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Cancer Warfare

Nation­al Can­cer Insti­tute and the Fort Det­rick Link

Richard Hatch

Covert Action Infor­ma­tion Bul­letin Num­ber 39 (Win­ter 1991–92)

Those who would increase the poten­cy of bio­log­i­cal weapons must search for improved meth­ods o f mass pro­duc­tion of organ­isms, fac­tors which will enhance the vir­u­lence, ways to pro­long the stor­age life of liv­ing agents, ways to improve aerosol sta­bil­i­ty, and meth­ods of pro­duc­ing vari­ant organ­isms by recom­bi­na­tion or by oth­er means.

- Col. William D. Tagertt, for­mer com­man­der of the Army’s med­ical unit at Fort Det­rick 1

In 1969, Pres­i­dent Richard Nixon ordered a halt to offen­sive bio­log­i­cal war­fare (BW) research and weapons stock­pil­ing by the Unit­ed States. The U.S. Army destroyed its tox­ins, virus­es, and bac­te­ria with heat and dis­in­fec­tants by May 1972; the dis­pos­al of the sci­en­tif­ic per­son­nel was not so sim­ple. Some of these biowar­riors went to the CIA.2 Oth­ers quick­ly found new sup­port from the Nation­al Can­cer Insti­tute, par­tic­u­lar­ly in its Virus Can­cer Pro­gram (VCP).3 The NCI fund­ed and super­vised some of the same sci­en­tists, uni­ver­si­ties, and con­tract­ing corporations—ostensibly for can­cer research—which had con­duct­ed bio­log­i­cal war­fare research. Some of these med­ical research con­tracts ran simul­ta­ne­ous­ly with the U.S. bio­log­i­cal war­fare pro­gram. When the mil­i­tary work end­ed, the civil­ian pro­grams con­tin­ued to expand on the same crit­i­cal areas out­lined by Colonel Tigertt.

The NCI’s Viral Can­cer Program—a high­ly politi­cized pub­lic rela­tions effort—was launched in 1971 with great fan­fare as part of Nixon’s War on Can­cer. The stat­ed aim of the pro­gram was to orga­nize exper­i­ments aimed at find­ing can­cer-caus­ing virus­es.

Appar­ent­ly this agen­da was com­pat­i­ble with the incor­po­ra­tion into var­i­ous units of the VCP of pos­si­bly dozens of for­mer U.S. BW researchers who con­tin­ued to study top­ics with poten­tial mil­i­tary appli­ca­tion. Poten­tial can­cer-caus­ing virus­es were col­lect­ed, grown in huge amounts, and dis­trib­uted through the yep; thou­sands of ani­mals were infect­ed exper­i­men­tal­ly, and the aerosol dis­tri­b­u­tion of car­cino­genic virus­es was stud­ied.

Two for­mer BW facil­i­ties would play a large part in VCP. The U.S. Army’s Fort Det­rick in Fred­er­ick, Mary­land had been the “par­ent research and pilot plant cen­ter for bio­log­i­cal warfare.“4 Dur­ing the ear­ly 1960s, the CIA paid the facil­i­ty $100,000 a year for BW and chem­i­cal agents and their deliv­ery sys­tems. In Oak­land, Cal­i­for­nia, the Naval Bio­sciences Lab­o­ra­to­ry was involved in ear­ly exper­i­ments with the plague and col­lab­o­rat­ed in mas­sive open-air tests of bio­log­i­cal war­fare “sim­u­lants” in the San Fran­cis­co Bay Area in the 1950s. For­mer bio­log­i­cal war­fare spe­cial­ists from both of these cen­ters were deeply involved in all aspects of the VCP.

The University-Military Complex

Reflect­ing a com­mon pat­tern of coop­er­a­tion, much of the mil­i­tary-relat­ed research took place at insti­tu­tions con­nect­ed with or direct­ly part of U..S. uni­ver­si­ties. The Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia is well known for its role in man­ag­ing the two main U.S. nuclear weapons lab­o­ra­to­ries, the Los Alam­os and Lawrence Liv­er­more Nation­al Lab­o­ra­to­ries. Less well-known is the fact that UC Berke­ley also helps man­age the Naval Bio­sciences Lab­o­ra­to­ry (NBL) — ear­li­er called the Naval Bio­log­i­cal Lab­o­ra­to­ry. This con­nec­tion became cen­tral to the VCP and con­tin­ued after the ban on offen­sive BW work.

Well before Pres­i­dent Nixon ordered the con­ver­sion of the U.S. Army BW cen­ter at Fort Det­rick to civil­ian uses in 1971, this mil­i­tary facil­i­ty was coop­er­at­ing close­ly with UC.

