as mandarins of a new, expanding American Empire for whom everything was permitted. In this context, the recruitment of top German and Japanese scientists who had conducted grisly "medical" experiments whilst waging biological war against China and the Soviet Union would be free of any moralizing or political wavering.
As the Cold War grew hotter and hotter, America's political leadership viewed "former" Nazis and the architects of Japan's Imperial project not as war criminals but allies in a new undertaking: the global roll-back of socialism and the destruction of the Soviet Union by any means necessary.
This tradition is alive and well in 21st century America. With the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and subsequent anthrax mailings as a pretext for an aggressive militarist posture, the national security state is ramping-up research for the production of genetically-modified organisms for deployment as new, frightening weapons of war.
According to congressional <span style="color:#881100">testimony by Dr. Alan M. Pearson, Director of the Biological and Chemical Weapons Control Program at the Washington D.C.-based <span style="color:#881100">Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, with very little in the way of effective oversight or accountability, tens of billions of dollars "have been appropriated for bioweapons-related research and development activities." Pearson reveals that approximately $1.7 billion "has been appropriated for the construction on new high containment facilities for bioweapons-related research."
<blockquote>By high containment facilities I mean facilities that are designed for work with agents that may cause serious or potentially lethal disease through exposure to aerosols (called Biosafety Level 3 or BSL-3 facilities) and facilities that are designed for work with agents that pose a "high individual risk of life-threatening disease, which may be transmitted via the aerosol route and for which there is no available vaccine or therapy" (called Biosafety Level 4 or BSL-4 facilities).
Prior to 2002, there were three significant BSL-4 facilities in the United States. Today twelve are in operation, under construction, or in the planning stage. When completed, there will be in excess of 150,000 square feet of BSL-4 laboratory space (as much space as three football fields). The number of BSL-3 labs is also clearly growing, but ascertaining the amount of growth is difficult in the absence of accurate baseline information. There are at least 600 such facilities in the US. (Alan M. Pearson, Testimony, "Germs, Viruses, and Secrets: The Silent Proliferation of Bio-Laboratories in the United States," House Energy and Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, October 2007)</blockquote>
Chillingly, one consequence of this metastatic growth "is that the very labs designed to protect against bioweapons may become a source for them." As the 2001 anthrax attacks amply demonstrated, the threat posed by a biological weapons' incident may be closer to home than any of us care to think. Pearson writes, "Nor should we ignore the possibility that a US biologist may become disgruntled or turn rogue while working in one of these labs."
According to Edward Hammond, the Director of the now-defunct <span style="color:#881100">Sunshine Project, while "biological arms control is currently in ... its worst crisis since the signing of the Bioweapons Convention (BWC) in 1972," the American Bioweapons-Industrial Complex has "embarked on the exploitation of biotechnology for weapons development." Indeed, Hammond relates that active programs utilizing genetic engineering techniques have "been employed in offensive biowarfare programs in order to make biowarfare agents more effective."
But increases in state subsidies for such work have generated new risks to the public. A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) <span style="color:#881100">report faulted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for lax security at three of the nation's five BSL-4 labs currently in operation that "handle the world's most dangerous agents and toxins that cause incurable and deadly diseases." Agents such as Ebola, Marburg and smallpox are routinely studied at these facilities. And yet, as GAO auditors found,
<blockquote>Select agent regulations do not mandate that specific perimeter security controls be present at BSL-4 labs, resulting in a significant difference in perimeter security between the nation's five labs. According to the regulations, each lab must implement a security plan that is sufficient to safeguard select agents against unauthorized access, theft, loss, or release. However, there are no specific perimeter security controls that must be in place at every BSL-4 lab. While three labs had all or nearly all of the key security controls we assessed, our September 2008 report demonstrated that two labs had a significant lack of these controls. (Government Accountability Office, Biosafety Laboratories: BSL-4 Laboratories Improved Perimeter Security Despite Limited Action by CDC, GAO-09-851, July 2009)</blockquote>
As Global Security Newswire <span style="color:#881100">revealed in June, a "recently completed inventory at a major U.S. Army biodefense facility found nearly 10,000 more vials of potentially lethal pathogens than were known to be stored at the site."
<blockquote>The 9,220 samples--which included the bacterial agents that cause plague, anthrax and tularemia; Venezuelan, Eastern and Western equine encephalitis viruses; Rift valley fever virus; Junin virus; Ebola virus; and botulinum neurotoxins--were found during a four-month inventory at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Md., according to Col. Mark Kortepeter, the center's deputy commander. (Martin Matishak, "Thousands of Uncounted Disease Samples Found at Army Biodefense Lab," Global Security Newswire, June 18, 2009)</blockquote>
The GSN report states that while "half of the newfound material was destroyed after being recorded," inventory control officer Sam Edwin told reporters that "the other half was deemed worthy for further scientific use, cataloged, and stored in the center's containment freezers."
More pertinently, what happens when the state itself turns "rogue" and under cover of national security and the endless "war on terror" creates the "acute risk" in the form of out-of-control laboratories "designed to protect against bioweapons" that instead, have "become a source for them"?
Bioweapons and National Security: A Chronology
Source Notes: This chronology has drawn from dozens of books, articles and declassified government documents in its preparation. Notable in this regard is Michael Christopher Carroll's Lab 257: The Disturbing Story of the Government's Secret Germ Laboratory; Linda Hunt, Secret Agenda; Bob Coen and Eric Nadler, Dead Silence: Fear and Terror on the Anthrax Trail; the National Security Archive's documentary history of U.S. Biological Warfare <span style="color:#881100">programs and <span style="color:#881100">The Sunshine Project.
