U.S. Development of Biological Weapons Watch What We Say, Not What We Do
In April Professor Francis Boyle presented a faculty lecture at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on Bio- Warfare / Terrorism / Weapons. In it he recounted how President Nixon and Henry Kissinger chose to end the U.S. offensive biological warfare program because these items cannot be controlled and the US had a massive superiority in nuclear weapons. The US became a party to the Biological Weapons Convention of 1972 that prohibits research, development, testing of biological weapons, agents, components, etc., except for prophylactic and defensive purposes.
But as Professor Boyle notes, when the Reagan administration came to power, "I point out that many of the same people in the Reagan administration dealing with these issues are now back under Bush Jr". He also stated they "took the position that we were going to exploit our superior technology with respect to weapons across the board." In 1985 Professor Boyle was asked by the Council for Responsible Genetics (CRG) to participate in a Congressional Briefing on Capitol Hill and "explain what was going on here, what the Reagan people really were up to and how dangerous this actually was." Then he was requested by CRG to
"draft the legislation to deal with this problem and in particular the abuse of DNA genetic engineering technology for biowarfare purposes. I worked in conjunction with the CRG scientists and we also worked with the biotech industry. At that time the biotech industry had no desire to get into biowarfare technology -- Monsanto and the others. So they supported our legislation.
"What happened? The Reagan administration fought it tooth and nail. They knew full well that my legislation was designed to stop what they were doing at the Pentagon. I made it very clear that research, development, testing of such biowarfare agents would be punished by life in prison. I do not believe in the death penalty for any reason so I did not put it in there. But it is in there now -- life in prison.
"What we did not know at that time when the Reagan people were fighting us tooth and nail is that they had also authorized at least forty shipments of weapons-specific biological agents to Iraq from the American Type Culture Collection, which is a big scientific institute. It has cultures for scientific purposes of every type of exotic disease in the world. You name it, it is there. It was clear the Reagan administration was shipping all this to Iraq knowing full well Iraq was going to develop biological weapons and use them against Iran, and yet they did it anyway. Now at the time my legislation was coming through we did not know this. It came out later. So we got nowhere with the legislation." 
After Bush Sr took office in 1993 all opposition to this legislation was stopped and, after being repackaged, it was adopted unanimously by both Houses of Congress, signed into law by the President who then wound down this program. However, by the time the program was stopped, serious damage had already been done by covertly shipping some of the biological agents developed under Reagan to Iraq. Since the close of World War II, and the institutionalizing of government secrecy codified in laws like the National Security Act of 1947, again and again we have seen the tragic results of officials of United States government policy seeking to shirk their constitutional oaths and responsibilities by hiding behind the mantle of unaccountability and deception. Fortunately, there are still moments when the veil is lifted, and we are able to see how our government actually operates.
Just this month, Senator Robert Byrd read into the congressional record the full text of a September 23rd Newsweek article by Christopher Dickey and Evan Thomas, "How Saddam Happened". At the same time Senator Byrd asked Defense Secretary Rumsfeld "did the United States help Iraq to acquire the building blocks of biological weapons during the Iran-Iraq war? Are we in fact now facing the possibility of reaping what we have sewn?" Rumsfeld's dissembling and obfuscated responses were a classic example of how government officials strive to deny any accountability for prior actions, the very antithesis of a democratic and free society in action.
At one point, Byrd crystalized a central tenet of constitutional government that Bush II consistently rejects and strives to ignore: "The American people do not need obfuscation and denial. The American people need the truth. The American people need to know whether the United States is in large part responsible for the very Iraqi weapons of mass destruction which the administration now seeks to destroy." The venality and contempt for democratic processes of open information and honest government conduct by officials occupying significant positions of authority like Rumsfeld, is a tragic and deeply disturbing fact of the life of our time.
"[T]o get back to the biological agents shipped to Iraq. As you know in the fall of 1990 as we were going to war against Iraq, Bush and Cheney ordered all U.S. armed forces to take experimental medical vaccines for anthrax and botulin. I had no idea why but the reason why was very simple. It came out later. Under Reagan they had shipped these biological agents to Iraq, Iraq had weaponized them, and we knew full well our troops would be vulnerable. So using some of the same technologies, we put these experimental medical vaccines into our own troops, 500,000 of them. Today they suffer from the Gulf War Syndrome. The Pentagon still denies it, but it is a lie.
