Saturday, August 29, 2009

Obama Administration Seeks "Emergency Control" of the Internet

You have to hand it to congressional Democrats. Mendacious grifters whose national security agenda is virtually indistinguishable from Bushist Republicans, when it comes to rearranging proverbial deck chairs on the Titanic, the party of "change" is second to none in the "all terrorism all the time" department.

While promising to restore the "rule of law," "protect civil liberties" while "keeping America safe," in practice, congressional Democrats like well-coiffed Republican clones across the aisle, are crafting legislation that would do Dick Cheney proud!

As the Cybersecurity Act of 2009 (S.773) wends its way through Congress, civil liberties' advocates are decrying provisions that would hand the President unlimited power to disconnect private-sector computers from the internet.

CNET reported August 28, that the latest iteration of the bill "would allow the president to 'declare a cybersecurity emergency' relating to 'non-governmental' computer networks and do what's necessary to respond to the threat."

Drafted by Senators Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME), "best friends forever" of the National Security Agency (NSA) and the telecommunications industry, they were key enablers of Bush-era warrantless wiretapping and privacy-killing data mining programs that continue apace under Obama.

As The New York Times revealed in June, a former NSA analyst described a secret database "code-named Pinwale, that archived foreign and domestic e-mail messages." The former analyst "described being trained in 2005 for a program in which the agency routinely examined large volumes of Americans' e-mail messages without court warrants. Two intelligence officials confirmed that the program was still in operation."

Antifascist Calling has noted on more than one occasion, that with "cyberterrorism" morphing into al-Qaeda 2.0, administration policies designed to increase the scope of national security state surveillance of private communications will soon eclipse the intrusiveness of Bushist programs.

As Cindy Cohn, the Legal Director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) wrote earlier this month, commenting on this summer's public relations blitz by former NSA boss Michael Hayden and Office of Legal Counsel torture-enabler John Yoo's defense of the so-called Presidential Surveillance Program,

While the details are unknown, credible evidence indicates that billions of everyday communications of ordinary Americans are swept up by government computers and run through a process that includes both data-mining and review of content, to try to figure out whether any of us were involved in illegal or terrorist-related activity. That means that even the most personal and private of our electronic communications--between doctors and patients, between husbands and wives, or between children and parents--are subject to review by computer algorithms programmed by government bureaucrats or by the bureaucrats themselves. (Cindy Cohn, "Lawless Surveillance, Warrantless Rationales," American Constitution Society, August 17, 2009)

Both Rockefeller and Snowe are representative of the state's "bipartisan consensus" when it comes to increasing the power of the intelligence and security apparatus and were instrumental in ramming through retroactive immunity for telecoms who illegally spy on the American people. If last year's "debate" over the grotesque FISA Amendments Act (FAA) is an indication of how things will go after Congress' summer recess, despite hand-wringing by congressional "liberals," S.773 seems destined for passage. CNET revealed:

When Rockefeller, the chairman of the Senate Commerce committee, and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) introduced the original bill in April, they claimed it was vital to protect national cybersecurity. "We must protect our critical infrastructure at all costs--from our water to our electricity, to banking, traffic lights and electronic health records," Rockefeller said. (Declan McCullagh, "Bill Would Give President Emergency Control of Internet," CNET News, August 28, 2009)

But as we witness practically on a daily basis, hysterical demands for "protection" from various "dark actors" inevitably invokes an aggressive response from militarized state security apparatchiks and their private partners.

As Antifascist Calling reported in July (see: "Behind the Cyberattacks on America and South Korea. 'Rogue' Hacker, Black Op or Both?"), when North Korea was accused of launching a widespread computer attack on U.S. government, South Korean and financial web sites, right-wing terrorism and security specialists perched at Stratfor and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI)--without a shred of evidence--linked the cyber blitz to a flurry of missile tests and the underground detonation of a nuclear device by North Korea.

Adding to the noise, Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI), the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee went so far as to urge President Obama to respond--by launching a cyberattack against the bankrupt Stalinist regime.

Despite provocative rhetoric and false charges that might have led to war with disastrous consequences for the people of East Asia, as it turned out an unknown sociopath used an updated version of the MyDoom e-mail worm to deploy a botnet in the attack. As Computerworld reported, the botnet "does not use typical antivirus evasion techniques and does not appear to have been written by a professional malware writer." Hardly a clarion call for bombing Dear Leader and countless thousands of Koreans to smithereens!

In this context, the Cybersecurity Act of 2009 goes much further than protecting "critical infrastructure" from over-hyped cyberattacks.

Among other measures, Section 18, "Cybersecurity Responsibilities and Authority," hands the Executive Branch, specifically The President, the power to "declare a cybersecurity emergency and order the limitation or shutdown of Internet traffic to and from any compromised Federal Government or United States critical infrastructure information system or network." This does not simply apply to federal networks, but may very well extend to the private communications ("critical infrastructure information system or network") of citizens who might organize against some egregious act by the state, say a nuclear strike against a nation deemed responsible for launching a cyberattack against the United States, as suggested in May by the head of U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) General Kevin Chilton.

As I reported in June (see: "Cyber Command Launched. U.S. Strategic Command to Oversee Offensive Military Operations"), the military's newly-launched U.S. Cyber Command (CYBERCOM) is a "subordinate unified command" overseen by STRATCOM. Would "message force multipliers" embedded in the media or Pentagon public diplomacy specialists carrying out psychological operations (PSYOPS) here in the heimat, become the sole conduit for critical news and information during said "national emergency"?

Additionally, under Section 18's authority The President "shall designate an agency to be responsible for coordinating the response and restoration of any Federal Government or United States critical infrastructure information system or network affected by a cybersecurity emergency declaration under paragraph (2)." What agency might Senator Rockefeller have in mind for "coordinating the response"? As Antifascist Calling revealed in April (see: "Pentagon's Cyber Command to Be Based at NSA's Fort Meade"), CYBERCOM will be based at NSA headquarters and led by Lt. General Keith Alexander, the current NSA director who will oversee Pentagon efforts to coordinate both defensive and offensive cyber operations.

