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FTR #585 Update on Biological Warfare and Lyme Disease

Record­ed Feb­ru­ary 11, 2007
MP3 Side 1 [1] | Side 2 [2]

Intro­duc­tion: Con­tin­u­ing the inquiry under­tak­en in FTR 480 [4], this pro­gram explores the rela­tion­ship between Lyme dis­ease and bio­log­i­cal war­fare research. After review­ing Amer­i­can employ­ment of Nazi bio­log­i­cal war­fare chief Erich Traub in the after­math of World War II, the broad­cast notes that Traub may well have exper­i­ment­ed with dis­ease-infect­ed ticks on Plum Island. Cir­cum­stan­tial evi­dence sug­gests that Lyme dis­ease may have stemmed (acci­den­tal­ly or delib­er­ate­ly) from bio­log­i­cal war­fare research exper­i­ments on Plum Island. At every turn, Lyme dis­ease research is inex­tri­ca­bly linked with bio­log­i­cal war­fare research. Divid­ed into the “Steere” and “ILADS” camps, the Lyme dis­ease research com­mu­ni­ty is split between the view that the dis­ease is “hard-to-catch, easy-to-cure” and the dia­met­ri­cal­ly opposed view that the dis­ease is very seri­ous and pro­duces long-term neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­or­der. The Steere camp dimin­ish­es the sig­nif­i­cance of the dis­ease and is close­ly iden­ti­fied with bio­log­i­cal war­fare research. At the epi­cen­ter of Lyme dis­ease research (and the Steere camp) are mem­bers of the Epi­dem­ic Intel­li­gence Ser­vice, or EIS. EIS per­son­nel are to be found at every bend in the road of Lyme dis­ease research.

Pro­gram High­lights Include: The dis­cov­ery by Willy Burgdor­fer of the microbe that caus­es Lyme dis­ease; Burgdorfer’s work as a bio­log­i­cal war­fare (BW) researcher; Burgdorfer’s work on Lyme dis­ease con­duct­ed in con­cert with BW researchers Jorge Benach and Alan Bar­bour; the appoint­ment of BW researchers Edward McSwee­gan and Mark Klemp­n­er to head up offi­cial research into Lyme dis­ease; the “acci­den­tal” clas­si­fi­ca­tion of Lyme dis­ease as a poten­tial bio­log­i­cal war­fare weapon by both the NIH and the CDC; the Pentagon’s use of a real-time satel­lite sys­tem that enables troops in the field to assess the threat of Lyme-infect­ed ticks in their area; the fact that Lyme dis­ease sheds its out­er coat in such a way as to be resis­tant to antibi­otics; the dif­fi­cul­ty in diag­nos­ing Lyme dis­ease; the des­ig­na­tion of Lyme dis­ease as a “sen­tinel” ail­ment to aid in the detec­tion of bio­log­i­cal war­fare agents.

1. Side “A” of the broad­cast con­sists of review of infor­ma­tion from FTR 480 [4]. High­light­ing an aspect of Project Paper­clip (the impor­ta­tion of Nazi sci­en­tists to work for the U.S. after World War II), the pro­gram details the work of Erich Traub. In charge of bac­te­ri­o­log­i­cal and viro­log­i­cal war­fare research for the Third Reich, he went to work for the U.S. after the con­flict. Cir­cum­stan­tial evi­dence sug­gests he may have con­duct­ed bio­log­i­cal war­fare research on tick-borne dis­eases on, among oth­er places, Plum Island, off the coast of Long Island. FTR 480 [4] presents infor­ma­tion sug­gest­ing that the spread of Lyme dis­ease in this coun­try may have orig­i­nat­ed from Plum Island BW tests.