From 1953 to 1968, the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia, while man­ag­ing the NBL, now at the Naval Sup­ply Cen­ter, also had BW con­tracts with the U.S. Army.5 After U.S treaty oblig­a­tions would have pre­vent­ed open research on mass pro­duc­tion of dan­ger­ous virus­es with­out a med­ical “cov­er”; the VCP pro­vid­ed an ide­al excuse to study “scale-up” problems.6

One of the first new pri­or­i­ties of the Fort Det­rick facil­i­ty after the ban was “the large scale pro­duc­tion of onco­genic [can­cer-caus­ing] and sus­pect­ed onco­genic viruses.“7 With­in a year, the NCI began mass pro­duc­tion and with­in one fif­teen month peri­od end­ing in June 1977, the VCP pro­duced 60,000 liters of can­cer-caus­ing and immuno­sup­pres­sive virus­es.

Through­out the 1970s, U.S. “defen­sive” BW efforts were increas­ing­ly aimed at the research and devel­op­ment of viral dis­ease agents.8

The “seed stocks” for this mas­sive pro­duc­tion of virus­es came from the Cell Cul­ture Lab­o­ra­to­ry (CCL); the CCL was “phys­i­cal­ly locat­ed at the Naval Bio­sciences Lab­o­ra­to­ry (NBL)” in Oak­land, California.9 Because this lab­o­ra­to­ry was financed in part by the NCI and linked to UC, it would become, in a clear­ing­house and cen­tral repos­i­to­ry for vast quan­ti­ties of poten­tial­ly can­cer-caus­ing tis­sues and the tis­sues that might con­tain them. Thus, after the ban, the Naval Bio­sciences Lab at UC con­tin­ued exper­i­men­ta­tion on bio­log­i­cal agents, but under the guise of “defen­sive” research.

The VCP con­tract ran con­cur­rent­ly with the NBL’s work on bubon­ic plague, Rift Val­ley and menin­gi­tis. The NBL did oth­er research for the Fort Det­rick, before the 1972 ban on offen­sive work. The NBL also per­formed “much of the orig­i­nal research into the dur­ing World War II.” At some NBL work was “list­ed only in Pen­ta­gon research bulletins.“11

The NBL/Cell Cul­ture Lab­o­ra­to­ry project was super­vised for the VCP by Drs. James Duff and Jack Gruber.12 Duff had been a at Fort Det­rick for 12 years join­ing the NCI. His biog­ra­phy lists research into clostrid­i­um bot­u­linum tox­ins and 13 Bot­u­linum tox­ins cause bot­u­lism food and are among the most tox­ic sub­stances known. It was dur­ing Duf­f’s tenure at Fort Det­rick that the U.S. Army stock­piled bot­u­linum tox­in weapons.14 There, too, the inten­sive study of psit­ta­co­sis, or “par­rot fever,” result­ed in the acci­den­tal infec­tion of at least 12 workers15 while Duff was work­ing there. After serv­ing for eight years at Fort Det­rick, Gru­ber moved to the NCI. His biog­ra­phy lists work on “arthro­pod-borne viruses.“16 The U.S. stock­piled BW weapons based on one arthro­pod-borne virus and stud­ied many oth­ers. He soon became Chair of the Pro­gram Resources and Logis­tics Advi­so­ry Group of the VCP, where he helped coor­di­nate projects involv­ing pro­duc­tion of viros­es, pro­vi­sion of test ani­mals and the “bio­haz­ard safe­ty pro-gram.“17 In 1984, Gru­ber­be­came head of the Can­cer Eti­ol­o­gy Divi­sion of the NIH.

It’s in the Air

The field of “aer­o­bi­ol­o­gy,” or the trans­mis­sion of dis­ease organ­isms through the air, is essen­tial­ly an out­growth of BW research. The mil­i­tary objec­tive of expos­ing many peo­ple to a bio­log­i­cal war­fare agent and the ready sus­cep­ti­bil­i­ty to infec­tion by inhal­ing these agents make aerosol weapons the most prac­ti­cal form of trans­mis­sion. The NCI also stud­ied aerosol trans­mis­sion of virus­es inten­sive­ly.. One such study, FS-57 “Aerosol Prop­er­ties of Onco­genic Virus­es,” was fund­ed at more than $100,000 a year. After the ban on offen­sive BWre­search, the NCI and the Office of Naval Research joint­ly spon­sored NBL exper­i­ments on the “Aerosol Prop­er­ties of Poten­tial­ly Onco­genic Viruses.“18 The NCI jus­ti­fied its aerosol research because its sci­en­tists often han­dled sus­pect can­cer virus­es in a high­ly con­cen­trat­ed form. A lab acci­dent could release a mist of virus; NCI need­ed to under­stand and antic­i­pate the dan­ger. How the Navy jus­ti­fied its inter­est is unknown, but if a new can­cer-caus­ing BW agent was dis­cov­ered, it would like­ly be deliv­ered as an aerosol.