How might an out-of-control Executive Branch seize the initiative during an alleged "national emergency"? Paragraph 6 spells this out in no uncertain terms: "The President may order the disconnection of any Federal Government or United States critical infrastructure information systems or networks in the interest of national security."

The draconian bill has drawn a sharp rebuke from both civil libertarians and the telecommunications industry. Larry Clinton, the president of the Internet Security Alliance (ISA) told CNET: "It is unclear what authority Sen. Rockefeller thinks is necessary over the private sector. Unless this is clarified, we cannot properly analyze, let alone support the bill."

And Wayne Crews, the director of technology studies at the rightist Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) told Federal Computer Week: "From American telecommunications to the power grid, virtually anything networked to some other computer is potentially fair game to [President Barack] Obama to exercise 'emergency powers'."

True enough as far as it goes, these "free market" cheerleaders are extremely solicitous however, when it comes to government defense and security contracts that benefit their clients; so long as the public is spared the burden of exercising effective control as cold cash greases the sweaty palm of the market's "invisible hand"!

As Antifascist Calling revealed in June (see: "Obama's Cybersecurity Plan: Bring on the Contractors!"), the ISA is no ordinary lobby shop. According to a self-promotional blurb on their web site, ISA "was created to provide a forum for information sharing" and "represents corporate security interests before legislators and regulators."

Amongst ISA sponsors one finds AIG (yes, that AIG!) Verizon, Raytheon, VeriSign, the National Association of Manufacturers, Nortel, Northrop Grumman, Tata, and Mellon. State partners include the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Congress, and the Department of Commerce.

Indeed ISA and CEI, are firm believers in the mantra that "the diversity of the internet places its security inescapably in the hands of the private sector," and that "regulation for consumer protection" that rely on "government mandates" to "address cyber infrastructure issues" will be "ineffective and counter-productive both from a national security and economic perspective." CEI and ISA's solution? Let's have another gulp of that tasty "market incentives" kool-aid!

In other words, hand over the cash in the form of taxpayer largess and we'll happily (and profitably!) continue to violate the rights of the American people by monitoring their Internet communications and surveilling their every move through nifty apps hardwired into wireless devices as the Electronic Frontier Foundation revealed in a new report on locational privacy.

Unfortunately, Clinton, Crews and their well-heeled partners seem to have forgotten an elementary lesson of history: a national security state such as ours will invariably unwind its tentacles into every corner of life unless challenged by a countervailing force--a pissed-off, mobilized citizenry.

Now that national security "change" chickens are coming home to roost, both CEI and ISA seem incredulous: you mean us? How's that for irony!

Lee Tien, a senior staff attorney with EFF told CNET that changes to the original version of the bill do not address pressing privacy concerns.

Tien told the publication: "The language has changed but it doesn't contain any real additional limits. It simply switches the more direct and obvious language they had originally to the more ambiguous (version)...The designation of what is a critical infrastructure system or network as far as I can tell has no specific process. There's no provision for any administrative process or review. That's where the problems seem to start. And then you have the amorphous powers that go along with it."

McCullagh avers: "Translation: If your company is deemed 'critical,' a new set of regulations kick in involving who you can hire, what information you must disclose, and when the government would exercise control over your computers or network."

And there you have it, a "cybersecurity" blacklist to accompany a potential state takeover of the Internet during a "national emergency." What will they think of next!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A "Dark Winter" for Public Health: Meet Homeland Security's New Bioterror Czarina

In the wake of the 2001 anthrax attacks, successive U.S. administrations have pumped some $57 billion across 11 federal agencies and departments into what is euphemistically called "biodefense."

Never mind that the deadly weaponized pathogen employed in the attacks didn't originate in some desolate Afghan cave or secret underground bunker controlled by Saddam.

And never mind that the principal cheerleaders for expanding state-funded programs are Pentagon bioweaponeers, private corporations and a shadowy nexus of biosecurity apparatchiks who stand to make a bundle under current and future federal initiatives.

Leading the charge for increased funding is the Alliance for Biosecurity, a collaborative venture between the Center for Biosecurity of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) and Big Pharma.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in January 2005, former U.S. Senate Majority Leader William Frist, a Bushist acolyte, baldly stated that "The greatest existential threat we have in the world today is biological" and predicted that "an inevitable bioterror attack" would come "at some time in the next 10 years."

Later that year, Frist and former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) covertly inserted language into the 2006 Defense Appropriations bill (H.R. 2863) that granted legal immunity to vaccine manufacturers, even in cases of willful misconduct. It was signed into law by President Bush.

According to Public Citizen and The New York Times, Frist and Hastert benefited financially from their actions; the pair, as well as 41 other congressmen and senators owned as much as $16 million in pharmaceutical stock. SourceWatch revealed that "the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) is purported to be the key author of the language additions. This trade association represents virtually all major vaccine manufacturers."

The Senate Majority Leader's alarmist jeremiad at Davos was seconded by Dr. Tara O'Toole who added, "This [bioterrorism] is one of the most pressing problems we have on the planet today."

Really? Not grinding poverty, global warming or the lack of access by hundreds of millions of impoverished workers and farmers to clean water, an adequate diet, health care or relief from epidemic levels of preventable diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis or diarrhea, but "bioterrorism" as narrowly defined by securocrats and their academic accomplices.

But Dr. Victor W. Sidel, a founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) and an outspoken critic of the Bioweapons-Industrial-Complex challenged O'Toole's hysterical paradigm.

Sidel made the point that there is a fundamental conflict between the state's national security goals and health care providers' professional responsibilities to patients. He wrote in 2003 that "military, intelligence, and law enforcement agencies and personnel have long histories of secrecy and deception that are contrary to the fundamental health principles of transparency and truthfulness. They may therefore be unsuitable partners for public health agencies that need to justify receiving the public's trust."