* August 1945: Operation Paperclip, an Office of Strategic Services (OSS) program to import top Nazi scientists into the United States. Linda Hunt relates in her book, Secret Agenda, that Reich Health Leader (Reichsgesundheitsführer) Dr. Kurt Blome, was saved from the gallows due to American intervention. Blome admitted he had worked on Nazi bacteriological warfare projects and had experimented on concentration camp prisoners with bubonic plague and sarin gas at Auschwitz. After his acquittal at the 1947 Nuremberg Doctors' Trial, Blome was recruited by the U.S. Army Chemical Corps and advised the Pentagon on biological warfare. Walter Paul Emil Schreiber, a Wehrmacht general who assigned doctors to experiment on concentration camp prisoners and disbursed state funds for such experiments was another Paperclip recruit; in 1951, Schreiber went to work for the U.S. Air Force School of Medicine. Hubertus Strughold, the so-called "father of space medicine" discussed--and carried out--experiments on Dachau inmates who were tortured and killed; Strughold worked for the U.S. Air Force. Erich Traub, a rabid Nazi and the former chief of Heinrich Himmler's Insel Riems, the Nazi state's secret biological warfare research facility defects to the United States. Traub was brought to the U.S. by Paperclip operatives and worked at the Naval Medical Research Institute and gave "operational advice" to the CIA and the biowarriors at Ft. Detrick.
* September 1945: General Shiro Ishii's Unit 731, a secret research group that organized Japan's chemical and biological warfare programs is granted "amnesty" by Supreme Allied Commander in the Pacific, General Douglas MacArthur in exchange for providing America with their voluminous files on biological warfare. All mention of Unit 731 is expunged from the record of The Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal. During the war, Unit 731 conducted grisly experiments, including the vivisection of live prisoners, and carried out germ attacks on Chinese civilians and prisoners of war. According to researcher Sheldon H. Harris in Factories of Death: Japanese Biological Warfare 1932-45 and the American Cover-Up, Unit 731 scientists performed tests on prisoners with plague, cholera, smallpox, botulism and other infectious diseases. Their work led to the development of what was called a defoliation bacilli bomb and a flea bomb used by the Imperial Army to spread bubonic plague across unoccupied areas of China. The deployment of these lethal munitions provided the Imperial Army with the ability to launch devastating biological attacks, infecting agriculture, reservoirs, wells and populated areas with anthrax, plague-infected fleas, typhoid, dysentery and cholera. Rather than being prosecuted as war criminals, Unit 731 alumni became top bioweapons researchers. Ishii himself became an adviser at USAMRIID at Ft. Detrick.
1950: A U.S. Navy ship equipped with spray devices supplied by Ft. Detrick, sprayed serratia marcescens across the San Francisco Bay Area while the ship plied Bay waters. Supposedly a non-pathogenic microorganism, twelve mostly elderly victims die.
* Early 1950s: Army biological weapons research begins at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC). Vials of anthrax are transferred from Ft. Detrick to Plum Island. This information is contained in a now declassified report, "Biological Warfare Operations," Research and Development Annual Technical Progress Report, Department of the Army, 1951.
* 1951: Racist experiments are carried out. U.S. Army researchers deliberately expose African-Americans to the fungus Aspergillus fumigatus to discern whether they are more susceptible to infections caused by such organisms than white Europeans. Also in 1951, black workers at the Norfolk Supply Center in Virginia were exposed to crates contaminated with A. fumigatus spores.
* 1952: According to 1977 <span style="color:#881100">hearings by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the Subcommittee on Health and Scientific Research into Project MKULTRA, we discover the following: "Under an agreement reached with the Army in 1952, the Special Operations Division (SOD) at Fort Detrick was to assist CIA in developing, testing, and maintaining biological agents and delivery systems. By this agreement, CIA acquired the knowledge, skill, and facilities of the Army to develop biological weapons suited for CIA use."
* 1953: Frank Olson, a chemist with the Army's top secret Special Operations Division at Ft. Detrick was involved with biological weapons research and was tasked to the CIA for work on MKULTRA. In 1953, as Deputy Acting Head of Special Operations for the CIA, Olson is a close associate of psychiatrist William Sargant who was investigating the use of psychoactive drugs as an interrogation tool at Britain's Biological Warfare Centre at Porton Down. After being dosed with LSD without his knowledge by Dr. Sidney Gottlieb, the Agency's liaison to Ft. Detrick, Olson undergoes a severe psychological crisis. The scientist begins questioning the ethics of designing biological organisms as weapons of war. This does not sit well with his Agency and Army superiors. On November 24, 1953, Olson and a CIA minder, Robert Lashbrook, check into New York's Staler Hotel. He never checked out. According to Lashbrook, Olson had thrown himself through the closed shade and window, plunging 170 feet to his death. But because of his knowledge of CIA "terminal experiments" and other horrors conducted under MKULTRA, the Olson family believes the researcher was murdered. When Olson's son Eric has his father's body exhumed in 1994, the forensic scientist in charge of the examination determines that Olson had suffered blunt force trauma to the head prior to his fall through the window; the evidence is called "rankly and starkly suggestive of homicide." Norman G. Cournoyer, one of Olson's closet friends at Ft. Detrick also believes the scientist was murdered. When asked by the <span style="color:#881100">Baltimore Sun in 2004 why Olson was killed, Cournoyer said, "To shut him up. ... He wasn't sure we should be in germ warfare, at the end."
* 1955: Following a CIA biowarfare test in Tampa Bay, Florida, the area experiences a sharp rise in cases of Whooping Cough, including 12 deaths. The Agency had released bacteria it had obtained from the U.S. Army's Chemical and Biological Warfare Center at the Dugway Proving Grounds.
* 1956-1958: More racist experiments. The U.S. Army conducted live field tests on poor African-American communities in Savannah, Georgia and Avon Park, Florida. Mosquitoes were released into neighborhoods at ground level by "researchers" or by helicopter; residents were swarmed by the pest; many developed unknown illnesses and some even died. After the tests, Army personnel posing as health workers photographed and tested the victims, then disappeared. While specific details of the experiments remain classified, it has been theorized that a strain of Yellow Fever was used to test its efficacy as a bioweapon.
