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Fun with antrax
September 26, 2005 9:03 AM   Subscribe

The U.S. Military is buying bioweapones production systems, with a focus on Anthrax. The Sunshine Project, a German group opposed to biological weapons development, uncovered U.S. Army contracts for equipment to produce the anthrax bacillus anthracis Sterne in 1,500 litre quantities, and other unspecified biolgical agents in 3,000 litre batches. All equipment was to be stationed at the Dugway Proving Ground in Utah. It seems unlikely that the U.S. is living up to its commitments to the Biological Weapons Convention.

As a reminder, the post 9/11 anthrax attack upon the U.S. used weponized anthrax produced in the U.S. [1] [2], most likely at Fort Detrick. The attack is generally believed to have been committed by conservative elements in American society, partly due to the choice of targets and the existence of a simultaneous harmless attacks. Lt. Col. Dr. Philip Zack is believed to have been involved in smuggling the Anthrax out of Fort Detrick, if not in the actual attacks as well [3] [4].
posted by jeffburdges (31 comments total)

 
Um, they may actually be testing the effects of such weapons not for use, but for counteracting them if we are attacked with them.
posted by cleverusername at 9:09 AM on September 26, 2005


From the article:

the Sterne strain is not thought to be harmful to humans and is used for vaccination

It is not known what use the biological agents will be put to. They could be used to test procedures to decontaminate vehicles or buildings, or to test an "agent defeat" warhead designed to destroy stores of chemical and biological weapons.

So, to clarify, it's unlikely with that this particular strain would be used to actually kill people, as this strain can't actually hurt human beings.
posted by unreason at 9:10 AM on September 26, 2005


Ahhh, but if they dropped 1,500 litres from a building, it definetly could kill you! How often do YOU look up? Fear Fear Fear Fear Sex Fear!
posted by cleverusername at 9:18 AM on September 26, 2005


So lessee...US is building anthrax labs. US is refusing to constrain the military to the Geneva Convention. US is using armed dolphins that have escaped into the Gulf of Mexico. US refuses to allow its criminals to be tried in the international court.

Is it time yet to call the US a 'rogue state'?
posted by Kickstart70 at 9:25 AM on September 26, 2005


I'm sorry, but armed dolphins in the Gul of Mexico is a pretty swell concept. Not as cool as sharks with frickin' lasers or a shark on the back of an elephant, but cool nevertheless.
posted by keswick at 9:29 AM on September 26, 2005


After the Cold War ended, there was a large influx of scientists and management from the former USSR's bioweapons program. The US has been running massive, if quiet, biological and chemical weapons programs for decades in direct contravention of protocols and treaties it had signed publicly over that same time period. As with missile treaties, the pre-9/11 Bush administration decided to show no further pretense of compliance.
posted by Rothko at 9:37 AM on September 26, 2005


Let's think about this rationally for a minute. The internet has arrived. You do realise what this means, right? It means that a lot of previously inaccessible knowledge is soon going to be freely available. Every scientific weapons related item that does not require special and expensive laboratory material is soon going to be available for everyone to make.

Biological weapons are easy to make and difficult to detect. Soon, the ability for everyone to make them will be available.

If weapons grade biological research is banned, then yes, only the outlaws will do weapons grade biological research. And they'll get the papers off the internet.

Let the U.S government perform this research. They will not risk creating a highly virulent strain of bacteria without finding out how to stop it if it runs wild. And that is what will save us when a mad scientist decides to release this bacterial strain.

Call me paranoid if you wish, but I see a situation where the serial killers will prefer to create biological agents instead of shooting people. Much more effective, they make themselves more of a name.
posted by markesh at 9:42 AM on September 26, 2005


Tuna free dolphin is fricken delicious with a sprinkling of anthrax. The toxic dart is adds a nice dash fire. My favourite recipe involves wrapping it in tinfoil and wearing it on my head.
posted by srboisvert at 9:44 AM on September 26, 2005


Let the U.S government perform this research. They will not risk creating a highly virulent strain of bacteria without finding out how to stop it if it runs wild.

Are you really arguing for the competence of government right now? My ghast is flabbered.
posted by srboisvert at 9:48 AM on September 26, 2005


As a reminder, the post 9/11 anthrax attack upon the U.S. used weponized anthrax produced in the U.S. [1] [2], most likely at Fort Detrick. The attack is generally believed to have been committed by conservative elements in American society, partly due to the choice of targets and the existence of a simultaneous harmless attacks. Lt. Col. Dr. Philip Zack is believed to have been involved in smuggling the Anthrax out of Fort Detrick, if not in the actual attacks as well [3] [4].

I'm surprised no one's commented on this piece of the post yet...

Thank god the right is here to save us from the radical extremists! (How can satan cast out satan, that's what I wanna know...?)
posted by all-seeing eye dog at 9:59 AM on September 26, 2005


If weapons grade biological research is banned, then yes, only the outlaws will do weapons grade biological research. And they'll get the papers off the internet.

Let the U.S government perform this research.


Well then. If child porn is banned, then only outlaws will make child porn. And they'll get the information off the internet. Let the U.S government create this child porn.

Eradication is a tricky thing, but you're going in the wrong direction. The "...only outlaws..." argument works for reduction and control, but not elimination. After all, the existence of these weapons anywhere is a threat to people everywhere. It takes only one renegade employee to set them loose, which seems to have already happened.
posted by allen.spaulding at 10:16 AM on September 26, 2005


Look at the publication dates on all these articles (except the New Scientist). They date from early 2002. I tried googling for news of the Anthrax investigations, and after 2003 there is almost no mention of the Anthrax attacks or any subsequent investigation.

This isn't tinfoil hat territory. This isn't simple Rogue State territory. This is our governement deciding that we should not hear about who is behind the Anthrax attacks that took place on the heels of the 9/11 attacks. Anthrax proven to have been manufactured by the US army.

Let's raise the unmentionable possibility. Knowing what we now know about our Republican leadership, would Cheney and Rumsfeld have thought it expedient to heat up the anxiety level in the US in the days following 9/11? Would they have cared less about some dead leftist politicians, media faces, and a couple of normal US postal workers and Vietnamese immigrants dying? Would they have bothered to tell Dubya about it? My suspicion is that the answers are Yes, No, and No.
posted by zaelic at 10:21 AM on September 26, 2005


Yeah, but the problem in that past was that it was difficult to gain the knowledge to create the weapons. This is no longer the case!

And yes, I prefer to trust the government to any other group.
posted by markesh at 10:21 AM on September 26, 2005


Metafilter: Fear Fear Fear Fear Sex Fear!
posted by joe lisboa at 10:34 AM on September 26, 2005


joe lisboa: who said anything about fear? people who are scared of something tend not to want to talk about it, wouldn't you say?
posted by all-seeing eye dog at 10:36 AM on September 26, 2005


They will not risk creating a highly virulent strain of bacteria without finding out how to stop it if it runs wild.

I take it you've not seen many zombie films?
posted by NationalKato at 10:36 AM on September 26, 2005


NationalKato: I once watched a Zombie film. It was unrealistic, because it appeared to me that without blood, even the lower animal brain functions of the zombie would have ceased functioning. And considering that most of the zombies were bleeding, it just seemed a bit odd that they could still attack the humans. And besides, why did the Zombies not just attack each other - there is little reason why a human reduced to its baser animal parts would be able to make a complex decision such as "I want brains, and only brains of other human beings that are not zombies". So basically, in my opinion, the whole Zombie film thing is unrealistic.

For everyone who read up until here, yes, I am german.
posted by markesh at 10:52 AM on September 26, 2005


Brains! BRRRaaaainnnnss!

On a more serious note, the US Government did make anthrax. And it did get loose, it got sent to people in the post. Nobody denies that.

So knowing that, isn't it a little foolish to argue for government to be researching biological weapons? The same loon, whoever he (or they) were, could release, say, a modified, highly infectious HIV/Smallpox/Avian Flu variant in exactly the same way they released the Anthrax. The result could be, literally, extermination of the human race.

Doesn't that concern anyone a little?
posted by cleardawn at 11:03 AM on September 26, 2005


We must never forget the Sept. 11 attacks ... but let's please, please go ahead and forget the Sept. 18 attacks. Okay? Okay then ...

USA, USA, USA, USA!
posted by kenlayne at 11:11 AM on September 26, 2005


Unreason, the problem isn't the strain, it's the tanks. The government has samples which are all it needs to grow the strains it needs, and, as the next paragraph from the one you quotes points out,

"If one can grow the Sterne strain in these units, one could also grow the Ames strain, which is quite lethal."
posted by cleardawn at 11:14 AM on September 26, 2005


"If one can grow the Sterne strain in these units, one could also grow the Ames strain, which is quite lethal"

True, but my point is that there is nothing to indicate that they actually will grow the Ames strain. The only thing the military has done so far is buy non-lethal strains used for test and vaccination purposes, and some tanks to grow them in. Am I saying that the government will never make a germ weapon? Of course not. I have no idea what they will do. I'm just pointing out that contrary to what many of the posters seem to think, this isn't some kind of smoking gun where we've discovered the military's Secret Plan of Evil (TM). Could this stuff be used for bad stuff? Certainly. Do we know that it will? No, we really don't, and considering that we probably already possess germ research labs, it is unlikely that we would have to publically purchase new equipment to make lethal strains.
posted by unreason at 11:20 AM on September 26, 2005


Little Progress In FBI Probe of Anthrax Attacks, Washington Post, September 16:
Four years after the deadly 2001 anthrax attacks, one of the most exhaustive investigations in FBI history has yielded no arrests and is showing signs of growing cold as officials have sharply reduced the number of agents on the case.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:22 AM on September 26, 2005


The attack is generally believed to have been committed by conservative elements in American society, partly due to the choice of targets and the existence of a simultaneous harmless attacks. Lt. Col. Dr. Philip Zack is believed to have been involved in smuggling the Anthrax out of Fort Detrick, if not in the actual attacks as well [3] [4].

Come on, is the best we can do old Antiwar.com postings and blaming "conservative elements"?!? Makes it sound like Robert Novak is out mailing anthrax (not that I would put it past him, but still, you know what I mean). This story has been far from buried, it just has had no breaks and is unlikely to, the parallel is often drawn to the Unabomber case.

For a more accurate overview, try the Minneapolis Star Tribune article from yesterday. Despite drops in personnel, there are 21 FBI inspectors and 9 postal inspectors still working, as the article states:

"FBI agents and postal inspectors have pursued leads on four continents, conducted more than 8,000 interviews and carried out dozens of searches of houses, laboratories and other locations. They traveled to Afghanistan twice in the past 16 months to follow up on tips that proved fruitless, said law enforcement sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the issue."
posted by blahblahblah at 11:24 AM on September 26, 2005


"Biological weapons are easy to make and difficult to detect. Soon, the ability for everyone to make them will be available."

Well the information may be available, but the resources are a different matter. Making a bioweapon is actually quite difficult, if you're talking about enough stable compound to actually affect more than a few people at a time. You can't (yet) do it with a Little Professor Home Chemistry set and some spare petri dishes. You have to have access to serious equipment, which makes you more visible to interested parties, such as the Feds, if they're doing their job anyway.

Historically speaking, the use of bio and chemical weapons have been hampered by this fact, as well as by their being a danger to their makers and handlers, and being hard to control once released (due to wind, temperature, and dispersal and expiration rates).

Or so I've read (defers to actual biologists).

Anthrax is a nasty beast if it gets released though, because the damn spores can stay active in the soil practically forever. Which is also why it's a bad idea to release it over territory you want to take over, as it will keep infecting the conquerers as well...
posted by emjaybee at 11:37 AM on September 26, 2005


Come on, is the best we can do old Antiwar.com postings and blaming "conservative elements"?!?

Come on, is the best we can do to say "Come on" (in our best imitation of media-hack John Stossel) while retreating into some comfortably uber-skeptical position that in effect dismisses any independent attempt to get to the bottom of the anthrax attacks as partisan tin-foil hat nut-jobbery?
posted by all-seeing eye dog at 11:41 AM on September 26, 2005


All-seeing eye dog: Not at all, but you have to admit that the choice of these particular two outdated links from the same author and publication, plus the "conservative elements" mention, look a lot like "partisan tin-foil hat nut-jobbery," as you put it. The first link is to an anti-War column from 2002 that only mentions Zacks in passing, and is mostly about Israel. The second is more relevant, but it was from February 2002, and its loud claims of a conspiracy are unconnected with any of the more recent investigations about the case. The choice of these two articles is telling. There may be good independent attempts to get at the truth, but these are not it.
posted by blahblahblah at 11:51 AM on September 26, 2005


Three years old counts as outdated now?

On another note - what the hell is up with Justin Raimondo's photo? Not helping his cause.

The internet is a visual medium, people.
posted by poweredbybeard at 12:30 PM on September 26, 2005


blahblahblah: fair enough. but one more thing:

"There may be good independent attempts to get at the truth, but these are not it."

I'm not sure there are any better attempts to get at the truth at the moment, so maybe these have to do. But if you or anyone else knows otherwise, please share with the group!
posted by all-seeing eye dog at 12:39 PM on September 26, 2005


So, what exactly is Lt.Col.Dr Zack's alabi? ER, why exactly WON'T they question the guy? As I remember reading, they have him on security cameras comming out of an Army storage facility (without proper paperwork, or something..) that stored this particular strain of anthrax a couple weeks before the attacks.

No one want's to comment on Zack? Is it because 'there is no story' because he is immune from questioning?
posted by Balisong at 9:01 PM on September 26, 2005


The only source that the anti-War author used was the Hartford Courant, which said:
Documents from the inquiry show that one unauthorized person who was observed entering the lab building at night was Langford's predecessor, Lt. Col. Philip Zack, who at the time no longer worked at Fort Detrick. A surveillance camera recorded Zack being let in at 8:40 p.m. on Jan. 23, 1992, apparently by Dr. Marian Rippy, a lab pathologist and close friend of Zack's, according to a report filed by a security guard.

There has never been any evidence that he entered the facility in 2001, or any other date close to that, we don't know if the FBI questioned him or not, and the whole thing seemed connected to some sexual politics and research credit arguments at the lab. Obviously, the disarray was Not Good in every way, but to make the leap to "Dr. Zacks took anthrax in 2001 and was never questioned by the FBI" is totally out of thin air, that is why this whole thing seemed a bit conspiracy-oriented for my tastes.
posted by blahblahblah at 9:33 PM on September 26, 2005


I've been to Ames, and it is quite lethal.
posted by maxsparber at 9:28 AM on September 27, 2005


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