In this context, the choice of O'Toole as the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Undersecretary of Science and Technology is troubling to say the least. As former CEO and Director of UPMC's Center for Biosecurity, critics charge that O'Toole's appointment will be nothing short of a disaster.

No ordinary policy wonk with an impressive résumé and years as a government insider, O'Toole is a key player advocating for the expansion of dual-use biological weapons programs rebranded as biodefense.

Subverting the Biological Weapons Convention

The resuscitation of American bioweapons programs are facilitated by their secretive and highly-classified nature. Under cover of academic freedom or intellectual property rights, the U.S. Bioweapons-Industrial-Complex has largely been outsourced by the state to private companies and contractors at top American corporations and universities.

Efforts to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) by the inclusion of verification language into the treaty and regular inspection of suspect facilities by international experts have been shot-down since 2001 by the Bush and now, the Obama administrations. Why?

Primarily because the United States view onsite measures as a threat to the commercial proprietary information of multinational pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies as well as to America's reputedly "defensive" biological programs; initiatives that continue to work with nature's most dangerous and deadly pathogens.

In fact, the problem of the dual-use nature of such research is a conundrum facing critics who challenge the break-neck expansion of concealed weapons programs. Simply put, military activities can be disguised as commercial research to develop medical countermeasures without anyone, least of all the American people, being any the wiser.

Highly-trained microbiologists deployed across a spectrum of low-key companies, trained for academic, public health, or commercial employment are part of the dual-use problem. Who's to say whether scientists who genetically-manipulate pathogens or create Frankenstein-like chimera disease organisms (say, synthesized Marburg or Ebola virus as has already been done with poliovirus in a U.S. lab) are engaged in treaty-busting weapons research or the development of life-saving measures.

And what about the accidental, or more sinisterly, the deliberate release of some horrific new plague by a scientist who's "gone rogue"? As researcher Edward Hammond pointed out:

British researchers pled guilty in 2001 to charges that they improperly handled a genetically engineered hybrid of the viruses causing hepatitis C and dengue fever. British authorities characterized the virus as "more lethal than HIV". 'Dengatitis' was deliberately created by researchers who wanted to use fewer laboratory animals in a search for a vaccine for Hepatitis C. Under unsafe laboratory conditions, the researchers created and nearly accidentally released a new hybrid human disease whose effects, fortunately, remain unknown; but which may have displayed different symptoms than its parents and thus been difficult to diagnose, and have required a new, unknown treatment regime. (Emerging Technologies: Genetic Engineering and Biological Weapons, The Sunshine Project, Background Paper No. 12, November 2003)

A new report by the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation has charged that despite restrictions under the BWC prohibiting the development, production, stockpiling and use of weaponized disease agents such as anthrax, smallpox or plague, as well as equipment and delivery systems intended for offensive use, the rapid growth of "biodefense and research programs over the last decade" has placed "new pressure" on efforts to curb the development of banned weapons listed in the treaty.

In an interview with Global Security Newswire Gerald Epstein, a senior fellow with the hawkish Center for Security and International Studies (CSIS) told the publication, "When one is doing bioresearch and biodefense, one has to be careful to not overstep the treaty itself."

He cited the U.S biodefense effort Project Bacchus--an investigation by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency to determine whether it was possible to build a bioweapons production facility using readily available equipment--as an instance where questions were raised if the treaty had been violated.

The type of biodefense activity that is most likely to raise questions regarding treaty compliance is "threat assessment," the process of determining what type of biological attacks are most likely to occur, he told Global Security Newswire. A dangerous biological agent could inadvertently be developed during such research, Epstein said. (Martin Matishak, "Biodefense Research Could Violate Weapons Convention, Report Warns," Global Security Newswire, August 20, 2009)

But Pentagon bioweaponeers did more than build "a bioweapons productions facility using readily available equipment." They built banned weapons. According to Jeanne Guillemin, author of Biological Weapons: From the Invention of State-Sponsored Programs to Contemporary Bioterrorism, the Pentagon and CIA made and tested a model of a Soviet anthrax bomb and created an antibiotic-resistant strain of anthrax.

After consulting with scientists who strongly suggested that the CIA anthrax bomb project would violate the BWC, "CIA lawyers decided the project was within the allowed realm of defensive research," Guillemin revealed. Project Clear Vision, a joint investigation by the CIA and the Battelle Memorial Institute, under contract to the Agency, reconstructed and tested a Soviet-era anthrax bomblet in order to test its dissemination characteristics. The Agency "decided the same" for the small, fully functional bioweapons facility built under the rubric of Project Bacchus.

The third initiative, Project Jefferson, led to the development of an antibiotic-resistant strain of anthrax based on a Soviet model. After the outgoing Clinton administration hesitated to give the CIA the go-ahead for the project, the Bush regime's National Security Council gave the Pentagon permission. "They believed" Guillemin wrote, "the Pentagon had the right to investigate genetically altered pathogens in the name of biodefense, 'to save American lives'."

Shortly thereafter, the Pentagon authorized the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), one of the most secretive and heavily-outsourced Defense Department branches, to re-create the deadly anthrax strain.

What the scope of these programs are today is currently unknown. We do know however, that based on available evidence the Department of Homeland Security, the Defense Department and the oxymoronic Intelligence Community, using the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as a cover, continue to investigate the feasibility of transforming nature's most deadly pathogens into weapons.

In close coordination, the United States government and their outsourced corporate partners are spending billions of dollars on research and simulation exercises, dubbed "disaster drills" by a compliant media, to facilitate this grisly trade.

Secrecy and Deceit

That the official bioterror narrative is a preposterous fiction and swindle as even the FBI was forced to admit during its much-maligned Amerithrax investigation, is hardly worth a second glance by corporate media beholden to the pharmaceutical industry for advertising revenue; call it business as usual here in the heimat.