2. The sec­ond half of the pro­gram sets forth a thought-pro­vok­ing paper about the ubiq­ui­tous pres­ence of bio­log­i­cal war­fare spe­cial­ists in the Lyme dis­ease research com­mu­ni­ty. By the same token, the his­to­ry of Lyme dis­ease research is asso­ci­at­ed with bio­log­i­cal war­fare research at vir­tu­al­ly every turn. Lyme research is con­trolled by the Steere Camp, whose mem­bers are inex­tri­ca­bly linked to the bio­log­i­cal war­fare research com­mu­ni­ty in this coun­try. The oppos­ing camp-the ILADS—contends that Lyme dis­ease is a seri­ous ail­ment that pro­duces pro­longed neu­ro­log­i­cal symp­toms. The Steere Camp main­tains that Lyme is “hard-to-catch, easy-to-cure.” “The world of Lyme dis­ease med­i­cine is split into two camps – the US gov­ern­ment-backed ‘Steere camp’, which main­tains the dis­ease is hard-to-catch, eas­i­ly cured, and rarely caus­es chron­ic neu­ro­log­i­cal dam­age, and the ‘ILADS camp’, which main­tains the oppo­site. The Steere camp is intri­cate­ly bound up with the Amer­i­can biowar­fare estab­lish­ment, as well as with giant insur­ance and oth­er cor­po­rate inter­ests with a stake in the issue. The ILADS doc­tors lack such con­nec­tions, but are sup­port­ed instead by tens of thou­sands of patients ral­ly­ing behind them. Because the Steere camp has been mas­sive­ly fund­ed and pro­mot­ed by fed­er­al agen­cies, its view has dom­i­nat­ed Lyme med­i­cine not just in the US, but across much of the world. The result has been suf­fer­ing on a grand scale. Below is a con­cise his­to­ry of the mil­i­tary aspects of this cov­er-up.”
(“His­to­ry of Lyme dis­ease as a Bioweapon: Lyme is a Biowar­fare Issue” by Ele­na Cook.) [5]

3. The Bor­re­lia genus has long been researched as a bio­log­i­cal war­fare vec­tor. Note that Unit 731 per­son­nel and their files were put to work for the Unit­ed States after World War II, much like the Project Paper­clip sci­en­tists from Ger­many. “ . . . The Bor­re­lia genus of bac­te­ria, which encom­pass­es the Bor­re­lia burgdor­feri species-group (to which Lyme dis­ease is attrib­uted), was stud­ied by the infa­mous WW2 Japan­ese biowar Unit 731, who car­ried out hor­rif­ic exper­i­ments on pris­on­ers in Manchuria, includ­ing dis­sec­tion of live human beings. [iii] Unit 731 also worked on a num­ber of oth­er tick-borne pathogens. After the war, the butch­ers of Unit 731 were shield­ed from pros­e­cu­tion by the US author­i­ties, who want­ed their exper­tise for the Cold War. [iv] The US gov­ern­ment also pro­tect­ed and recruit­ed Ger­man Nazi bioweaponeers under the aegis of the top-secret Oper­a­tion Paper­clip. . . .” (Idem.)

4. The extra­or­di­nary muta­bil­i­ty of bor­re­lia bac­te­ria makes that genus espe­cial­ly well-suit­ed for bio­log­i­cal war­fare pur­pos­es. “ . . . bor­re­lia were known for their abil­i­ty to adopt dif­fer­ent forms under con­di­tions of stress (such as expo­sure to antibi­otics). Shed­ding their out­er wall, (which is the tar­get of peni­cillin and relat­ed drugs), they could ward off attack and con­tin­ue to exist in the body. Lyme dis­ease is not usu­al­ly fatal, and it is some­times argued that, with rapid­ly lethal agents like small­pox and plague avail­able, an army would have no inter­est in it. How­ev­er, what is impor­tant to under­stand here is that inca­pac­i­tat­ing or ‘non-lethal’ bioweapons are a major part of biowar­fare R&D [vi], and have been for decades. . . . Mil­i­tary strate­gists under­stand that dis­abling an enemy’s sol­diers can some­times cause more dam­age than killing them, as large amount of resources are then tied up in car­ing for the casu­al­ties. An effi­cient inca­pac­i­tat­ing weapon dis­persed over a civil­ian pop­u­la­tion could destroy a country’s econ­o­my and infra­struc­ture with­out fir­ing a shot. Peo­ple would either be too sick to work, or too busy look­ing after those who were.” (Idem.)

5. Research into Lyme dis­ease has been dom­i­nat­ed by per­son­nel from the Epi­dem­ic Intel­li­gence Ser­vice, whose mem­bers are the pre­mier bio­log­i­cal war­fare experts in the coun­try. The EIS per­son­nel make up the Steere Camp. EIS per­son­nel admin­is­tered Lyme dis­ease research from the begin­ning: “ . . . When Pol­ly Mur­ray made her now-famous call to the Con­necti­cut health depart­ment to report the strange epi­dem­ic among chil­dren and adults in her town, her ini­tial recep­tion was luke­warm. How­ev­er, some weeks lat­er, she got an unex­pect­ed call from a Dr David Sny­d­man, of the Epi­dem­ic Intel­li­gence Ser­vice (EIS), who was very inter­est­ed. He arranged for fel­low EIS offi­cer Dr Allen Steere to get involved. By the time Mrs. Mur­ray turned up for her appoint­ment at Yale, the doc­tor she had expect­ed to see had been rel­e­gat­ed to the role of an onlook­er. Allen Steere had tak­en charge – and his views were to shape the course of Lyme med­i­cine for the next thir­ty years, up till today. [x]” (Idem.)

