US Building Germ Warfare Center
- U.S. biodefense lab raises concerns
United Press International
FORT DETRICK, Md. (UPI) -- The Bush administration is building a
massive biodefense laboratory in Maryland that will simulate
calamitous bioterrorism attacks, it was reported Sunday.
But much of what the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures
Center in Fort Detrick, Md., does may never be publicly known because
the White House intends to operate the facility largely in secret, the
Washington Post reported.
In an unusual arrangement, the building itself will be classified as
"highly restricted space," from the reception desk to the lab benches
to the cages where animals are kept, the newspaper said.
Not even nuclear labs operate with such secrecy.
The covertness has some arms-control specialists concerned that U.S.
biodefense policy, as carried out by the Department of Homeland
Security, the center's creator, could "skirt the edges" of an
international treaty outlawing the production of even small amounts of
biological weapons, the newspaper said.
The administration insists the center's work is purely defensive and
thus fully legal. It has rejected calls for oversight by independent
observers outside the department's network of government scientists
US begins building treaty-breaching germ war defence centre
Julian Borger in Washington
Monday July 31, 2006
Construction work has begun near Washington on a vast germ warfare
laboratory intended to help protect the US against an attack with
biological weapon, but critics say the laboratory's work will violate
international law and its extreme secrecy will exacerbate a biological
The National Biodefence Analysis and Countermeasures Centre (NBACC),
due to be completed in 2008, will house heavily guarded and
hermetically sealed chambers in which scientists simulate potential
To do so, the centre will have to produce and stockpile the world's
most lethal bacteria and viruses, which is forbidden by the 1972
Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. Three years before that
treaty was agreed, President Richard Nixon halted the production of US
biological weapons at Fort Detrick in Maryland. The same military base
is the site for the new $128m (£70m), 160,000 sq ft laboratory.
The green light for its construction was given after the September 11
attacks, which coincided with a series of still-unsolved anthrax
incidents that killed five people. The department of homeland
security, which will run the centre, says its work is necessary to
protect the country. "All the programmes we do are defensive in
nature," Maureen McCarthy, director of homeland security research and
development, told the Washington Post. "Our job is to ensure that the
civilian population of the country is protected, and that we know what
the threats are."
The biological weapons convention stipulates that the signatories must
not "develop, produce, stockpile, or otherwise acquire or retain"
biological weapons, and does not distinguish between offensive and
A presentation given by Lieutenant Colonel George Korch said the NBACC
would be used to apply "red team operational scenarios and
capabilities" - military jargon for simulating enemy attacks.
Some analysts say the extraordinary secrecy surrounding the project
will heighten suspicions of US intentions and accelerate work on
similar facilities around the world.
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