* 1962: A declassified CIA <span style="color:#881100">document obtained by the National Security Archive relates the following: "In November 1962 Mr. [redacted] advised Mr. Lyman Kirkpatrick that he had, at one time, been directed by Mr. Richard Bissell to assume responsibility for a project involving the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, then Premier, Republic of Congo. According to Mr. [redacted] poison was to have been the vehicle as he made reference to having been instructed to see Dr. Sidney Gottlieb in order to procure the appropriate vehicle." Gottlieb was the chief scientific adviser for the CIA's MKULTRA program.
* June 1966: The U.S. Army's Special Operations Division dispenses Bacillus subtilis var niger throughout the New York City subway system. More than a million people were exposed when Army operatives dropped light bulbs filled with the bacteria onto ventilation grates.
* December, 1967: The New York Times reports, "Fatal Virus Found in Wild Ducks on L.I." A virus never seen before in the Western hemisphere, began with ducks in Long Island at a site opposite Plum Island; the virus devastates the area's duck industry and by 1975 has spread across the entire continent.
* 1971: The U.S. Department of Agriculture proclaims that "Plum Island is considered the safest in the world on virus diseases." USDA's proof? "There has never been a disease outbreak among the susceptible animals maintained outside the laboratory since it was established."
* 1975: PIADC begins feeding live viruses to "hard ticks," including the Lone Star tick (never seen outside Texas prior to 1975). The Lone Star tick is a carrier of the Borelia burgdorferi (Bb) bacteria, the causal agent of Lyme Disease. The first cases of the illness are reported in Connecticut, directly across from the facility. Current epidemiological data conclusively demonstrate that the epicenter of all U.S. Lyme Disease cases is Plum Island. It is theorized that deer bitten by infected ticks swam across the narrow waterway separating the island from the mainland.
* September 1978: A PIADC news release relays the following: "Foot and Mouth Disease has been diagnosed in cattle in a pre-experimental animal holding facility at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center." A documented outbreak has occurred.
* 1979: An internal investigation of the FMD incident reveals massive, widespread failures in the containment systems at PIADC. A USDA Committee report recommends that "Lab 101 not be considered as a safe facility in which to do work on exotic disease agents until corrective action is accomplished."
* 1979: Despite containment failures and poor practices, USAMRIID undertakes the investigation of the deadly Zagazig 501 strain of Rift Valley Fever at PIADC. Producing symptoms similar to aerosolized hemorrhagic fevers such as Marburg and Ebola virus, the Army inoculates sheep that should have been destroyed as a result of the FMD outbreak with an experimental Rift Valley Fever vaccine. The experiments are conducted outdoors, in violation of the lab's primary directive prohibiting such work. During a 1977 Rift Valley outbreak in Egypt, some 200,000 people are infected and 700 others die excruciating deaths. A survey of blood serum taken before 1977 proved that the virus was not present in Egypt prior to the epidemic. By 2000, rampant outbreaks of the disease have occurred in Saudi Arabia and Yemen with the virus poised to unfurl its tentacles into Europe.
* 1982: A Federal review begun after the FMD outbreak concludes: "We believe there is a potentially dangerous situation and that without an immediate massive effort to correct deficiencies, a severe accident could result... [L]ack of preventive maintenance, [and] pressures by management to expedite programs have resulted in compromising safety."
* 1983: Six PIADC workers test positive for African Swine Fever virus. The workers are not notified of the test results which are conducted clandestinely during routine annual physical exams.
* 1991: USDA privatizes PIADC. A New Jersey firm, Burns & Roe Services Corporation low bids other competitors and is awarded the contract. In cost-cutting moves, the contractor scales back on safety and security measures in place for decades.
* June 1991: An underground cable supplying Lab 257 shorts out but is not replaced since there is no money left in the budget.
* August 1991: Hurricane Bob, a category 3 storm similar to Hurricane Katrina, slams into Plum Island, knocking down overhead power lines that connect Lab 257. The underground cable which was Lab 257's primary power source has not been repaired. Freezers containing virus samples defrost, air seals on lab doors are breached and animal holding room vents fail. PIADC's "fail safe" mechanism of "air dampers" to seal off the facility also fail. Melted virus samples mix with infected animal waste on lab floors as swarms of mosquitoes fill the facility.
* September 1991: The USDA denies that any system failures occurred during the hurricane. Whistleblowing workers in Lab 257 at the time of the blackout are fired in further cost-cutting moves and several subsequently develop mysterious undiagnosed diseases.
* 1992: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cite PIADC with hundreds of safety violations. When OSHA returned five years later, none of the violations have been corrected and discover 124 new violations.
* July 1992: Although USDA officially denies that PIADC conducts biological warfare research, fourteen officials from the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Pentagon visit Plum Island. Internal documents reveal that that the visit was "to meet with [Plum Island] staff regarding biological warfare." According to Carroll, "the visitors were part of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency reviewing the dual-use capabilities of the facility."
* Spring 1995: Lab 257 is closed. Although scheduled to be fully decontaminated and demolished in 1996 Carroll reports: "Lab 257 still stands today, rotting from weathered decay, harboring who knows what deep within."
