June 3, 2006
"You will do well to
try to innoculate the Indians by means of blanketts, as well as to try
every other method that can serve to extirpate this execrable race..."
Approval by Lord Gen. Jeffrey Amherst, British Commander-in-Chief of
America, for Col. H. Bouquet's suppression of Pontiac's Rebellion with
smallpox laced-blankets, July 1763. The attack partially backfired when
Bouquet infected his own troops.
The United States has come
along way since our British ancestors used small pox poisoned blankets
as a biological weapon against Indians. But, sadly, biological
weapons are still with us - indeed they are becoming a major thrust of
the U.S. military and a threat to humanity.Expansion of Bio-Weapons Activity Will Make America, and the World, Less Safe
Ft. Detrick in
Frederick, MD, just 45 miles away from the nation's capitol, is going
through a massive expansion into the largest bio-weapons facility in
the world. The federal government is installing a 220 acre campus
that will bring together numerous federal agencies anchored by a
massive U.S. Army building - 22 acres in size. The National
Interagency Biodefense Campus (NIBC) is likely to ignite a bio-weapons
only is this a multi-billion dollar misuse of federal funds, but it
will encourage our adversaries to develop similar programs, lead to the
invention of new, infectious agents and increase the risk of diversion
of U.S. made bio-weapons to our adversaries. If the government really
want to increase the safety of Americans the U.S. would invest in the
public health system, strengthen international controls and work to
remove pathogens from the face of the earth, rather than creating new
The only modern bio-weapons attack was the use of anthrax
in letters to Senators Daschle and Leahy at the time the Patriot Act
was being considered. There is no question the anthrax used in
this attack was produced in the United States and came through Ft.
Detrick. The type of anthrax used was the "Ames strain," with a
concentration and dispersability of one trillion spores per gram - a
technology that is only capable of production by U.S. scientists.
is not surprising that the only bio-weapons attack originated in U.S.
laboratories. As advocates Barry Kissin and Richard Ochs point
"University of Michigan science historian Susan Wright calls
the extent of fear of terrorism with biological weapons 'completely
unrealistic.' 'Heaven only knows how they think a terrorist is going to
put up a lab and do this stuff without being caught,' she said. 'Labs
with ventilation and good scientists leave huge footprints.' Milton
Leitenberg of the University of Maryland demonstrates in his recently
published 'Assessing the Biological Weapons and Bioterrorism Threat'
that billions of federal expenditures have been appropriated in the
absence of virtually any threat analysis, and that the risk and
imminence of the use of biological agents by non-state actors/terrorist
organizations has been systematically and deliberately exaggerated. It
is critical to recognize that the only bio-attack in American history,
namely the anthrax letters of October 2001, almost certainly was
generated by our own bio-weapons establishment."
Now, the U.S.
is expanding the number of laboratories involved in bio-weapons
development by the hundreds, the number of individuals involved by the
thousands thereby increasing exponentially the number of people who
have access to these weapons and the risk of diversion of the material.
The U.S. may end up spending billions of dollars and provide those who
oppose the United States with weapons they could not produce themselves.
The U.S. is also developing new methods of using bio-weapons. Attorney and Congressional candidate Barry Kissin testified
recently that "In May of 2003, it was reported that the United States
Army has developed and patented a new grenade that it says can be used
to wage bio-warfare. This is in explicit violation of the BTWC, which
explicitly prohibits all development of bio-weapons delivery devices.
US Patent #6,523,478, granted on February 25th 2003, covers a 'rifle
launched non lethal cargo dispenser' that is designed to deliver
aerosols, including, according to the patent's claims, 'crowd control
agents, biological agents, [and] chemical agents...'"
International Controls Weakened By the Bush Administration
The Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention
(BTWC) bans the development, production, stockpiling, acquisition and
retention of microbial or other biological agents or toxins, in types
and in quantities that have no justification for prophylactic,
protective or other peaceful purposes. The Convention also bans
weapons, equipment or means of delivery designed to use such agents or
toxins for hostile purposes or in armed conflict. The actual use of
biological weapons is prohibited by the 1925 Geneva Protocol
and Article VIII of the BTWC recognizes that nothing contained in the
Convention shall be construed as a derogation from the obligations
contained in the Geneva Protocol.
