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G_j Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Mar-08-04 04:16 PM
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The government's expansion of biodefense research- yikes!

Is the federal government's expansion of biodefense research paving the way for the bioweapons of the future?

By Michael Scherer

March/April 2004 Issue

It has been called a modern-day Manhattan Projecta spending spree so vast and rapid that it might change the face of biological science. In the wake of 9/11, the U.S. government is funding a massive new biodefense research effort, redirecting up to $10 billion toward projects related to biological weapons such as anthrax. The Pentagon's budget for chemical and biological defense has doubled; high-security nuclear-weapons labs have begun conducting genetic research on dangerous pathogens; universities are receiving government funding to build high-tech labs equipped to handle deadly infectious organisms; and Fort Detrick, Maryland, once the home of America's secret bioweapons program, is about to break ground on two new high-tech biodefense centers.

Officials say the effort is designed to head off what a recent CIA report calls the "darker bioweapons future." Intelligence briefings are awash with speculation about other nations or terrorists developing genetically engineered pathogens "worse than any disease known to man." But a growing number of microbiologists, nonproliferation experts, and former government officials say there may be a dark side to the biodefense push: With poor oversight, government-funded scientists could actually be paving the way for the next generation of killer germsand given the explosion of research, there is no way to keep track of what is being done. "We are playing games with fire," says Ken Alibek, a top scientist in the Soviet Union's bioweapons program until defecting to the United States. "It is kind of a Pandora's box. As soon as you open it, there is no way of putting it back in."

In a little-noticed report released in October, the National Academy of Sciences warned that the government has no mechanism to prevent the "misuse of the tools, technology, or knowledge base of this research enterprise for offensive military or terrorist purposes." The report called for dramatically stepped-up monitoring of federally supported biodefense projects; so far, Congress and the administration have failed to act on those recommendations. Federal anti-terror legislation has focused on limiting access to stockpiles of known bioterrorism agents such as anthrax. But in a world where scientists can create deadly diseases in a test tube, says Dr. Ernie Takafuji, acting assistant director of biodefense at the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, that is not enough. "When you come down to it, the threat is not just the organisms," he explains. "The threat is the technologies." The greatest danger, scientists and intelligence officials agree, stems from researchers' increasing ability to alter the genetic codes of viruses and bacteria: The same information can be used either to treat disease or to make new germs pathogens that could, for example, be designed to evade treatment or to genetically target specific populations.

Even more worrisome to many experts is the apparent growth in secretive, or "black box," biodefense research by the U.S. intelligence community. "There's all kinds of secret research going on right now," says Matthew Meselson, a Harvard biologist who has worked closely with the military. "The more you create secret research in biology," he warns, "the more you create risk." One program that has become public is Project Jefferson, a Pentagon effort to genetically engineer a vaccine-resistant version of anthrax. After the program's existence was revealed by the New York Times in 2001, the Pentagon announced that it intended to complete the project and that the results would be classified. " natural instinct is to exploit the technology and keep everybody else away from it," says John D. Steinbruner, director of the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland. "In their hands, this technology is potentially extremely dangerous."


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madrchsod Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Mar-08-04 04:25 PM
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1. from what i have read
it`s not a bad idea..most people have no idea how much the Russians cooked up but what they have found is frighting. most of the Russian scientists are out of work and can`t be found...the problem is our government will cook up the same stuff for offensive purposes not defensive.
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G_j Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Mar-08-04 04:28 PM
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2. I don't know how safe I'd feel with
a vaccine-resistant version of anthrax in the world, and that's just one example.
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spinbaby Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Mar-08-04 04:32 PM
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3. Umm...aren't these...
Aren't these the WDMs we attacked Saddam for not having?
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G_j Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Mar-08-04 06:59 PM
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4. kick
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G_j Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-09-04 12:21 AM
Response to Reply #4
5. kick
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