As we now know, the finely-milled anthrax powder which killed five people and shut down representative government didn't come from the Afghan-Arab database of disposable Western intelligence assets known as al Qaeda, but rather from deep within America's own Bioweapons-Industrial-Complex, to wit, from the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) at Ft. Detrick in Maryland. But such troublesome and inconvenient truths are barely worth a mention by "respectable" media, e.g. the corporate stenographers who sold two imperialist military adventures to the American people.

Indeed, a credible case can be made that without the anthrax attacks, the fear levels gripping the country in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist events--and the subsequent clamp-down that followed, from the USA Patriot Act to the indefinite detention and torture of "terrorism" suspects, and from warrantless wiretapping to the demonization of dissent--may very well have been impossible.

It is difficult not to conclude that from the beginning of the affair, there was a clear intent on the part of the anthrax terrorist(s) to draw a straight line between 9/11 and the anthrax mailings. From there, it was but a short step to stitching-up a case for "regime change" in Iraq. The media's role in this criminal enterprise was indispensable for what Salon's Glenn Greenwald has called "the single greatest, unresolved media scandal of this decade." As Greenwald points out,

During the last week of October, 2001, ABC News, led by Brian Ross, continuously trumpeted the claim as their top news story that government tests conducted on the anthrax--tests conducted at Ft. Detrick--revealed that the anthrax sent to [former Senator Tom] Daschle contained the chemical additive known as bentonite. ABC News, including Peter Jennings, repeatedly claimed that the presence of bentonite in the anthrax was compelling evidence that Iraq was responsible for the attacks, since--as ABC variously claimed--bentonite "is a trademark of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's biological weapons program" and "only one country, Iraq, has used bentonite to produce biological weapons." (Glenn Greenwald, "Vital unresolved anthrax questions and ABC News," Salon, August 1, 2008)

Despite ABC News' claims that their information came from "four well-placed and separate sources," they were fed information that was patently false; as Greenwald avers, "No tests ever found or even suggested the presence of bentonite. The claim was just concocted from the start. It just never happened."

And as we will shortly explore below, the dubious "Dark Winter" and "Atlantic Storm" bioterror exercises designed by Dr. Tara O'Toole freely drew from the neocon's sinister playbook, right down to the weaponized smallpox supplied to al Qaeda by Saddam.

Whether or not one buys the current permutation of the "lone nut" theory, this one alleges that Dr. Bruce Ivins, a vaccine specialist employed by USAMRIID, was the anthrax mailer; the fact is, when all is said and done the attacks, to use a much over-hyped phrase, were an inside job.

And like other "lone nuts" who have entered the parapolitical frame at their own peril, Ivins isn't around to refute the charges.

The Alliance for Biosecurity: Insiders with a Mission and (Very) Deep Pockets

Before being pegged by the Obama administration to head DHS's Science and Technology division where she will oversee the department's billion dollar budget, with some 45 percent of it going towards chemical and bioweapons defense, O'Toole, as previously mentioned, was the CEO and Director of UPMC's Center for Biosecurity, a satrapy which describes itself as "an independent organization dedicated to improving the country's resilience to major biological threats."

How "independent"? You make the call!

According to their web site The Alliance for Biosecurity is "a collaboration among the Center for Biosecurity and 13 pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies 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."

Alliance partners include the usual suspects: Bavarian Nordic; Center for Biosecurity of UPMC; Cangene Corporation; DOR BioPharma, Inc.; DynPort Vaccine Company LLC, a CSC company; Elusys Therapeutics, Inc.; Emergent BioSolutions; Hematech, Inc., a subsidiary of Kyowa Kirin; Human Genome Sciences, Inc.; NanoViricides, Inc.; Pfizer Inc.; PharmAthene; Siga Technologies, Inc.; Unither Virology LLC, a subsidiary of United Therapeutics Corporation. Rounding out this rogues gallery are associate members, the spooky Battelle Medical Research and Evaluation Facility and the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute.

Among the chief activities of the Alliance is lobbying Congress for increased funding for the development of new drugs deemed "countermeasures" under the Project BioShield Act of 2004, previously described by Antifascist Calling as a particularly grotesque piece of Bushist legislative flotsam.

The Alliance avers that "the United States faces unprecedented risks to national security ... by the clear and growing danger of bioterrorism or a destabilizing infectious disease pandemic," and that "our nation's vulnerability to biothreats is so severe" due to the fact that "most of the vaccines and medicines that will be needed to protect our citizens do not now exist." Therefore, countermeasures needed to mitigate nebulous biothreats never spelled out once in the group's literature "will likely require several years and several hundred million dollars each to successfully develop and produce." (emphasis added)

An Alliance report, The State of Biosecurity in 2008 and Proposals for a Public/Private Pathway Forward, charts a course for "improving and accelerating" efforts to "develop medical countermeasures (MCMs) for the nation's Strategic National Stockpile (SNS)."

Under the Project Bioshield Act of 2004, Congress authorized $5.6 billion over ten years "to purchase MCMs for the SNS." Funds were allocated for the procurement of the anthrax vaccine as well as for "therapeutic antibodies for inhalational anthrax, a botulism heptavalent antitoxin, a smallpox vaccine, and several products for radiological and nuclear threats, obligating a total of about $1.9 billion of the $5.6 billion BioShield fund."

In 2006 as I noted previously, Congress created the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). BARDA was authorized to spend some $1.07 billion over three years for MCMs, "only $201 million has been provided by Congress through FY 2008" noted the Alliance, "approximately one-fifth of the authorized level."

According to an "independent economic analysis" carried out by (who else!) the Alliance's academic partner, the Center for Biosecurity, "it would require $3.4 billion in FY 2009 to support one year of advanced development."