The investment in bio-weapons
that is likely to spur a bio-weapons arms race is occurring at a time
when the Bush administration is blocking the strengthening of
international controls of such weapons. In 2001, the U.S. rejected an
effort to conclude an inspections protocol for the BTWC. The United
States was the only country to favor terminating efforts to create a
legally binding inspection and verification mechanism.
on October 23, 2002, when the UN Disarmament Committee adopted a
resolution reaffirming the 1925 Geneva Protocol "prohibiting the use of
poisonous gases and bacteriological methods of warfare," the resolution
passed unanimously, with two abstentions: the U.S. and Israel. The U.S.
abstention amounts to a veto: banning the resolution from being
The combination of massive new investment in
bio-weapons facilities and the blockage of international controls on
such weapons could be a deadly one for the world.
History of Fort Detrick
Detrick actually began in 1943 as Camp Detrick and worked with the
British in creating an anthrax bomb. It became a permanent Army
installation, Fort Detrick in 1956 and developed offensive bio-weapons.
But, in 1969 during the Vietnam War, when the U.S. was criticized for
using gas, napalm and herbicides in Vietnam, President Nixon
unilaterally ended the nation's offensive biological warfare program
and ordered pathogens and toxins destroyed. This also led to the
signing of the Biological Weapons and Toxins Convention in 1972 which
became law in 1975. It was discovered in 1975 that the CIA had
disobeyed the order to destroy all bio-weapons stocks, and had retained
pathogens and toxins for its own use. In the 1980's, the Reagan and
Bush Administrations revived the dormant budget for "defensive"
biowarfare research. It was also in the 1980's that the U.S. supplied
Saddam Hussein with basis for Iraq's biowarfare capability.
9/11 the Bush administration dramatically increased funding for
bio-weapons activity. Ft. Detrick will become the National Interagency
Biodedefense Campus (NIBC) bringing together the U.S Army Medical
Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, the National Institute of
Health, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of
Agriculture. The campus will cost billions of dollars, cover hundreds
of acres, include millions of square feet of buildings and thousands of
square feet of BSL-4 (Level 4) laboratory space - laboratories used for
experimentation with infectious agents which there exists neither a
vaccine nor a cure. All of this in the now heavily populated
Frederick County with more than 200,000 residents.As part of their efforts of "defending" the United States from bio-weapons, Ft. Detrick will be creating new weapons, as well as the means to mass-produce and disseminate them. The rationale is that to defend against the weapons we have to understand them. In the Frederick News Post, Barry Kissin, a lawyer activist who is running for Congress
in Frederick, asked Col. Mary Deutsch, Fort Detrick's Commander, about
the work at the base and she acknowledged that among the technology
used will be "genetic engineering or recombinant DNA technology" along
with many other "advanced methods." Follow up questions by
Kissin's colleagues about allowing international inspections and
potential violations of international treaties went unanswered. The
former chief American negotiator of the Biological Weapons Convention,
James Leonard, has warned that the administration's initiative could be
interpreted as "development" of biological weapons in violation of the
Biological Weapons Convention
Of course, there are endless
variations of pathogens so this is a never ending task - a constant
drain of billions of U.S. tax dollars on a strategy that will never
lead to safety. According to Dr. Milton Leitenberg, a veteran arms
control advocate and senior scholar at the University of Maryland's
Center for International and Security Studies, germ warfare agents can
be genetically modified and each modification may require a different
vaccine or countermeasure.
History of Problems with Security at Ft. Detrick Continue to This Day
Detrick has had significant problems over the years. Before 1969 a
seven story tower was used to house anthrax bacteria. When Nixon
stopped production the tower was off limits. There were repeated
efforts to clean the tower. A 1993 Ft. Detrick publication noted
that the tower had been used to grow anthrax "a dangerous organism
which can lie dormant for thousands of years in a spore state [and then
become reactivated]." The Tower was demolished in 2003 and all indications are that the rubble was deposited in the Frederick County landfill.
