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