"Similarly" according to the organization, "the original appropriation of $5.6 billion for Project BioShield is equally insufficient to ensure that once MCMs are developed there will be funds available to procure them and maintain the stockpile." Indeed, "this level of funding would need to be sustained for many years." You can bet however, that Alliance lobbyists are busy as proverbial bees in pressuring Congress to fork over the dough!

The report state's that Alliance goals necessarily entail instilling "a sense of urgency ... with Congress" by hyping the "bioterror threat." But there's much more here than a simple cynical exercise at preparing the "public diplomacy" ground through academic and industry "message force multipliers" that will enable Congress to shower Big Pharma with a veritable tsunami of cash. A "risk-tolerant culture" should be promoted within BARDA, one that "understands the realities, risks, timelines, and costs of drug development."

The "risks" to whom and for what purpose are not enumerated, but one can be certain that a "risk-tolerant culture" crafted by industry insiders will come at the expense of the health and safety of the American people, one that pushes potential legal liability should things head south onto the taxpaying public.

The stealth nature of Alliance recommendations are clearly spelled out when they aver that "stakeholders" should "focus more on the potential biothreats and the corresponding countermeasures, rather than the price tag" and that BARDA, ostensibly a public agency, should be packed with insiders "who have drug development and manufacturing experience." This will lead to the development of "a culture that is focused on partnering with industry and academia."

But the bottom line as always, is the corporatist bottom line for Alliance shareholders! How else can one interpret their statement that emerging "biothreats" are all the more dire today now that "interest of the public and private capital markets in biodefense has declined over the last 2-3 years." What better way then, to beef-up those sagging capital markets than to install an industry-friendly individual at DHS with a documented track record of overplaying the "bioterror threat."

Dark Winter

O'Toole was the principal designer of two "tabletop" bioterror preparedness drills, the 2001 Dark Winter exercise and the 2005 Atlantic Storm run-through; both were criticized by scientific experts as fabrications of an alleged threat of a smallpox attack mounted by al Qaeda.

Reviewing Milton Leitenberg's 2005 report, Assessing the Biological Weapons and Bioterrorism Threat, published the U.S. Army War College's Strategic Studies Institute, protein chemist Dr. Eric Smith wrote the following:

Of note is Leitenberg's dissection of the process of assessment as practiced through bioterrorism threat scenarios conducted by the US government and private think tanks. Exercises like Dark Winter, which modeled an "aerosolized" smallpox attack, Top Off 2 and 3, both on pneumonic plague strikes, and Atlantic Storm, an exercise that purported to show an al Qaida group manufacturing a dry powder smallpox weapon, were rigged. In the cases of Dark Winter and the Top Offs, transmission rates of disease were sexed up beyond historical averages so that "a disastrous outcome was assured" no matter any steps taken to contain outbreaks. Eight pages are reserved to pointedly condemn the Atlantic Storm exercise on a host of sins which can generally be described as a bundle of frank lies and misinformation coupled with a claimed terrorist facility for making smallpox into a weapon that even state run biological warfare operations did not possess. And once again, juiced transmission rates of disease were employed to grease theoretical calamity. The reader comes to recognize the deus ex machina--a concoction or intervention added to dictate an outcome, in these cases very bad ones--as a regular feature of the exercises. However, the results of the same assessments--the alleged lessons learned--have never been reported with much, if any, skepticism in the media. (Eric Smith, "A Vaccine for the Hype: Milton Leitenberg's new 'Assessing the Biological Weapons and Bioterrorism Threat," Global Security, National Security Notes, March 31, 2006)

In criticizing "the fancy that such attacks are easy and one of the most catastrophic threats faced by the American people," Smith denounces the alarmist scenarios of Dark Winter and Atlantic Storm's designers--people like Dr. Tara O'Toole and the coterie of industry insiders and other well-paid "experts"--as guilty of perpetrating a massive "fraud ... and a substantial one" on the American people.

While one of Atlantic Storm's architects proclaimed "this is not science fiction" and that "the age of Bioterror is now..." Leitenberg and Smith denounce O'Toole's spurious claims as "not the least bit plausible."

Leitenberg wrote that "well before October-November 2001, the spectre of 'bioterrorism' benefitted from an extremely successful sales campaign." Indeed, hyped-up scenarios such as Dark Winter and Atlantic Storm that place "weapons of mass destruction" in the hands of shadowy, intelligence-linked terror outfits like al Qaeda provided "inflated predictions that ... were certainly not realistic. Much worse, in addition to being wrong, inflated predictions were counterproductive. They induced interest in BW in the wrong audiences."

But the implausible nature of the scenarios deployed in national exercises hardly prohibited the Bioweapons-Industrial-Complex from concocting scarecrow-like straw men designed to sow terror amongst the American people while extracting regular infusions of cash from Congress.

Among the eight exercises analyzed by Leitenberg between 1998-2005, he found that each and every one were fraudulently designed and the threat of bioterrorism had been framed as a rationalization for "political action, the expenditure of public funds for bioterrorism prevention and response programs," that could "not occur without it." This is "not benign," Leitenberg concludes.

A second consequence of sexed-up "bioterror" drills have even more ominous implications for the immediate future. Because of national security state perceptions that mitigation of catastrophic bioterrorism is of supreme importance for national survival--perceptions reinforced by academic, corporate and militarist peddlers of crisis--"the US biodefense research program appears to be drifting into violation" of the Biological Weapons Convention. This is a menacing development and has happened, I would argue precisely because the evaluation process which justifies research into biological weapons threat capabilities and scenarios, are repackaged to conceal the offensive thrust of this research as wholly defensive in nature, which it certainly is not.

How else would one explain ongoing research funded by the National Institutes of Health to study botulism toxin, "with the added qualification" Smith points out, that because the protein toxin is "unstable, therefore there will be collaboration with other researchers to stabilize it." The NIH grant "means preparing a much more effective botulinum toxin than had been available before."