* August 1999: The first four human cases of West Vile virus, a mosquito-borne pathogen never diagnosed in North America are diagnosed on Long Island. Horse farms within a five-mile radius of one another, directly opposite Plum Island, report horses dying following violent seizures. An investigation reveals that 25% of the horses in this small, localized area test positive for West Nile. The outbreak begins in August 1999 when birds, including half the exotic bird species in the Bronx Zoo begin dying mysteriously. The virus has an affinity for birds and the vector is soon identified as the mosquito. In 1999, the disease was confined to the New York City area, however by 2002, the Centers for Disease Control reports all but 6 of the lower 48 states reported West Nile virus in birds, mosquitos, animals or human populations. CDC estimates that some 200,000 people are infected nationally. During the initial outbreak in 1999, veterinary pathologist Tracey McNamara suspected a casual relationship between the bird die-offs and the human cases; CDC rebuffs her concerns. Through her persistent efforts, it is determined that the virus was indeed West Nile, a pathogen that had never been seen in North America. The CDC announces that West Nile virus was in the nation's blood supply when transplant patients who had no prior exposure to the pathogen develop the disease. The USDA's response? Deny, deny, deny? However, Jim House, a former PIADC scientist, believes that West Nile samples existed prior to 1999 on Plum Island. He told Carroll, "There were samples there, and it wasn't answered clearly to the public. They didn't honestly tell how many samples they had and that's when people started to get upset. When Carroll filed a Freedom of Information Act request for a catalog of germs held in the Plum Island virus library, he was turned down on grounds of "national security."
* September 1999: The New York Times reports that due to "the growing threat of biological terrorism" against America's food supply, USDA "is seeking money to turn the Plum Island Animal Disease Center ... into a top security laboratory where some of the most dangerous diseases known to man or beast can be studied."
* 1999: A Cold War-era document is declassified proving that in the early 1950s USAMRIID shipped twelve vials of weaponized anthrax (enough to kill one million people) to PIADC. In 1993 Newsday revealed that previously unclassified documents demonstrated Pentagon plans to disrupt the Soviet economy by spreading diseases to kill pigs, cattle and horses.
* 1999: Plans to "upgrade" PIADC by building a BSL-4 lab are killed when Congress pulls funding after a public outcry.
* September 2001: After the anthrax attacks, despite USDA denials that anthrax was ever present on the island, FBI investigators include the following questions in their polygraph examination of scientists under investigation: "Have you ever been to Plum Island?" "Do you know anyone who works at Plum Island?" "What do they do there?"
* December 2002: The New York Times reports "a three-hour power failure at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center last weekend renewed concerns about the safety of the high-security government laboratory." According to the Times, "the loss of power and failure of all three backup generators raised fears for the first time that the containment of infectious pathogens could have been seriously compromised at the laboratory."
* June 2003: President George W. Bush transfers control of PIADC to the Department of Homeland Security. The airspace over the island is unrestricted and the gates leading to Lab 101 remain open and unguarded.
* May 2004: In a sign that work on Plum Island is being shifted to "other sites," including those run by private contractors, DHS announces an $18 million grant to study Rift Valley fever, avian influenza and brucellosis.
* August 2004: DHS confirmed that an FMD outbreak "had spread briefly" in "two previously undisclosed incidents earlier this summer," The New York Times reports. A DHS spokesperson said the virus remained "within the laboratory's sealed biocontainment area" and that there "had be no risk" to human or animals. An investigation into the cause "was continuing."
* 2004: At the Medical University of Ohio, a researcher is infected with Valley Fever at the center's BSL-3 facility; Valley Fever is a biological weapons agent.
* February 2005: University of Iowa researchers conduct unauthorized genetic engineering experiments with the select agent Tularemia (rabbit fever). The Sunshine Project reports that researchers mixed genes from Tularemia species and introduced antibiotic resistant characteristics into the samples.
* March 2005: When a containment facility fails, workers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are exposed to tuberculosis when the BSL-3 "fail-safe" systems malfunction; a blower pushes contaminated air out of the work cabinet, infecting the workroom. The facility had been inspected one month prior to the accident by U.S. Army.
* Summer 2005: At the same Ohio facility a serious accident occurs when workers are infected with an aerosol of Valley Fever.
* October-November 2005: Dozens of samples thought to be harmless are received by the University of California at Berkeley. In fact, they are samples of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, a BSL-3 bioweapons agent due to its transmission as an aerosol. The samples are handled without adequate safety precautions; however, the community is never notified of the incident.
* August 2005: The whistleblowing watchdog group <span style="color:#881100">Tri-Valley Cares obtains documents in May 2009 proving that the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory had conducted "restricted experiments" with "select biological agents" at the facility. In 2005, LLNL "inadvertently" released anthrax at the lab in another incident that lab officials attempted to cover-up; five individuals were infected with the deadly pathogen.
* April 2006: Three Texas A&M "biodefense" researchers are infected with Q Fever, a biological weapons agent. Rather than reporting the incident to the CDC as required by law, Texas A&M officials cover-up the accident.
* August 2006: DHS announces that PIADC is "not on the rebuilding list" and a new site to study infectious diseases is being considered.
* January 2009: DHS announces that the new National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility will be built in Manhattan, Kansas.
* July 2009: Government Accountability Office investigators <span style="color:#881100">charge that DHS relied on "a rushed, flawed study" to locate the $700 million research facility for highly infectious pathogens "in a tornado-prone section of Kansas." Among other concerns, the GAO cites DHS's "flawed and outdated methodology" in its criticism. Those concerns are: "the ability of DHS and the federal government in general to safely operate a biosafety facility such as the proposed NBAF; the potential for a pathogenic release through accidents, natural phenomena, and terrorist actions; our May 2008 testimony that concluded that DHS had not conducted or commissioned a study to determine whether FMD research could be conducted safely on the U.S. mainland; natural phenomena such as tornadoes, earthquakes, and hurricanes that could cause catastrophic damage to the NBAF and result in the release of a pathogen; the possibility that an infected mosquito vector could escape, allowing a pathogen such as Rift Valley Fever virus to become permanently established in the United States; the economic effects of a release or a perceived release on the local, state, and national livestock industry."http://antifascist-calling.blogspot.com/20...d-national.html
08-14-2009, 05:01 PM
Biological Warfare and the National Security State: A Chronology
Absolutely pinned. Good going digging this up Hilly7
~ Veritas Vos Liberabit ~
08-16-2009, 01:24 PM
Biological Warfare and the National Security State: A Chronology
01-03-2010, 08:20 PM
RE: Biological Warfare and the National Security State: A Chronology
antifascist calling has some of the best researched stuff on the web... been reading this guy Tom Berghardt for a while now... of particular interest to me has been the ties between the ISI (pakistani intelligence,) the CIA, organized crime, drug and weapons runners, and Al Q. He has done some great research on the Mumbai attacks, but biowar and internal american datamining/spying seem to be the shticks he's been following most closely now.
here's his most recent on biowar:
Letting the Beast Out of the (Corporatist) Bottle: Obama Channels Bush on Bioweapons
The Obama administration's recent declaration on bioweapons would simply be another run-of-the-mill example of our "change" president's duplicity were it not such an unmitigated disaster.