addition, in the 1991 it was discovered that water supplies surrounding
Ft. Detrick contained high levels of cancer causing agents, TCE and
PCE. The Washington Post reported:
"The Maryland Department of the Environment and the Frederick County
Health Department tested 33 wells at homes near Area B. Half were
contaminated with the two agents, six so badly that the water was unfit
to drink. In a few wells, concentrations of the two chemicals exceeded
Environmental Protection Agency limits many times over. In an Army
monitoring well nearest the dump, the chemicals were so concentrated,
"you could smell it," said Joseph Gortva, an engineer who is managing
In 2003, The Guardian headlined "U.S. Finds Evidence of WMD - at last - Buried in Maryland." They reported: "The
good news for the Pentagon yesterday was that its investigators had
finally unearthed evidence of weapons of mass destruction, including
100 vials of anthrax and other dangerous bacteria.
news was that the stash was found, not in Iraq, but fewer than 50 miles
from Washington, near Fort Detrick in the Maryland countryside.
* * *
more embarrassing for the Pentagon, there was no documentation about
the various biological agents disposed of at the US bio-defence centre
at Fort Detrick.
* * *
"The Fort Detrick clean-up has unearthed over 2,000 tonnes of hazardous waste.
sanitation crews were shocked to find vials containing live bacteria.
As well as the vaccine form of anthrax, the discarded biological agents
included Brucella melitensis, which causes the virulent flu-like
disease brucellosis, and klebsiella, a cause of pneumonia."
The Washington Post
report noted that deer jump through the fields and cattle roam where
the poisons were found. And, in addition traces of Agent Orange.
This year, the Frederick News Post,
received responses to Freedom of Information Act requests that
documented anthrax being found in unprotected areas outside of
carefully guarded suites. They also found documentation of workers'
potential exposures to biological agents between April 1, 2002, and
Dec. 1, 2005. The reports also documented that adherence to and
enforcement of safety and security procedures was lax. Further, 161
biological defense mishap reports were filed between April 1, 2002 and
Dec. 1, 2005. Between 1989 and 2002, Ft. Detrick's clinic evaluated 234
individuals for potential exposure to agents of bioterrorism and
nonbioterrorism -- 162 cases were assessed as minimal, negligible or no
risk; 67 were assessed as moderate or high risk. These reports are
consistent with whistleblowers who have reported sloppy procedures and
missing bio-agents over the years.
Neighbors have also been
affected. For example in May of 2005, residents downwind of Fort
Detrick woke up one morning to find their residential properties coated
with flakes of a soot-like substance. And in August 2005, there was a
"suspicious odor" at the Fort's wastewater treatment plant. According
to the Fort's spokesperson an "unknown source" dumped an "unknown
substance" into the sewer line at the steam plant.
How To Really Protect America and the World from Bio-Weapons
a time when the U.S. public health care system is unprepared for
epidemics - natural flu's for example, massive funds are being spent
chasing an endless variety of pathogens, of unpredictable genetic
make-up, a chase the U.S. can never win.
Dr. Muin Khoury,
Director of the Office of Genomics and Disease Prevention at the CDC
stated in February 2003: "Public health is in disarray, and this
emphasis on terrorism is eroding the public health infrastructure even
In March, 2005, more than 750 US biologists
including two Nobel laureates and seven past presidents of the American
Society for Microbiology, signed an open letter to NIH
protesting at the excessive use of bacteriology funds for the study of
bio-terror threats. "The diversion of research funds from projects of
high public-health importance to projects of high biodefence relevance
represents a misdirection of NIH priorities and a crisis for
NIH-supported microbiological research." They conlude: "Bioweapons
agents cause, on average, zero deaths per year in the United States, in
contrast to a broad range of non-prioritized microbial pathogens that
cause tens or hundreds of thousands of deaths per year."
Essentially, misdirection of funds is making America less safe,
The direction of the United States is misplaced.
It is time for transparent monitoring under the Bioweapons Convention,
investment in the public health system and making sure pathogens are no
Kevin Zeese is Director of DemocracyRising
and a candidate for U.S.
For more information:
Free From Terror: http://www.freefromterror.net/
The Sunshine Project: http://www.sunshine-project.org/
The Bioweapons and Biodefense Freedom of Information Fund: http://www.cbwtransparency.org/
Thanks to Barry Kissin for his assistance in providing research materials for this article.