Smith goes on to cite "another problematical breakout" offered by two scientists to study the "aerobiological" characteristics of the lethal Marburg and Ebola viruses. How this is "defensive" in nature, in keeping with research restrictions under the Biological Weapons Convention, is another instance of a backdoor move to kick-start illicit bioweapons development.

According to Smith, the study "looks to define how the organisms can be aerosolized, an instance of research into examining vulnerability in the complete absence of a verified threat." But I would argue that showering taxpayers dollars into such dark and troubling research tributaries deploy hyped-up threats as cover for the development of illegal weapons.

When her nomination was announced in May, Rutgers University and homeland security critic Richard Ebright told Wired,

"This is a disastrous nomination. O'Toole supported every flawed decision and counterproductive policy on biodefense, biosafety, and biosecurity during the Bush Administration. O'Toole is as out of touch with reality, and as paranoiac, as former Vice President Cheney. It would be hard to think of a person less well suited for the position."

"She was the single most extreme person, either in or out of government, advocating for a massive biodefense expansion and relaxation of provisions for safety and security," he adds. "She makes Dr. Strangelove look sane." (Noah Shachtman, "DHS' New Geek Chief is a Bioterror 'Disaster,' Critics Charge," Wired, May 6, 2009)

And Dr. Smith told Wired that exercises designed by O'Toole and her colleagues show her to be "the top academic/salesperson for the coming of apocalyptic bioterrorism which has never quite arrived."

As noted above, "[She's] most prominent for always lobbying for more money for biodefense, conducting tabletop exercises on bioterrorism for easily overawed public officials, exercises tweaked to be horrifying," Smith told Wired.

But Smith goes even further and denounces O'Toole as an industry shill who "has never obviously appeared to examine what current terrorist capabilities have been... in favor of extrapolating how easy it would be to launch bioterror attacks if one had potentially unlimited resources and scientific know-how." It's a "superb appointment if you're in the biodefense industry and interested in further opportunity and growth."

"Alternatively" Smith avers, O'Toole's appointment is "a disaster if threat assessment and prevention" has "some basis in reality."

Not that any of this matters in Washington. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee led by "independent Democrat" and arch neocon Sen. Joseph Lieberman, voted to send her nomination to the full Senate July 29.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Obama Administration Revives Bush-Era Quarantine Regulations for H1N1 Flu Virus

While the American far-right rants against alleged "Obama death panels" and other Freddy Krueger-like scarecrows to frighten--and divert--the kiddies, our capitalist masters, as they are wont to do, gaze at the spectacle, laugh, and then tighten the screws.

Health care for all derailed? Mission accomplished!

Meanwhile, despite alarm amongst civil liberties groups, public health researchers and other "reality-based" evil-doers who haven't slaked their thirst with "birther" kool-aid, the Obama administration "is quietly dusting off an effort to impose new federal quarantine regulations" to "contain" the H1N1 flu virus, Politico revealed.

"While any discussion of quarantine may stoke public fears of barbed wire camps filled with infected Americans or closures of international borders" Politico reports, "public health experts said that sort of approach to H1N1 flu would not be effective."

While White House officials aren't talking, Wendy Mariner, a professor of law and public health at Boston University told the publication, "it's not really going to help."

And if the H1N1 pandemic behaves in a manner similar to the 1957 outbreak of H2N2 influenza then "closing schools, stopping large gatherings and other such measures are unlikely to do much," a team of public health experts told Reuters.

"Efforts to mitigate it were futile," Brooke Courtney, a researcher with the Center for Biosecurity at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center told the wire service. "In 1957 it was decided pretty early on that efforts to quarantine or isolate people would not be effective," Courtney said.

Why? Because by the time the H2N2 strain was diagnosed it was already "too widespread" for a quarantine of affected individuals to serve a useful purpose.

Despite warnings from public health researchers, the Obama administration is moving full-speed ahead. And with a September target date for new federal regulations, CDC spokeswoman Christine Pearson told Politico, "It's important to public health to move forward with the regulations. We need to update our quarantine regulations, and this final rule is an important step."

Not everyone is convinced, however.

"It doesn't surprise me that when swine flu or any other epidemic is featured prominently in the news, we see a return to quarantine and other public health regulations," said Christopher Calabrese of the American Civil Liberties Union, which sharply criticized the Bush-era proposal as too heavy-handed. "The enemy here isn't the American people or sick people. It's an illness. ... Police officers with guns cannot make people obey a quarantine. In order for this to work, it has to be collaborative. They have to trust the government." (Josh Gerstein, "Obama Team Mulls New Quarantine Regs," Politico, August 5, 2009)

While Calabrese is certainly correct in a technical sense that "the enemy here isn't the American people or sick people," from the standpoint of a predatory national security state that views all disorder--including illness--as a dire threat to the heimat, what better means to keep the rabble in line than a state-imposed quarantine enforced by "police officers with guns"?

As Global Research analyst Michel Chossudovsky wrote in July, "it is in the interest of the political power brokers and the dominant financial actors to divert public attention from an understanding of the global crisis."

Despite clear signs that the economic crisis continues to deepen on a planetary scale and that state efforts to mitigate the greatest financial collapse since the Great Depression have failed, as World Socialist Web Site analyst Barry Grey points out, the Federal Reserve Board's "upbeat assessment" fails to take into account that "new data on unemployment, home foreclosures, home prices and retail sales painted a picture of growing economic distress for tens of millions of Americans."

But "growing economic distress" for the majority of Americans have translated into rising corporate profits "on the basis of a deep and protracted decline in the wages, working conditions and wealth of the working class."

Under such dire conditions, combustible social fuel could lead to an unprecedented political explosion. Therefore, as Chossudovsky observes "an atmosphere of fear and intimidation which serves to weaken and disarm organized dissent" must be manufactured, one whose "objective is to undermine all forms of opposition and social resistance."

How will these goals be accomplished by the capitalist state? Chossudovsky avers: "In this framework, the occurrence of 'natural disasters,' 'pandemics,' 'environmental catastrophes' also plays a useful political role. It distorts the real causes of the crisis. It justifies a global public health emergency on humanitarian grounds."