"Indeed, I worked over in Britain on an expose there, The Dirty War, a documentary film. Finally the British government admitted there is such a thing as the Gulf War Syndrome. I personally believe they go back to these vaccines. They were experimental medical vaccines in violation of the Nuremberg Code on medical experimentation. I argued this point in the court martial proceedings of Captain Doctor Yolanda Huett-Vaughn, who was court martialed in part for refusing to give these vaccines. And later Senator Jay Rockefeller held hearings in which he also accused Bush, Cheney and Powell of committing a Nuremberg crime on our own troops. Today approximately a minimum of 50,000 U.S. military personnel suffer from what is called the Gulf War Syndrome. The tip off here is that the French Army rejected the vaccines because they knew they were experimental. . . .
"Then what happened? For some reason, in the last two years of the Clinton administration, Clinton decided to get back into this dual-use biological warfare work. And again began putting hundreds of millions of dollars into the stuff, to again research and develop every known exotic disease one could think of, developing the components that then get turned over to the Pentagon where they could be assembled into weapons. This is going on as we speak now.
"Finally, the New York Times broke the story. Yes, the United States government is violating the Biological Weapons Convention. The CIA operation Bacchus. We are developing an immune resistant strain of anthrax with DNA genetic engineering. We have developed super weapons-grade anthrax in quantities and strengths that have no legitimate defensive purpose at all. We had a bomb factory down there where we are simulating the production of biological agents. It is very clear that we are now back into the business of research and development of biological agents, in clear cut violation of the Biological Weapons Convention and my statute the Biological Weapons Anti-terrorism Act of 1989.
"That then is why the Bush Jr. administration repudiated the verification protocol for the Biological Weapons Convention. These negotiations had been underway for quite some time. The Convention has no verification provisions. Finally, this fall all of a sudden out of nowhere, Bush Jr. repudiated the whole thing and tried to kill it. Why? Because it is clear we are involved in this type of work. Whether through the Pentagon, the CIA, or their contractors, or all of them." 
Last May a news release by The Sunshine Project (a non-profit dedicated to providing research and facts about biological weapons and biotechnology) announced "US Armed Forces Push for Offensive Biological Weapons Development". Its information sheds significant light on omissions by Bush II officials about the threat of biological weapons.
"The uncovering of these proposals for an offensive biological weapons program comes at a critical political juncture. The US has rejected a legally-binding system of United Nations inspections of suspected biological weapons facilities. At the same time, the Bush administration is aggressively accusing other countries of developing biological weapons and expanding its so-called `Axis of Evil' based in large part on allegations of foreign biological weapons development.
"But it is increasingly apparent that there are serious questions about the United States' own compliance with the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC). While US allegations against other countries are generally undocumented, the proposals described in this press release were recently released to the Sunshine Project under the Freedom of Information Act and have been placed on the internet for independent analysis.
"Explicitly for Offense: In the murky world of biological weapons research, many technologies are `dual use', that is, they have both offensive and peaceful applications. The alleged transfer of dual use technologies, such as vaccine research, is a basis of charges made against Cuba on May 6th by US Under Secretary of State John Bolton. The US armed forces documents released here, however, are not about `dual use' technology, they are explicit proposals for offensive weaponsmaking.
"According to the Naval Research Laboratory, `It is the purpose of the proposed research to capitalize on the degradative potential of . . . naturally occurring microorganisms, and to engineer additional, focused degradative capabilities into [genetically modified microorganisms], to produce systems that will degrade the warfighting capabilities of potential adversaries.' The Air Force proposes `genetically engineered catalysts made by bacteria that destroy . . . Catalysts can be engineered to destroy whatever war material is desired.' The proposals indicate these weapons might be used by all the armed forces, including the Special Forces and in peacekeeping and anti-narcotics operations (See the Resources Page for copies of these documents)
"Additional Documents Suppressed: These proposals are probably only the tip of the iceberg. For over one year, the Marine Corps has delayed response to a Sunshine Project Freedom of Information Act request that now includes 147 unclassified documents. The two proposals described here are part of a recent first release of 8 items from that request. 139 related legal and weapons development documents are unreleased. The Marine Corps says the delay is due to a lack of manpower.
"The National Academies are also suppressing related documents. As part of the Marine Corps-commissioned study, in 2001 at least 77 apparently chemical and biological weapons-related documents were deposited in the NAS Public Access Records File, a library open for inspection and copying by all persons (see a bibliography here). After the Sunshine Project requested copies of these documents on March 12th 2002, the National Academies placed a `security hold' on the public file. High-ranking NAS officials have refused to explain who ordered the hold, or to offer a credible explanation as to why it exists (see correspondence here). The Sunshine Project believes that NAS is under pressure from high-ranking US officials to Enron the public record to avoid release of politically sensitive material. Rather than assist a purge of the public record, NAS -- a leading US non-profit scientific body -- must condemn and release the proposals for illegal weapons that is has received.
