This is another upsetting bit of news about our government.
Post is reporting laboratory being built in Ft.
Detrick, Maryland. Known as the National Biodefense Analysis
and Countermeasures Center (NBACC), the new facility will conduct biological
warfare research “within what many arms-control experts say
is a legal gray zone,
skirting the edges of an international treaty outlawing the production
of even small amounts of biological weapons.”
I’ve written about this before. Persons who are particularly
interested in this topic might want to read my earlier posts:
Those are fairly long, so I’ll excerpt the most important points here.
For the New American Century (PNAC)
is something familiar to many people who are suspicious of the
beligerent values that are so evident in our current Administration.
The produced a document entitled Rebuilding
America’s Defenses (PDF link) that promotes a
warmongering stance in international affairs.
What is pertinent here, is their mention of the following:
…And advanced forms of biological warfare that can
“target” specific genotypes may transform
biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful
It is difficult to imagine anything more reprehensible than
genotype-specific biological warfare. To consider such a
thing as “politically useful” is beyond imagination. Even so,
such champions of family values as Dick Cheney, Jeb Bush, William
Kristol, and Paul Wolfowitz, all seem to think this is just an ordinary
issue in political discourse. They all signed the document
that contains the quote above.
When we look at the proposed areas of study for the new NBACC, as noted
in the article Biodefense
Crossing the Line (PDF link), we see the following:
- genetic engineering;
- susceptibility to current therapeutics;
- host-range studies;
- environmental stability;
- aerosol animal-model development;
- aerosol dynamics;
- novel packaging;
- novel delivery of threat;
- bioregulators and immunomodulators; and
- ‘‘Red Teaming,’’
which is to say duplication of
- threat scenarios.
I think it is being charitable to say that this a legal gray area.
If it is gray, it is pretty darn close to black.
At the very least, this should have close congressional oversight.
Furthermore, I would favor modification of US law, and
international treaties, to specifically ban research on
genotype-specific biological warfare agents. Although that
type of research was not mentioned in any publicly-available
information (that I could find) regarding NBACC, we need to be explicit
about this point.
I also think that those of us in medicine and related fields
need to pressure our colleagues to disavow any such research.
That would include not only research on potential
genotype-specific agents, but anything that could have offensive