Recapitulating sinister Cold War practices that informed American ruling class consensus when it came to secretly toying with nature's most deadly pathogens, (a) because they could, (b) because it was, and is, highly profitable and © because they got away with it, the profound failure by the administration to rein-in out-of-control corporate grifters, militarists and scientists thirsting after an endless flow of taxpayer dollars, have put us all on a potential glide path towards the abyss.
Since the roll-out of the Obama product-line January 21, on issues ranging from war and peace to economic justice and from civil liberties to healthcare, the "change" team exhibit the same callous disregard for disarmament proposals that characterized their Bushist predecessors in the Oval Office.
Nowhere is this reality so transparently delineated than by the administration's continuing efforts to derail plans to revitalize the moribund Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), rejecting binding verification protocols that would finally give the 1972 treaty teeth.
"Strengthening" the BWC: Killing it with Kindness
From her perch as U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, Ellen Tauscher, a former Democratic congresswoman from the San Francisco Bay Area (in other words, a feckless "liberal" who spent her career paying lip-service to the antiwar sentiments of her constituents--and then voting in favor of every blood-soaked imperialist adventure undertaken by the Bush regime) rejected international monitoring of military and pharmaceutical sites that might employ research for illicit purposes, e.g., the fabrication of banned biological weapons.
"The Obama administration will not seek to revive negotiations on a verification protocol to the convention," Tauscher told delegates December 9 at the annual meeting of the States Parties to the Biological Weapons Convention in Geneva.
The position outlined last week by the administration eerily follows in the footsteps of the previous government. In 2001, there was broad support internationally for revitalizing the BWC draft Protocol; a long, circuitous process undertaken back in 1991.
But during these earlier negotiations, the U.S. Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) released a position paper opposing the routine inspection of laboratories and other research facilities on the grounds of safeguarding "confidential business information," a position they have reiterated today.
This, along with U.S. Defense Department opposition killed the deal after the American delegation, under instructions from arch neocon John Bolton who then held Tauscher's brief, argued that an international inspections regime would put U.S. "national security" at "risk" by allowing spot checks of suspected U.S. weapons sites.
Revealing a warmer and fuzzier, though no less obstructionist side than blustery Bolton, the Undersecretary mounted a charm offensive in Geneva, touting the National Security Council's (NSC) "National Strategy for Countering Biological Threats" as a major transformation of the U.S. position. It wasn't. Tauscher told delegates: "The United States intends to implement this [NSC] strategy through renewed cooperation and more thorough consultations with our international counterparts in order to prevent the misuse and abuse of science while working together to strengthen health security around the world."
However, not a single word in the 23-page NSC document addresses the vital issue of verification. Indeed, while no-holds-barred inspections of nuclear weapons' facilities undergird international treaties governing the destruction of warheads and missiles, thus ensuring compliance with treaty obligations by states, when it comes to biological weapons the "National Strategy" skirts the question entirely. Why?
While the United States claims that it will "advance policies and practices that establish and reinforce norms against the misuse of the knowledge and capabilities that arise from the life sciences while encouraging their free and open availability for peaceful and beneficial use," a call to "develop and employ complementary and multi-layered systems for influencing, identifying, inhibiting, and interdicting biological threats" does nothing to constrain state or corporate actors from exploiting the life sciences for nefarious ends, to wit, work with dual use select agents that can be diverted into surreptitious weapons' programs.
This is crucial. While the document asserts that America's "relationships with the United Nations, international organizations, foreign governments, and the private sector are critical to the success of our efforts" the fact is, the "private sector" and the secret state's own Defense Department are dead-set against any initiative that give international arms' control monitors access to their facilities.
Claiming that the United States "has carefully reviewed previous efforts to develop a verification protocol," the administration has "determined that a legally binding protocol would not achieve meaningful verification or greater security."
Echoing Tauscher and the NSC's lame reasoning, Barry Kellman, president of the International Security and Biopolicy Institute told The Hill he "agreed," and told the publication "that given the rapid evolution of the biological market, technologies that once could only be made in a laboratory can now be made anywhere, so it would be impossible to verify that a country is holding true to the convention protocols."
Really? Perhaps then, Mr. Kellman would care to enlighten us as to which select agent was used in the first and to date, only, bioterrorist attack of the 21st century, and where pray tell it might have come from.
Editing Out the Secret State: The 2001 Anthrax Attacks
As has generally been accepted by scientific experts and as The Baltimore Sun revealed back in 2001, "for nearly a decade, U.S. Army scientists at Dugway Proving Ground in Utah have made small quantities of weapons-grade anthrax that is virtually identical to the powdery spores used in the [October 2001] mail attacks."
Investigative journalist Scott Shane disclosed that Dugway's Life Sciences Division "made hundreds of kilograms of anthrax for bombs designed to kill enemy troops over hundreds of square miles" during the Cold War.
Indeed, the "extraordinary concentration" of the finely-milled powdered anthrax mailed to the media and members of Congress was "in the range of 1 trillion spores per gram" which "meant that the letter could have contained 200 million times the average dose necessary to kill a person."