6. More about the EIS and its impor­tance to the inter­na­tion­al bio­log­i­cal war­fare research com­mu­ni­ty: “The EIS is an elite, qua­si-mil­i­tary unit of Infec­tious Dis­ease experts set up in the 1950’s to devel­op an offen­sive biowar­fare capa­bil­i­ty. Despite the ban­ning of offen­sive biowar in the 1970’s, the crack troops of the EIS con­tin­ue to exist, osten­si­bly for non-offen­sive research into ‘emerg­ing dis­ease’ threats, a blan­ket phrase cov­er­ing both bioweapon attacks and nat­ur­al epi­demics at the same time. Grad­u­ates of the EIS train­ing pro­gram are sent in to occu­py strate­gic posi­tions in the US health infra­struc­ture, tak­ing lead­er­ship at fed­er­al and state health agen­cies, in acad­e­mia, indus­try and the media. The orga­ni­za­tion also extends its influ­ence abroad, train­ing offi­cers for pub­lic health agen­cies in Britain, France, the Nether­lands etc. [xi] [xii]” (Idem.)

7. “In fact a high pro­por­tion of Steere camp Lyme experts are involved with the EIS. Giv­en that the EIS is a small, elite force, (in 2001 the CDC revealed there were less than 2500 EIS offi­cers in exis­tence since the unit was first cre­at­ed in 1951 [xiii]), it seems incred­i­ble that so many of America’s top Infec­tious Dis­ease experts would devote their careers to what they them­selves claim is a ‘hard-to-catch, eas­i­ly-cured’ dis­ease. . . .” (Idem.)

8. The dis­cov­er­er of the micro-organ­ism that caus­es Lyme was a bio­log­i­cal war­fare expert—Willy Burgdor­fer. Two of the peo­ple with whom Burgdor­fer worked in the ear­ly phas­es of Lyme research (Jorge Benach and Alan Bar­bour) were also BW [bio­log­i­cal war­fare] spe­cial­ists. “ . . . The microbe was acci­den­tal­ly found by biowar­fare sci­en­tist Willy Burgdor­fer and was sub­se­quent­ly named for him. [Empha­sis added.] Burgdor­fer has cham­pi­oned the Lyme patients’ move­ment and is not sus­pect­ed of any wrong­do­ing. How­ev­er it is not impos­si­ble that he was unwit­ting­ly caught up in a chain of events that were not as ran­dom as they might have seemed. [Burgdor­fer was a Swiss sci­en­tist who had been recruit­ed by the US Pub­lic Health Ser­vice in the 1950’s. He was high­ly expe­ri­enced with both ticks and bor­re­lia, but after being told that the gov­ern­ment was not inter­est­ed in fund­ing work with the lat­ter, he switched to work with Rick­ettsia and oth­er pathogens. [xiv] In 1981, Burgdor­fer was sent a batch of deer ticks by a team study­ing Rocky Moun­tain Spot­ted Fever on the East Coast. In charge of the team was one Dr Jorge Benach. [xv] Benach sub­se­quent­ly spent much of his career as a Steere camp Lyme researcher. In 2004 he was cho­sen as recip­i­ent for a $3 mil­lion biowar­fare research grant. [xvi] [Empha­sis added.] Cut­ting open some of Benach’ ticks, Burgdor­fer noticed micro­fi­lar­ia (micro­scop­ic worm young). This was a sub­ject he had been study­ing recent­ly, only these micro­fi­lar­ia were dif­fer­ent. They were excep­tion­al­ly large, large enough to be seen with the naked eye.[xvii] His curios­i­ty nat­u­ral­ly piqued, he opened up sev­er­al more ticks. There he was sur­prised to find the spi­ral-shaped germs of bor­re­lia. Cul­ti­va­tion is nec­es­sary in order to iso­late bac­te­ria for study, so that diag­nos­tic tests, vac­cines or cures can be devel­oped. Bor­re­lia are very dif­fi­cult to grow in cul­ture. How­ev­er, by ‘lucky coin­ci­dence’, anoth­er sci­en­tist had recent­ly joined the lab where he worked, and had appar­ent­ly been involved in an amaz­ing break­through in this area. So nat­u­ral­ly Burgdor­fer hand­ed the infect­ed ticks over to him. [xvi­ii] That sci­en­tist was Dr. Alan Bar­bour, an offi­cer, like Steere and Sny­d­man, of the Epi­dem­ic Intel­li­gence Ser­vice, with a back­ground in work on anthrax, one of the most ter­ri­fy­ing biowar­fare agents known. [xix] [Empha­sis added.]” (Idem.)