"Legal Implications: The research proposed by the Air Force and Navy raises serious legal questions. Under the US Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act, development of biological weapons, including those that attack materials, is subject to federal criminal and civil penalties. The Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, which the US and 143 other countries have ratified, prohibits development, acquisition, and stockpiling of any biological agents not justifiable for peaceful or prophylactic purposes. There is no such justification for the offensive research proposed by the Navy and Air Force. The proposals are certain to weigh heavily on all countries minds as they prepare for Novembers reconstituted 5th Review Conference of the BTWC." 
As has been the case for decades, when suppression of information is justified under the cloak of "national security," or, as described above, "politically sensitive material," it usually turned out to be a cover for illicit or criminal activity.
The United States has rejected a legally-binding system of United Nations inspections of suspected U.S. biological weapons facilities while at the same time accusing other countries -- including Iraq -- of developing biological weapons. Simultaneously, the United States armed forces, in direct violation of the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989, is actively pushing for offensive biological weapons development, despite the fact such activity is illegal and subject to federal criminal and civil penalties.
Professor Boyle and Nelson Mandela speak truth to power when they state it is the United States that is the threat to peace as does the Friends Committee on National Legislation when they summarize this concern:
"The events of September 11 did not involve nuclear or biological weapons, though the events did raise legitimate concerns about possible future use of such weapons. But the Administration, with help from many in Congress, is turning the U.S. away from international cooperation in arms control and disarmament that could reduce such threats. U.S. and global security are diminished as a result." 
Concerning the anthrax attacks last fall, Professor Boyle addressed the issue of who had the means by pointing out that the "technology behind the Daschle letter, and later the Leahy letter, was very sophisticated."
"Trillion spores per gram. That is super-weapons grade. Second, tied in there was a special treatment to eliminate electrostatic charges so it would float in the air. You have to have special equipment, special treatment, special everything.
"The only people who would have the capability to do this would be individuals who either are currently employed by the Department of Defense or the CIA doing biowarfare work, or had been employed by the Department of Defense or the CIA doing biowarfare work. And would probably have access to one of the government's biowarfare labs. This stuff is so dangerous. You could not do it unless you were wearing one of these space suits. And there are only a handful of these labs in the country.
"That very day I called up a senior official in the FBI who handles terrorism and counter-terrorism, he knows who I am because of the work I have done in this field, and discussed this matter with him. I said: Look there are very few people who have this capability. I have a list of them under the Reagan administration. That is where you have to start to look. I went down the list and said, This person worked with this government lab, that person worked with that government lab, etc., etc. He said, We are coordinating our efforts with Ft. Deitrick. I said, Ft. Deitrick could very well be the problem here. They are one of the few labs with the capability to do something like this. And you could have a Timothy McVeigh type situation where someone who was once on the reservation is now off the reservation. So you need to start looking at this list of these people who have worked with the Pentagon. I do not have a list of the CIA people, and my guess is you are going to find your person. He told me he would pass the information along to the right people.
"This was just before I ran the CRG workshop at Harvard on Biowarfare the first weekend in November. There my colleague Jonathan King, Professor of Microbiology at MIT and the head of their electron-microscope lab, publicly stated the same exact conclusion independently of me. He had reached the exact same conclusion that I had. Likewise Dr. Barbara Rosenberg who is now with the Federation of American Scientists, independent of both King and me later reached the exact same conclusion: that whoever did this was working for the United States government now, in the Pentagon or the CIA or had in the immediate past, and must have had access to a U.S. biowarfare lab." 
Back in the early 1970s Nixon and Kissinger chose to end the U.S. offensive biological warfare program for the essential reason that these items cannot be controlled. When people are able to work within a system of legally-sanctioned secrecy pursuing programs that would never survive the light of public scrutiny and inclusive debate, the result is precisely what we have seen and are seeing: a steady, continuing erosion of global security for all. The rejection of international cooperation in arms control and disarmament that seeks to reduce such global threats as biological, chemical and nuclear weapons -- which Bush II is pursuing with frightening determination -- does not serve the needs of humanity and our Earth. Who truly benefits from the renunciation of such international cooperation?
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