Researchers at Northern Arizona University determined that "the genetic fingerprint of the mailed anthrax is indistinguishable from that of the Ames 'reference strain,' which is the strain used most often at Fort Detrick and Dugway, according to a scientist familiar with the genetic work," the Sun reported.
Years later, former Ft. Detrick deputy commander Richard Spertzel told investigative journalists Bob Coen and Eric Nadler that "the material that was in the Daschle/Leahy letter was "1.5 to 3 microns in particle size" and characterized the refinement "as super sophisticated ... phenomenal." When investigators attempted to examine samples under a microscope, "it readily floated off the slides."
In other words, the "genetic fingerprint" and "extraordinary concentration" of the weaponized anthrax used in the attack would require a team of individuals, and not a proverbial "lone nut" to produce a biotoxin possessing such exquisitely lethal characteristics. The inescapable conclusion is that the anthrax used to murder five people, sicken dozens of others and terrorize the rest of us, could only have come from a state program or one operating under contract to a government agency.
Could the deadly biotoxin have been diverted from a U.S. defense facility or corporate lab by a group of "black box" scientists operating under the radar for their own nefarious ends, i.e. strengthening the state's repressive hand within the social-political context of the 9/11 attacks? It is certainly possible and cannot be ruled out.
As I previously reported, Global Security Newswire (GSN) disclosed in June that "a recently completed inventory at a major U.S. Army biodefense facility found nearly 10,000 more vials of potentially lethal pathogens than were known to be stored at the [Ft. Detrick] site."
According to reporter Martin Matishak, the 9,220 samples discovered "included the bacterial agents that cause plague, anthrax and tularemia; Venezuelan, Eastern and Western equine encephalitis viruses; Rift valley fever virus; Junin virus; Ebola virus; and botulinum neurotoxins."
While Ft. Detrick's deputy commander Col. Mark Kortepeter claimed there are "multiple layers of security" and that "a lot of buffers [would] prevent anyone who shouldn't be in the laboratory from getting in in the first place and then preventing them taking something out with them," this dodges the question of whether someone who was authorized to be inside Ft. Detrick or any of the other 400 U.S. facilities that have Biosafety Level-3 or Biosafety Level-4 laboratories, could smuggle out deadly toxic substances.
The New York Times reported December 9, that Tauscher rejects a strict regulatory regimen that would monitor state bioweapons research and development because of the "regulatory burdens that verification would place on the American pharmaceutical industry and on the military's bio-defense research activities."
Given the available facts surrounding the 2001 anthrax terrorist incident and the FBI's subsequent cover-up, Tauscher's fear of "regulatory burdens" on the "pharmaceutical industry" and the state's own "bio-defense research activities" are certainly misplaced and should be viewed with suspicion.
Big Pharma and Congress: Best Friends Forever!
While journalists and researchers have explored ethically-challenged relationships amongst former Defense Department officials and the weapons' industry, most recently by USA Today, and have described the oft-cited revolving door as entrée to an exclusive and highly lucrative good 'ol boys club; call it a Beltway version of a retirement village for Pentagon clock-punchers.
Inquiring minds can't help but wonder: does the same clubby atmosphere pervade, and inform, the policy decisions made by denizens of the Bioweapons-Industrial-Complex? Let's take a look!
Take the Alliance for Biosecurity, a Big Pharma lobby shop aligned with the Center for Biosecurity of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), as a starting point. Self-described as "a collaboration among the Center for Biosecurity and 13 pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies," one "whose mission is to work in the public interest to improve prevention and treatment of severe infectious diseases--particularly those diseases that present global security challenges," one discovers that similar relationships between academia, industry and government abound.
Since Antifascist Calling first reported on Alliance efforts to increase state funding of biotechnology and "biodefense" research in August, all references to the Alliance for Biosecurity have been scrubbed from UPMC's web site. Indeed, all traces of the lobby shop's activities, including group policy statements and testimony before relevant congressional committees have simply vanished.
But why, pray tell, would they take evasive action in the first place? And more importantly, what do they have to hide? As it turns out, quite a lot.
According to The Washington Times, when the Center for Biosecurity's director, Dr. Tara O'Toole, was nominated for her current post as Undersecretary of Science and Technology at the Department of Homeland Security, she had "served as a key adviser for a lobbying group funded by the pharmaceutical industry that has asked the government to spend more money for anthrax vaccines and biodefense research."
Reporter Tim McElhatton disclosed that O'Toole "never reported her involvement with the lobbying group called the Alliance for Biosecurity in a recent government ethics filing." The Washington Times further reported that the Alliance "has spent more than $500,000 lobbying Congress and federal agencies--including Homeland Security--since 2005, congressional records show."
"In written testimony to Congress" according to McElhatton, "Dr. O'Toole said the alliance was 'created to protect the Center for Biosecurity's status as an honest broker between the biopharma companies and the U.S. government'." As is well known, $500,000 buys much in the way of "honesty" in the halls of Congress!
In an October 31 letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) "signed by Dr. O'Toole and two other alliance officials, the group called on Congress to include more than $900 million for the 'advanced development of medical countermeasures' to be administered by the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority."
The Washington Times revealed that the letter was also "signed by the chief executive officer of member company PharmAthene, David Wright, who was one of the two first co-chairmen for the alliance after its creation in 2005."
McElhatton reported that according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing "Mr. Wright's company has a big financial interest in securing work from the authority," and that "PharmAthene has been trying to win a contract administered by the authority to supply 25 million doses of an anthrax vaccine to the national stockpile."
According to a press release, the firm announced that PharmAthene "will participate in and present data at the HHS Public Health Emergency Medical Countermeasures Enterprise (PHEMCE) workshop and BARDA Industry Day taking place in Washington, DC Dec. 2-4, 2009."
