2002 CPEO Military List Archive

From: CPEO Moderator <cpeo@cpeo.org>
Date: 16 Dec 2002 17:25:59 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] U.S. Bio-warfare Building Boom
[Posted by Marylia Kelley <marylia@earthlink.net>]

The U.S. Bio-Warfare Building Boom

By Marylia Kelley, Ann Seitz and Inga Olson
_From Tri-Valley CAREs' December 2002 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

In recent months, more than a dozen new or expanded bio-warfare
facilities have been proposed in nine U.S. states, including at
Livermore Lab and U.C. Davis in California.

Multiple federal agencies have been bitten by the bio-facility building
bug, including the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention and the Dept. of Energy (DOE), the agency
that designs and produces nuclear weapons.

The reason? Most likely it's the $6 billion for biodefense that Congress
hastily appropriated after last fall's anthrax mailings. That money, if
ill-used in a multi-agency bio-lab construction frenzy, may serve to
undermine rather than enhance our collective security.

A new, national non-profit coalition - including Tri-Valley CAREs - has
emerged to urge Congress and the public to reassess U.S. bio-warfare

The coalition is not opposed to all biodefense work, but is concerned
that too much funding and too little planning will produce a dangerous
proliferation of bio-warfare agents and the knowledge to use them.

The coalition recently issued a statement warning that the current
situation "poses dangers to local communities, to arms control and to
U.S. national security." Coalition groups called on the government to
freeze new bio-lab construction and to reorient U.S. biodefense spending
toward "unclassified, public research to bolster local public health

Two of the new bio-warfare facilities are slated to be run by the DOE
and housed within the nation's two principal nuclear weapons design
laboratories - here at Livermore and at the Los Alamos Lab in New
Mexico. The nuclear labs are seeking authority to experiment with some
of the most hazardous biological agents on earth, including anthrax,
botulism and
bubonic plague. Additionally, the two weapons labs are planning to
genetically modify bio-warfare agents.

The planning document for Livermore Lab's bio-facility, for example,
says it will "produce small amounts of biological material (enzymes,
DNA, ribonucleic acid [RNA], etc.) using infections agents and
genetically modified agents..."  The bio-facility's inventory may total
up to ten liters of various cultured microorganisms at a time.

Livermore Lab already houses a bioreactor (fermenter) that could be
modified in the future to produce agents on a large scale, if the policy
were to change. Moreover, Livermore plans to aerosolize some bio-agents
and "challenge" small animals with them.

National coalition members expressed alarm at the proposed commingling
of new bio-warfare agent capabilities with nuclear weapons activities.
The initial steps for developing a military capability, (i.e., a
bio-weapon) are the same as for developing a defensive capability (e.g.,
a bio-agent vaccine or detector), according to experts. The U.S. weapons
labs are not open for international inspections, noted the  coalition.
Nor are they planning to be. At a minimum, this will cause other
countries to
question U.S. intentions. Conceivably, it could cripple international
efforts to construct an effective nonproliferation regime for biological

The Bush administration has already single-handedly quashed negotiations
on verification and enforcement measures needed to detect and prevent
violations to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. The coalition
believes that strengthening, not gutting, this international treaty will
increase U.S. security.

Our security can also be enhanced by developing a comprehensive, primary
prevention approach toward all forms of infectious disease, say
coalition members. This means "providing adequate resources to combat
AIDS, antibiotic-resistant tuberculosis, as well as the rise in diseases
such as malaria predicted to increase from global climate change,"
explained Dr. Robert Gould, President of the SF Bay Area Physicians for
Social Responsibility and a coalition member.

The coalition is currently working on biodefense lab and program
expansions proposed at Livermore Lab and U.C. Davis in CA, Los Alamos
Lab in NM, Utah State Univ. and Dugway Proving Ground in Utah, Rocky
Mountain Laboratory in MT, and the Univ. of Texas in Galveston. Other
new and upgraded bio-facilities are proposed in San Antonio and Lubbock,
TX, Manhattan, KS, Albuquerque, NM, Honolulu, HI, and Plum Island, NY.
More are believed to be on the drawing board.

In addition to Tri-Valley CAREs and SF Bay Area PSR, coalition member
groups include the Citizens Education Project, UT, Coalition for a Safe
Lab, MT, Los Alamos Study Group, NM, Nuclear Watch of New Mexico, The
Sunshine Project, TX, and Western States Legal Foundation, CA.

For a copy of the national statement, please call our office. For more
information, or to get involved, join us on January 9. (Please see the
enclosed flier or our Citizen's Alerts section for details.)

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