9. Set­ting the tem­plate for future Lyme research, EIS researcher Alan Barbour’s work on bor­re­lia deter­mined the nature of sub­se­quent Lyjme dis­ease test­ing. Bar­bour has gone on to the top posi­tion in a bio­log­i­cal war­fare research facil­i­ty at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia at Irvine, where he is work­ing with anoth­er “Steerite,” Jonas Bunikis. “. . . EIS man Bar­bour there­fore became the first to iso­late the pro­to­type organ­ism on which all sub­se­quent Lyme dis­ease blood tests would be based. [xx] This is very sig­nif­i­cant, as a huge body of evi­dence [xxi] indi­cates the unre­li­a­bil­i­ty of these tests, which are rou­tine­ly used to rule out the dis­ease. Addi­tion­al­ly, all DNA detec­tion of the Lyme agent in ticks and ani­mals is ulti­mate­ly based, direct­ly or indi­rect­ly, on the genet­ic pro­file of the strain first iso­lat­ed by Bar­bour. Short­ly after Barbour’s dis­cov­ery, oth­er species and strains of the Lyme-caus­ing bac­te­ria were iso­lat­ed, espe­cial­ly in Europe. They were all clas­si­fied based on their resem­blance to Barbour’s organ­ism, and have been grouped into a cat­e­go­ry called Bor­re­lia burgdor­feri sen­su lato or ‘Bbsl’ for short. . . . In 2005 Bar­bour, who spent much of his career study­ing the ‘hard-to-catch, easy-to-cure’ Lyme dis­ease, was placed in charge of the mul­ti-mil­lion new biowar­fare mega-com­plex based at Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia at Irvine (UCI). [xxiv] Bar­bour is joined there by his close col­league and fel­low Steerite Jonas Bunikis, author of recent papers call­ing for a restric­tive approach to Lyme diag­no­sis. [Empha­sis added.]” (Idem.)

10. Edward McSwee­gan and Mark Klemp­n­er are two of the oth­er BW experts to enter the Lyme dis­ease research field. “ . . . The Nation­al Insti­tute of Health (NIH) appoint­ed biowar­fare expert Edward McSwee­gan as Lyme Pro­gram offi­cer. [xxv] [Empha­sis added.] Under his lead­er­ship the diag­nos­tic cri­te­ria was skewed to exclude most suf­fer­ers, espe­cial­ly those with chron­ic neu­ro­log­i­cal ill­ness. McSweegan’s suc­ces­sor at NIH, Dr Phil Bak­er, is an anthrax expert [xxvi], and has con­tin­ued his poli­cies. . . . In 2001, respond­ing to the protest of thou­sands of patients that stan­dard two or three-week antibi­ot­ic cours­es were not suf­fi­cient, the NIH com­mis­sioned biowar­fare sci­en­tist Mark Klemp­n­er to study per­sis­tence of Lyme infec­tion. [Empha­sis added.] ILADS doc­tors had found that patients left untreat­ed in the ear­ly phase often need­ed long cours­es of antibi­otics, [xxix] some­times for years. Klemp­n­er, how­ev­er, con­clud­ed that per­sis­tent Lyme infec­tion did not exist. In 2003 Klemp­n­er was appoint­ed head of the new $1.6 bil­lion biowar­fare top-secu­ri­ty facil­i­ty being devel­oped at Boston Uni­ver­si­ty. Short­ly after, the news emerged that there had been an escape of the dead­ly bug tularemia, which was not prop­er­ly report­ed to the author­i­ties. [xxx] . . .” (Idem.)