Indeed, the PHEMCE work shop "will bring together public and private sector stakeholders for a dynamic dialogue on the current state of medical countermeasure preparedness, PHEMCE initiatives in the past year, and plans for moving forward to enhance national capabilities to respond to a public health emergency."
When "moving forward" entails the expenditure of nearly one billion dollars for "countermeasure preparedness," one can be sure that companies on the make will be all ears!
Former Bushist Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tommy Thompson, averred that the PHEMCE workshop "is very timely given the WMD Commission's conclusion that terrorists are much more likely to attack America with a biological weapon than a nuclear weapon."
Despite the fact that weapons' experts have not reached a consensus on the Commission's alarmist report, given the extreme difficulty faced by "terrorists" to fabricate biotoxins into an effective weapon, Thompson claims, "now that our national experts have made this warning clear, we need to take the immediate steps necessary to protect against potential biological attacks against the U.S. homeland. In particular, we need to move forward efforts to build and stockpile appropriate biological countermeasures, such as next-generation anthrax vaccines, recombinant influenza vaccines, and novel antivirals."
Among the "experts" consulted by the WMD Commission were none other than Dr. O'Toole's Center for Biosecurity who have called for the expenditure of some $3.4 billion annually on "countermeasure development to reach 90 percent chance of success defending the country against bioterrorism threats."
Nowhere however, in the PharmAthene press release is it disclosed that the former HHS Secretary has a proprietary interest in securing federal dollars allegedly to "enhance national capabilities" to better respond "to a public health emergency." Currently, Thompson is the President of Logistics Health, Inc., a firm that does extensive business with the U.S. Department of Defense for what it euphemistically calls "military readiness."
Craig Holman, the legislative director of the watchdog group Public Citizen, said that O'Toole's lack of transparency "definitely and clearly runs counter to the intent of the law."
What was the response by Senate Democrats, quick to denounce the "culture of corruption" of their coconspirators across the aisle? According to The New York Times, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid "slammed Republicans for slowing down, and in some cases, blocking the confirmation of nominees for various posts in the Obama administration."
Neither Reid, nor for that matter the Times, breathed a word about O'Toole's obvious conflict of interest and cosy relationships with biodefense firms she would presumably oversee from her perch at DHS.
Instead, we are lavished with empty rhetoric from Reid who told the Times: "'For that position, [DHS Undersecretary] President Obama nominated an expert in combating both pandemics and bioterror attacks,' Mr. Reid said, adding: 'Imagine that: Americans are bracing against a flu epidemic here at home and threats of terrorism from abroad, the President nominated someone highly experienced in both of those areas, and Republicans are saying no'."
Despite revelations of serious ethical breaches, O'Toole was confirmed by the Senate November 4.
The Ties that Bind (And Pay Handsomely!)
The close proximity of O'Toole, the Center for Biosecurity and now, the Department of Homeland Security to Alliance members such as Bavarian Nordic; Cangene Corporation; DOR BioPharma, Inc.; DynPort Vaccine Company LLC; Elusys Therapeutics, Inc.; Emergent BioSolutions; Hematech, Inc.; Human Genome Sciences, Inc.; NanoViricides, Inc.; Pfizer Inc.; PharmAthene; Siga Technologies, Inc.; Unither Virology LLC, , as well as associate Alliance member, the spooky, CIA-connected Battelle Memorial Institute, might just help explain the Obama administration's opposition to strengthening the BWC.
According to the Center for Responsive Politic's OpenSecrets.org database, the Alliance for Biosecurity have contributed some $600,000 to congressional grifters since 2005 through the Philadelphia law firm Drinker, Biddle & Reath.
While chump change when it comes to assuring that the best congresspeople money can buy stay "on-message," OpenSecrets reports that since 1990, Big Pharma and their allies in the health products industry have spent a whopping $177,030,005 on "influence and lobbying." Breaking down the numbers, the watchdog group avers that the bulk of contributions have benefited Republicans ($111,405,078 or 63%) vs. Democrats ($65,056,643 or 37%).
In The Washington Times piece cited above, ethics groups have said that the Alliance's set-up "is an example of what critics call "stealth lobbying," in which like-minded companies form a loosely knit compact and spend lots of money lobbying the government. The arrangement is legal, but it exposes loopholes that prevent the public from finding out how much money each company pays and whether one business exerts more control over the others."
Alliance legal counsel Anita Cicero told the paper, "the group is complying with all applicable federal laws" and that the group "does not generate income, does not have a bank account and does not owe taxes." She told the paper the organization "was formed so companies, academic institutions and the government" could work together to "accelerate the development of therapeutic and vaccine countermeasures."
"Countermeasures" that markedly add to the corporatist bottom line.
As Antifascist Calling previously reported, the National Biodefense Science Board (NBSB), chock-a-block with industry insiders and academic shills, posted an August 11 notice buried in the Federal Register.
Rescued from oblivion by the whistleblowing intelligence and security web site Cryptome, we were informed that NBSB's "Market & Sustainability Work Group" seek to hand over even more cash to industry partners.
Seeking public comment on the group's working document, "Inventory of Issues Constraining or Enabling Industry Involvement in Medical Countermeasure Efforts," NBSB is seeking to further "streamline" the Food and Drug Administration's already lax review process in a move meant to further "incentivize" industry by "increased federal funding for advanced development, in the form of cost-reimbursement contracts and rewarding private-capital investments with milestone payments at procurement."
Under NBSB's proposal, the drug industry stands to grab "reimbursement of development costs + 15%, with return-on-working-capital at 22%, and cost-of-money-for-capital at 15%."
If said corporate patriots swing into action during a national emergency, then "compensation if commercial product(s) during emergencies (e.g., lost sales, market share, delayed licensing" are fully paid by the federal government. Talk about a robust "public-private partnership" in action!
But wait, there's more!
