PENTAGON BIOWARFARE RESEARCH CONDUCTED IN UNIVERSITY LABORATORIES
Overshadowed by Star Wars and overlooked by the media, the push
toward biowarfare has been one of the Reagan administration's best
kept secrets. The research budget for infectious diseases and toxins
has increased tenfold since fiscal '81 and most of the '86 budget of
$42 million went to 24 U.S. university campuses where the world's most
deadly organisms are being cultured in campus labs.
The amount of military money available for biotechnology research
is a powerful attraction for scientists whose civilian funding
resources dried up. Scientists formerly working on widespread killers
like cancer now use their talents developing strains of such rare
pathogens as anthrax, dengue, Rift Valley fever, Japanes encephalitis,
tularemia, shigella, botulin, Q fever, and mycotoxins.
Many members of the academic community find the trend alarming,
but when MIT's biology department voted to refuse Pentagon funds for
biotech research, the administration forced it to reverse its
decision. And, in 1987, the University of Wisconsin hired Philip
Sobocinski, a retired Army colonel, to help professors tailor their
research to attract Pentagon-funded biowarfare research to the school.
Richard Jannaccio, a former science writer at UW, was dismissed from
his job on August 25, 1987, the day after the student newspaper, THE
DAILY CARDINAL, published his story disclosing the details of Colonel
Sobicinski's mission at the University.
Since the U.S. is a signatory to the 1972 Biological and Toxic
Weapons Convention which bans "development, production, stockpiling
and use of microbes or their poisonous products except in amounts
necessary for protective and peaceful research," the university-based
work is being pursued under the guise of defensive projects aimed at
developing vaccines and protective gear. Scientists who oppose the
program insist that germ-warfare defense is clearly impractical; every
person would have to be vaccinated for every known harmful biological
agent. Since vaccinating the entire population would be virtually
impossible, the only application of a defensive development is in
conjunction with offensive use. Troops could be effectively vaccinated
for a single agent prior to launching an attack with that agent.
Colonel David Huxsoll, commander of the U.S. Army Medical Research
Institute of Infectious Diseases admits that offensive research is
indistinguishable from defensive research even for those doing it.
Each of the sources for this synopsis raised ethical questions
about the perversion of academia by military money and about the U.S.
engaging in a biological arms race that could rival the nuclear
threat, yet none mentioned the safety or the security of the labs
involved. The failure to investigate this aspect of the issue is a
striking omission. Release of pathogens, either by accident or
design, would prove tragic at any of the following schools: Brigham
Young, California Institute of Technology, Colorado State University,
Emory, Illinois Institute of Technology, Iowa University, M.I.T.,
Purdue, State University of N.Y. at Albany, Texas A&M, and the
Universities of California, California at Davis, Cincinnati,
Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland,
Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Utah.
SOURCES: ISTHMUS, 10/9/87, "Biowarfare and the UW," by Richard
Jannaccio, pp 1, 9, 10; THE PROGRESSIVE, 11/16/87, "Poisons from the
Pentagon," by Seth Shulman, pp 16-20; WALL STREET JOURNAL, 9/17/86,
"Military Science," by Bill Richards and Tim Carrington, pp 1, 23.