FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Pentagon Pushes for Offensive BioWeapons Development

US Navy and Air Force biotechnology laboratories are proposing development of offensive biological weapons. The weapons, genetically engineered microbes that attack items such as fuel, plastics and asphalt, would violate federal and international law. The proposals have been made by the Naval Research Laboratory (Washington, DC) and the Armstrong Laboratory (Brooks Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas). They date from 1997; but were recently submitted by the Marine Corps for a high-level assessment by a panel of the US National Academies of Science (NAS). The NAS panel (see website for members) has prepared a draft report; but it has not been released to the public.

The uncovering of these proposals for an offensive biological weapons program comes at a critical political juncture. The US has rejected a legally-binding system of United Nations inspections of suspected biological weapons facilities. At the same time, the Bush administration is aggressively accusing other countries of developing biological weapons and expanding its so-called “Axis of Evil” based in large part on allegations of foreign biological weapons development.

But it is increasingly apparent that there are serious questions about the United States’ own compliance with the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC). While US allegations against other countries are generally undocumented, the proposals described in this press release were recently released to the Sunshine Project under the Freedom of Information Act and have been placed on the internet for independent analysis (See <www.sunshine-project.org>).

Explicitly for Offense: In the murky world of biological weapons research, many technologies are “dual use”, that is, they have both offensive and peaceful applications. The alleged transfer of dual use technologies, such as vaccine research, is a basis of charges made against Cuba on May 6th by US Under Secretary of State John Bolton. The US armed forces documents released here, however, are not about “dual use” technology, they are explicit proposals for offensive weaponsmaking.

According to the Naval Research Laboratory, “It is the purpose of the proposed research to capitalize on the degradative potential ofS naturally occurring microorganisms, and to engineer additional, focused degradative capabilities into [genetically modified microorganisms], to produce systems that will degrade the warfighting capabilities of potential adversaries.” The Air Force proposes “genetically engineered catalysts made by bacteria that destroyS Catalysts can be engineered to destroy whatever war material is desired.” The proposals indicate these weapons might be used by all the armed forces, including the Special Forces and in peacekeeping and anti-narcotics operations.

Additional Documents Suppressed: These proposals are probably only the tip of the iceberg. For over one year, the Marine Corps has delayed response to a Sunshine Project Freedom of Information Act request that now includes 147 unclassified documents. The two proposals described here are part of a recent first release of 8 items from that request. 139 related legal and weapons development documents are unreleased. The Marine Corps says the delay is due to a lack of manpower.

The National Academies are also suppressing related documents. As part of the Marine Corps-commissioned study, in 2001 at least 77 apparently chemical and biological weapons-related documents were deposited in the NAS Public Access Records File, a library open for inspection and copying by all persons. After the Sunshine Project requested copies of these documents on March 12th 2002, the National Academies placed a “security hold” on the public file. High-ranking NAS officials have refused to explain who ordered the hold, or to offer a credible explanation as to why it exists. The Sunshine Project believes that NAS is under pressure from high-ranking US officials to “Enron” the public record to avoid release of politically sensitive material. Rather than assist a purge of the public record, NAS – a leading US non-profit scientific body – must condemn and release the proposals for illegal weapons that is has received.

Legal Implications: The research proposed by the Air Force and Navy raises serious legal questions. Under the US Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act, development of biological weapons, including those that attack materials, is subject to federal criminal and civil penalties. The Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, which the US and 143 other countries have ratified, prohibits development, acquisition, and stockpiling of any biological agents not justifiable for peaceful or prophylactic purposes. There is no such justification for the offensive research proposed by the Navy and Air Force. The proposals are certain to weigh heavily on all countries’ minds as they prepare for November’s reconstituted 5th Review Conference of the BTWC.

Edward Hammond is director of The Sunshine Project, based in Austin, Texas. Jan van Aken works for the Sunshine Project in Hamburg, Germany. They can be reached at: hammond@sunshine-project.org

 

 

 

More articles by:
September 25, 2018
Kenneth Surin
Fact-Finding Labour’s “Anti-Semitism” Crisis
Charles Pierson
Destroying Yemen as Humanely as Possible
James Rothenberg
Why Not Socialism?
Patrick Cockburn
How Putin Came Out on Top in Syria
John Grant
“Awesome Uncontrollable Male Passion” Meets Its Match
Guy Horton
Burma: Complicity With Evil?
Steve Stallone
Jujitsu Comms
William Blum
Bombing Libya: the Origins of Europe’s Immigration Crisis
John Feffer
There’s a New Crash Coming
Martha Pskowski
“The Emergency Isn’t Over”: the Homeless Commemorate a Year Since the Mexico City Earthquake
Fred Baumgarten
Ten Ways of Looking at Civility
Dean Baker
The Great Financial Crisis: Bernanke and the Bubble
Binoy Kampmark
Parasitic and Irrelevant: The University Vice Chancellor
September 24, 2018
Jonathan Cook
Hiding in Plain Sight: Why We Cannot See the System Destroying Us
Gary Leupp
All the Good News (Ignored by the Trump-Obsessed Media)
Robert Fisk
I Don’t See How a Palestinian State Can Ever Happen
Barry Brown
Pot as Political Speech
Lara Merling
Puerto Rico’s Colonial Legacy and Its Continuing Economic Troubles
Patrick Cockburn
Iraq’s Prime Ministers Come and Go, But the Stalemate Remains
William Blum
The New Iraq WMD: Russian Interference in US Elections
Julian Vigo
The UK’s Snoopers’ Charter Has Been Dealt a Serious Blow
Joseph Matten
Why Did Global Economic Performance Deteriorate in the 1970s?
Zhivko Illeieff
The Millennial Label: Distinguishing Facts from Fiction
Thomas Hon Wing Polin – Gerry Brown
Xinjiang : The New Great Game
Binoy Kampmark
Casting Kavanaugh: The Trump Supreme Court Drama
Max Wilbert
Blue Angels: the Naked Face of Empire
Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Brad Evans
What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day?
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will There Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail