>From the Village Voice: <>

Posted May 10th, 2002 12:00 PM

U.S. Military Proposes Illegal Bioweapons Research
                by Russ Kick

According to documents unearthed by a nonprofit government watchdog,
the United States military has proposed the development of biological
weapons that would violate international treaties and federal
law. In fact, they may have already developed some of these illegal,
treaty-busting bioweapons. Using the Freedom of Information Act,
the Sunshine Project has recently pried loose some damning documents
from the Marine Corps, which seems to be overseeing this area
of research.

Exhibit A is a 1997 proposal from the Naval Research Laboratory
to create genetically engineered bacteria and fungi that will
corrode and degrade enemy matériel, such as roads, runways, vehicles,
weapons, and fuel.

Then we have the document from Armstrong Laboratories at Brooks
Air Force Base in Texas. The flyboys propose much the same thing
as the navy—engineered microbes that can destroy enemy equipment,
including explosives and chemical weapons.

The military scientists take great care to point out that the
germs they want to create would be "nonlethal." But this doesn't
matter. The international Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention
treaty absolutely bans member nations from possessing or developing
microbes, toxins, or any other biological agents for use in battle
or other hostile situations. (Under the treaty, bioweapons can
only be developed for defensive purposes, which is what lets
the U.S. government brew anthrax with the supposed goal of developing
a vaccine.) The U.S. was one of the original signatories, putting
its John Hancock on the treaty in 1972.

Yet the navy lab is advocating these super-bugs for blatantly
offensive purposes, saying they will "degrade opposing forces'
mobility, logistical support and equipment maintenance programs
prior to or during military engagements." Likewise, the air force
proposal is for bioweapons that would be used to attack enemy
forces: "Catalysts can be developed to destroy whatever war matériel
is desired. All [military] Services would have an interest."

Both proposals claim that the destructive germs wouldn't violate
the biological weapons treaty. "That's completely false," says
Edward Hammond, a co-founder of the Sunshine Project. He notes
that the convention makes no distinction between bioweapons that
target humans and those that take out equipment or other targets.
"If the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention was limited to
humans, it would be disastrous. Weapons that target animals,
like livestock, would be legal. Destroying crops would be legal."

And let's not forget that the actual use of biological weapons,
as opposed to their development, was outlawed way back in 1925
by the Geneva Convention.

The military's proposed germ research would violate more than
just international treaties. "U.S. federal law explicitly states
that biological weapons that attack matériel are illegal," Hammond
says. "The penalty is life in federal prison. If they lifted
a finger to do this research, they have violated the [Biological
and Toxin Weapons] Convention and federal law."

Which leads to another crucial point. The military's proposals
from five years ago reveal that they already had developed similar
bioweapons. The navy lab says it has a fungus that breaks down
polyurethanes. In the air force document, Armstrong Laboratories
brags that it's been doing "biotechnological research at the
molecular level" for eight years. Specifically, it's cooked up
a bio-agent that quickly destroys rocket fuel, plastic, and other
organic and artificial polymers "without fire or explosion."

Does this mean that the military has already violated the bioweapons
treaty and U.S. law? "I don't want to comment on that right now,"
Hammond says. "We're discussing it with lawyers."