11. Both the Nation­al Insti­tute of Health and the Cen­ter for Dis­ease Con­trol “acci­den­tal­ly” list­ed Lyme as a poten­tial bioter­ror­ism vec­tor. “In 2005 the author dis­cov­ered a doc­u­ment on the NIH web­site list­ing Lyme as one of the poten­tial bioter­ror­ism agents stud­ied in BSL‑4 (top secu­ri­ty) labs. After this was pub­li­cized, the NIH announced they had made a ‘mis­take’, and removed the words ‘Lyme dis­ease’ from the page. (At the time of writ­ing, the orig­i­nal is still avail­able in cached Inter­net archives. [xxxi]) How­ev­er, at around the same time, a CDC source leaked the iden­ti­cal infor­ma­tion to the Asso­ci­at­ed Press. [xxxii] More­over, the Sci­ence Coali­tion, com­pris­ing enti­ties as pres­ti­gious as the Amer­i­can Med­ical Asso­ci­a­tion, Yale Uni­ver­si­ty, and the Amer­i­can Red Cross, main­tain a web­site which, at the time of writ­ing, also lists Lyme as a dis­ease stud­ied for its biowar­fare poten­tial. [xxxi­ii] Could these three major orga­ni­za­tions all have, co-inci­den­tal­ly, made the same ‘mis­take’? . . .” (Idem.)

12. Sup­ple­ment­ing infor­ma­tion in para­graph 4, the pro­gram notes that the Lyme dis­ease is dif­fi­cult to diag­nose, anoth­er fac­tor that makes it ide­al for BW use. “ . . . Lyme’s abil­i­ty to evade detec­tion on rou­tine med­ical tests, its myr­i­ad pre­sen­ta­tions which can baf­fle doc­tors by mim­ic­k­ing 100 dif­fer­ent dis­eases, its amaz­ing abil­i­ties to evade the immune sys­tem and antibi­ot­ic treat­ment, would make it an attrac­tive choice to bioweaponeers look­ing for an inca­pac­i­tat­ing agent. Lyme’s abil­i­ties as ‘the great imi­ta­tor’ might mean that an attack could be mis­in­ter­pret­ed as sim­ply a rise in the inci­dence of dif­fer­ent, nat­u­ral­ly-occur­ring dis­eases such as autism, MS, lupus and chron­ic fatigue syn­drome (M.E.). Borrelia’s inher­ent abil­i­ty to swap out­er sur­face pro­teins, which may also vary wide­ly from strain to strain, would make the pro­duc­tion of an effec­tive vac­cine extreme­ly dif­fi­cult. (A vac­cine devel­oped for the pub­lic by the Steere camp in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Glaxo Smithk­line was pulled from the mar­ket a few years ago amid class action law­suits [xxxvi].) Final­ly, the delay before the appear­ance of the most inca­pac­i­tat­ing symp­toms would allow plen­ty of time for an attack­er to move away from the scene, as well as pre­vent­ing peo­ple in a con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed zone from real­iz­ing they had been infect­ed and seek­ing treat­ment. Often in the ear­ly peri­od there is no rash, only vague flu-like or oth­er non-spe­cif­ic symp­toms which might be dis­missed by GP’s, or ignored by the patient. . . .” (Idem.)

13. Lyme dis­ease has been pro­posed as a “sen­tinel” germ for bio­log­i­cal war­fare detec­tion. A Depart­ment of Defense satel­lite sys­tem gives sol­diers real-time data on the pres­ence of Lyme-infect­ed ticks in their vicin­i­ty. “ . . . The 2003 pro­pos­al for a rapid-detec­tion method for biowar­fare by Dr JJ Dunn of Brookhaven Nation­al Lab seems to add fur­ther grounds for sus­pi­cion. It is based on the use of two ‘sen­tinel’ germs – plague and Lyme. [xxxvii] In 1999 Lyme patient advo­ca­cy leader Pat Smith was amazed to find, on vis­it­ing an Army base at an old biowar test­ing ground in Mary­land, that the US Dept. of Defense has devel­oped a satel­lite-linked sys­tem that enables sol­diers to read, in real-time, off a dis­play on their helmet’s visor, infor­ma­tion about the rate of Lyme-infect­ed ticks wher­ev­er they may be on earth. Unit com­man­ders could update the data­base using state-of-the-art portable PCR machines, which test for Lyme DNA in sol­diers bit­ten by ticks. [xxxvi­ii] The use of such cut­ting-edge tech­nol­o­gy for a sup­pos­ed­ly ‘hard-to-catch, easy-to-cure’ ill­ness seems odd, to say the least! . . .”(Idem.)

14. The con­clu­sion to the essay encap­su­lates its work­ing hypoth­e­sis: “ . . . It’s pos­si­ble to see the mod­ern his­to­ry of Lyme as a string of events with an EIS mem­ber at every cru­cial node. . . .” (Idem.)