And as with other "extraordinary circumstances" such as those which followed the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the declaration of a global war against terrorism, a militarized and repressive state will step in to fill the breech, this time as public health "savior."

In this context, Boston University's Wendy Mariner's statement that "proposals to limit liberty" through quarantine regulations by the federal government "represent a dangerous precedent to constitutional theory" must be viewed through the lens of capital's deepening economic, political and social crisis.

Despite the fact that "there's almost no evidence it will matter" in terms of mitigating an H1N1 pandemic outbreak, as Mariner averred "it wouldn't surprise me if they try to sneak this past in August, when people are away."

And with a bipartisan consensus in Washington to fork over billions of dollars to enterprising drug manufacturers, it's a sure bet that "liberal" Democrats and "conservative" Republicans will do what they do best: toe the corporatist line.

Project BioShield

While objections to new federal quarantine regulations may be widespread, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), particularly that agency's Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) is pulling out all the stops.

Similar to the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), a satrapy for arms manufacturers and other death merchants, HHS's Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority freely doles out billions of dollars in taxpayer boodle to Big Pharma.

According to a blurb on their web site BARDA, a distinct entity within the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) at HHS "provides an integrated, systematic approach to the development and purchase of the necessary vaccines, drugs, therapies, and diagnostic tools for public health medical emergencies."

Well and good as far as it goes (which isn't very far), BARDA does more, much more. Under the Bush regime, Congress passed the Project BioShield Act of 2004, a particularly grotesque piece of Bushist legislative flotsam "as part of a broader strategy to defend America against the threat of weapons of mass destruction."

You can bet however, they don't mean WMDs like the weaponized anthrax that came from Pentagon stockpiles and was used in the 2001 anthrax attacks. While "only" five people may have died, panic gripped the country as the capitol was shut-down and the national security state sunk its claws ever-deeper into civil institutions.

Never mind that a far-greater threat to the health and safety of the American people comes from the Bioweapons-Industrial-Complex than from the H1N1 strain of the influenza virus. Or that this nexus of academic, corporate and militarist grifters operate with little in the way of effective oversight as a growing spate of accidents and unauthorized experiments at BSL-3 and BSL-4 facilities readily attest. (For a round-up of incidents through 2007, see The Sunshine Project's essential web archive.)

Despite poor safety records and lax controls by federal authorities, America's bioweaponeers are devising ever-more devilish weapons in the form of genetically-modified pathogens such as antibiotic-resistant smallpox or a reassembled strain of the 1918 influenza virus that killed upwards of 40 million people. (For details see: Edward Hammond, Emerging Technologies: Genetic Engineering and Biological Weapons, The Sunshine Project, Background Paper No. 12, November 2003)

Indeed as written, the BioShield legislation provides HHS and the National Institutes of Health "contracting flexibility, infrastructure improvements, and expediting the scientific peer review process, and streamlining the Food and Drug Administration approval process of countermeasures."

In other words, Project BioShield is little more than a generous public handout to unaccountable private corporations. Hence the law's emphasis on "contracting flexibility," the old public funding/private profit dodge that empowers FDA to "streamline" (cut-corners) the scientific peer review process in order to "expedite" (fast-track) "countermeasures" (new drugs) with little concern for public health and safety whilst immunizing corporate partners from liability.

In practice, this means that "in place of the peer review and advisory council review procedures" HHS will employ such "expedited peer review procedures (including consultation with appropriate scientific experts) as the Secretary, in consultation with the Director of NIH, deems appropriate to obtain assessment of scientific and technical merit and likely contribution to the field of qualified countermeasure research."

In plain English, these political appointees beholden to the whims of Executive Branch and congressional grifters in thrall to multinational drug corporations will empower "scientific experts" (e.g. scientists in the employ of Big Pharma) to rule on the efficacy of "countermeasures" for which said corporations reap a handsome profit. And should things go wrong and people begin dying from inadequately tested vaccines, well then, Congress has a neat solution: foot the American people with the bill!

This is spelled out quite clearly: "(2) FEDERAL TORT CLAIMS ACT COVERAGE.--(A) IN GENERAL.--A person carrying out a contract under paragraph (1), and an officer, employee, or governing board member of such person, shall, subject to a determination by the Secretary, be deemed to be an employee of the Department of Health and Human Services for purposes of claims under sections 1346(b) and 2672 of title 28, United States Code, for money damages for personal injury, including death, resulting from performance of functions under such contract."

Therefore, when Congress immunizes corporate entities from civil and criminal penalties by making them federal employees, you know the grift, and the fix, is literally in.

But wait, there's more!

The Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response "works in close collaboration with key partners, including the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense. HHS, through ASPR/BARDA, executes acquisition programs, utilizing the Special Reserve Fund commensurate with these priorities. HHS also works to promote open communication of U.S. Government needs to industry, an essential partner in Project BioShield. The availability of a substantial, long-term funding source was designed to provide the incentive for industry to respond to U.S. Government requirements and develop critical medical countermeasures for the American public."

And I thought saving lives would be incentive enough. What was I thinking!

This is accomplished through the Public Health Emergency Medical Countermeasures Enterprise (PHEMCE). Like ASPR/BARDA, the PHEMCE includes "key interagency partners" the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Agriculture.

As Antifascist Calling pointed out in previous articles notably "Bringing the (Bio) War Home," under cover of protecting the nation's food supply, USDA facilities such as the Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC) in partnership with the U.S. Army Medical Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) carries out dangerous dual-use research that endangers the health and safety of the public.

In the intervening years since Project BioShield legislation was enacted, things have gone from bad to worse. Since after all, the "business of government is business," giant multinational drug consortiums have been the law's biggest winners. And if the National Biodefense Science Board (NBSB) has its way, HHS's corporate partners stand to reap an even-greater windfall.