GSN reported in October that Alliance member Human Genome Sciences Inc. had earned $160 million from the federal government for sales of its ABthrax vaccine, despite a Food and Drug Administration report that stated although the product performed better than a placebo (!) "it is still unknown how well these models and results predict efficacy in humans." Despite these equivocal findings, "Washington has placed an order for 65,000 doses of ABthrax for the country's emergency medicines reserve."
Now that's what I call a streamlined review process!
Earlier in October, GSN disclosed that Alliance member Emergent BioSolutions won $4.9 million in funding from the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a branch of the National Institutes of Health, "for the development of a new anthrax vaccine that could require only two doses to provide protection."
As investigative journalists and filmmakers Bob Coen and Eric Nadler revealed in Anthrax War and a companion book, Dead Silence: Fear and Terror on the Anthrax Trail, Emergent BioSolutions has a very interesting pedigree indeed.
When the State of Michigan auctioned off the Michigan Biological Products Institute (MBPI) in 1998, standing in the wings with a check for $24 million were Lebanese financiers Ibrahim El-Hibri and son Fuad, "an international telecom magnate" according to Coen and Nadler. During this period, the firm the El-Hibri's had founded after scooping-up MBPI for a song, BioPort, "held the exclusive contract to provide the U.S. government with the anthrax vaccine, and that in addition to the physical plant, the Michigan sale included $130 million in contracts with the Department of Defense."
During their investigation, Coen and Nadler learned "that the El-Hibris had participated in the privatization of portions of the United Kingdom's leading biodefense facility, Porton Down, a decade earlier" and that "with the acquisition of the Michigan plant, the family had planted stakes in the only two leading anthrax vaccine producers in the West." What makes this particularly troubling according to Coen and Nadler, is the fact that the "El-Hibri's did not have science backgrounds or biotech business experience before the Porton takeover--but were clearly canny investors."
Alarmingly, "the troubling fact [was] that the sale of MBPI to BioPort had transferred control of a sensitive government program to a network of companies, one of which was headquartered in the Dutch Caribbean."
Indeed, "Fuad El-Hibri himself informed Congress in 1999 that the controlling shareholder in BioPort--Intervac LLC--was partly owned by I and F Holdings NV, a Netherlands Antilles investment company owned by his father."
None of this troubled Congress in the least since, as Coen and Nadler relate "no one on the House Committee on Government Reform asked him if El-Hibri senior had any partners in I and F Holdings." These disturbing facts led the investigative journalists to wonder: "Who actually owned the largest anthrax vaccine manufacturing plant in the West, if not the world? Who really knew."
Fast forward a decade and according to GSN BioPort, now Emergent BioSolutions, "is the producer of BioThrax, the only vaccine licensed by the Food and Drug Administration for the prevention of anthrax disease. The company is also developing other anthrax treatments and countermeasures against diseases such as botulism and hepatitis B." Funds for developing the vaccine were provided "through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009."
Last month, GSN revealed that Alliance member, Danish firm Bavarian Nordic will receive some $40 million for a freeze-dried version of the firm's Imvamune vaccine for smallpox. GSN reported that "Bavarian Nordic has received $680 million in contracts for Imvamune from the U.S. government. Washington has ordered 20 million doses of the vaccine in its liquid-frozen form and has the option of buying another 60 million," according to a company press release.
This, despite the fact that smallpox has disappeared as an international public health threat. However as the Sunshine Project's Edward Hammond revealed in Emerging Technologies: Genetic Engineering and Biological Weapons, when a U.S. research team at the State University of New York in Stony Brook synthesized poliovirus "from scratch," the responsible bioresearch community were alarmed.
Hammond commented that "the experiment exemplifies possibilities that generate real problems if similar techniques become applicable to agents such as smallpox. Today it is unlikely (though not completely impossible) that countries apart from Russia and the USA have access to smallpox virus. This is the basis of the current threat assessments with regard to smallpox, which rate the likelihood of a smallpox attack very low. Should it become possible in a few years to build smallpox virus in the laboratory, the situation would be turned upside down. The relative security that can be assumed today (at least for most countries in the world) will evaporate."
Since Hammond's piece first appeared in 2003, is it plausible that synthetic smallpox could have been ginned-up in a top secret U.S. research facility, hence contingency planning by secret state officials to have a freeze-dried, hence longer-lived vaccine on hand? We don't know.
Examining only the three above-named firms, OpenSecrets reports that since 2000, Human Genome Sciences has expended some $24 million since 2002 for lobbying; Emergent BioSolutions has spent some $10.9 on lobbying efforts since 2003, and Bavarian Nordic has spent some $21.7 lobbying Congress since 2002.
Given the enormous outlay of taxpayer largesse to firms that have profited handily under the Project BioShield Act of 2004, a grotesque piece of Bushist legislative flotsam, and the nearly $60 billion dollars reported by the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation spent on so-called biodefense by the federal government, one can only conclude that lobbying activities by Big Pharma is an investment well-spent!
Keep in mind too, that the expenditure of federal dollars for Project BioShield and related programs do not include black budget allocations concealed by the CIA and Pentagon under a welter of above top secret Special Access Programs, a subject that Antifascist Calling will explore in future reports.
As the Sunshine Project's Edward Hammond has warned: "Rapid developments in biotechnology, genetics and genomics pose a variety of environmental, ethical, political, and social questions. And because they open up tremendous new possibilities for biological warfare, these technological developments have grave implications for peace and security."
We must view the Obama administration's cynical opposition to strengthening the Biological Weapons Convention because of the "regulatory burdens that verification would place on the American pharmaceutical industry and on the military's bio-defense research activities" as a dire international public health emergency, one which University of Illinois constitutional law professor Francis Boyle, the author of the 1989 Bioweapons Anti-Terrorism Act, has called "a catastrophe waiting to happen."
We proceed blindly along this path at our own peril.
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