The intelligence and security web site Cryptome posted an August 11 notice buried deep inside the Federal Register.

The NBSB is seeking public comment on the group's new working document, "Inventory of Issues Constraining or Enabling Industry Involvement in Medical Countermeasure Efforts." Cutting through the bureaucratic jargon, NBSB's "Market & Sustainability Work Group" seeks to hand over even more cash to their "industry partners."

Apparently the FDA's already "streamlined" review process and "contracting flexibility" under Project BioShield isn't enough for the corporate freebooters reaping billions in hand outs.

NBSB proposes 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." This would give the drug industry the following "advantage:" "Risk of distraction of large industry partners from commercial mission or dilution of effort [potential conflict with fiduciary responsibility to shareholders of publicly traded companies]."

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.

Nice work if you can get it!

While it is vital that government, particularly our civilian institutions, plan for contingencies that may arise as the result of a pandemic outbreak of disease or a terrorist attack, the secrecy and opaque procedures surrounding entities such PHEMCE only fuel suspicion.

Indeed, PHEMCE's Enterprise Executive Committee, chaired by BARDA and charged with implementing "tactical activities," particularly when such policies are not clearly spelled-out, bolster arguments by Boston University's Wendy Mariner that "proposals to limit liberty represent a dangerous precedent to constitutional theory, particularly when there's almost no evidence it will matter."

But perhaps the revival of Bush-era quarantine proposals and the NBSB's free gifts to corporations already plush with veritable mountains of cash "matter" in a different sense, one which those of us armed with socialist "conspiracy theories" fail to grasp.

Pentagon Power-Grab: Militarizing the Heimat

As we have witnessed on more than one occasion in recent American history, the nature of a national security state is precisely to usurp civilian power and transfer it to opaque, unaccountable militarist bureaucracies such as the Pentagon.

The Hill reported August 10 that "a bipartisan pair of governors is opposing a new Defense Department proposal to handle natural and terrorism-related disasters, contending that a murky chain of command could lead to more problems than solutions."

Vermont Governor Jim Douglas (R), the chairman of the National Governors Association and Vice Chairman, West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin (D) wrote a letter opposing the Pentagon power-grab.

Under current law, governors and not the Department of Defense, exercise control over National Guard units in their own states as well as DoD personnel or any other Guard units from other states deployed under their jurisdiction.

Their objections arose over a Pentagon proposal for a "legislative fix" that would give the Secretary of Defense authority "to assist in response to domestic disasters and, consequently, control over units stationed in an affected state," The Hill revealed.

"We are concerned that the legislative proposal you discuss in your letter would invite confusion on critical command and control issues, complicate interagency planning, establish stove-piped response efforts, and interfere with governors' constitutional responsibilities to ensure the safety and security of their citizens," Douglas and Manchin wrote to Paul Stockton, assistant secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and America's Security Affairs. (Reid Wilson, "Governors Oppose DoD Emergency Powers," The Hill, August 10, 2009)

After objections by governors were raised to a similar proposal in the House version of the fiscal 2009 Defense authorization legislation, it was removed from the final version of the bill. It now seems however, that the Pentagon is back seeking to expand their writ over civilian institutions.

That this latest proposal arrives simultaneously with a mandate for new Executive Branch authority to quarantine sick people, should raise public alarm levels. The Bush regime's proposal would have handed the state authority to order a "provisional quarantine" of three business days, up to six calendar days, for individuals suspected of being infected with H1N1 "or other illnesses listed in a presidential executive order."

Under regulations proposed, but never implemented by the previous administration, airlines and cruise lines would have been required to store personal data on passengers "including email addresses, traveling companions and return flight information." Indeed, the information "would be subject to review by federal officials in a health emergency, though it would be voluntary for passengers to provide the data," according to Politico.

This series of disturbing reports follow close on the heels of analysis by Michel Chossudovsky, that a decision has been reached by U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) to establish regional teams of military personnel to assist civilian authorities in the event of a "significant outbreak of the H1N1 virus this fall."

Chossudovsky avers that "the decision points towards the militarization of civilian institutions, including law enforcement and public health." This assertion is validated by the Politico report. Objecting to the DoD's desire to usurp civilian authority over National Guard forces, the letter by prominent governors underscores the danger to civil liberties by an out-of-control Pentagon bureaucracy hell-bent on "assisting" civil institutions.

Citing the military's consideration of "a plan to give transportation and laboratory help to the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the event of a major outbreak," Chossudovsky writes:

Much of the groundwork for the intervention of the military has already been established. There are indications that these "regional teams" have already been established under USNORTHCOM, which has been involved in preparedness training and planning in the case of a flu pandemic.

Within the broader framework of "Disaster Relief," Northern Command has, in the course of the last two years, defined a mandate in the eventuality of a public health emergency or a flu pandemic. The emphasis is on the militarization of public health whereby NORTHCOM would oversee the activities of civilian institutions involved in health related services. (Michel Chossudovsky, "H1N1 Pandemic: Pentagon Planning Deployment of Troops in Support of Nationwide Vaccination," Global Research, July 31, 2009)

They wouldn't do that, would they?

Since his inauguration in January, President Barack Obama's administration has continued the repressive policies of the Bush regime. From warrantless wiretapping to corporate give-aways, and from presidential signing statements and the indefinite detention of "terrorism" suspects to the escalation of imperialist adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq, like Bush, the Obama administration represents the continuity of policies across a narrow bipartisan political spectrum, designed to bolster the national security state.

Moves to implement quarantine regulations and Pentagon plans to assume control during a national public health emergency are clear signs that democratic decision-making processes in the United States are growing weaker by the day.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

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 testimony by Dr. Alan M. Pearson, Director of the Biological and Chemical Weapons Control Program at the Washington D.C.-based 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."

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)

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 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) 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,

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)

As Global Security Newswire 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."

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)

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 programs and 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 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 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 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 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 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."