The line between aerosol and bio­log­i­cal war­fare research was often fine. The NCI project offi­cer and for­mer U.S. Air Force virol­o­gist, Dr. Alfred Hell­man, worked with Mark Chatigny, a research engi­neer at NBL and mem­ber of the NCI bio­haz­ards work group from the NBL.19 Hell­man also over­saw the 1971 $100,000 NBL study on the “phys­i­cal and bio­log­i­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics of viral aerosols..” In 1961, the NBL had done sim­i­lar rese
arch for Fort Det­rick on the “sta­bil­i­ty and vir­u­lence of BW aerosols.“20 Chatigny’s NBL research into aerosol dis­tri­b­u­tion of virus­es would con­tin­ue into the 1980s. Such over­lap­ping of pur­pos­es rais­es seri­ous ques­tions about the wis­dom of plac­ing con­trol of VCP virus­es under the NBL.

More Aerosol Studies

While UC Berke­ley appears to have been at the heart of aerosol BW research, it was by no means alone. Oth­er uni­ver­si­ties col­lab­o­rat­ed with the BW effort while work­ing on the VCP in par­al­lel. From 1955 to 1965, the Ohio State Uni­ver­si­ty Col­lege of Med­i­cine con­duct­ed research for Fort Det­rick into the aerosol trans­mis­sion of BW agents includ­ing tularemia and Q fever.21 In some of these stud­ies, pris­on­ers from the Ohio State Pen­i­ten­tiary were used as guinea pigs. Between 1952 and 1969, the affil­i­at­ed Ohio State Uni­ver­si­ty Research Foun­da­tion had eight con­tracts with the U.S. Army for BW research. Tularemia (“rab­bit fever”) and Q fever were ulti­mate­ly stock­piled by the U.S. Army.22

Before he worked with UC, Dr. Hell­man super­vised an NCI con­tract for Ohio State Uni­ver­si­ty. Designed to study the aerosol trans­mis­sion of can­cer-caus­ing virus­es, this research start­ed in 1965 and con­tin­ued at least until 1972. The prin­ci­pal inves­ti­ga­tor for this work, Dr. Richard Griese­mer, would even­tu­al­ly suc­ceed in giv­ing tumors to mice and mon­keys. Griese­mer then went to work briefly at the Oak Ridge Nation­al Lab­o­ra­to­ry, part of the U.S. Depart­ment of Ener­gy nuclear research sys­tem. After his stint at Oak Ridge, Griese­mer returned to NCI, where he head­ed the NCI Bioas­say pro­gram, which test­ed chem­i­cals sus­pect­ed of caus­ing can­cer. This mul­ti­mil­lion dol­lar pro­gram was so bad­ly man­aged that epi­demics forced the killing of near­ly 90,000 test ani­mals and test­ing of sus­pect­ed car­cino­genic chem­i­cals fell far behind schedule.23

Many oth­er uni­ver­si­ties promi­nent in the U.S. BW pro­gram, such as Johns Hop­kins, Uni­ver­si­ty of Mary­land, and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Min­neso­ta, were also heav­i­ly involved in the VCP. Since the BW work per­formed by these uni­ver­si­ties remains clas­si­fied, the exact rela­tion between VCP and bio­log­i­cal war­fare research remains murky.

Viruses For Sale — Charles Pfizer and Co., Inc.

The pat­tern of over­lap­ping mil­i­tary BW and NCI work was par­al­leled by the rela­tion­ship between indus­tri­al con­trac­tors and the VCP. Charles Pfiz­er and Com­pa­ny, Inc., a phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal firm, had a con­tract with the NCI which includ­ed pro­duc­tion of “a large quan­ti­ty of a vari­ety of virus­es” for the VCP.24 The immuno­sup­pres­sive Mason-Pfiz­er mon­key virus was grown in large quan­ti­ty, and oth­er ani­mal can­cer virus­es were adapt­ed to grow in human cell lines. Dur­ing the same time period—1961 to 1971—the NCI con­trac­tor, Pfiz­er con­duct­ed a secret study for the U.S. Army “into the growth and cul­ture media for unspec­i­fied... bio­log­i­cal agents.“25

In addi­tion, from 1968 to 1970, Pftzer had a con­tract for Scale Pro­duc­tion and Eval­u­a­tion of Staphy­lo­coc­cal Entero­tox­oid B” for the U.S. Army BW program.26 Staphy­lo­coc­cal entero­tox­oid is a pro­tec­tive vac­cine against a bac­te­r­i­al tox­in which was part of the U.S. arse­nal. The pro­duc­tion of vac­cine against a stock­piled BW weapon must be con­sid­ered an offen­sive BW project Accord­ing to MIT sci­en­tists Harlee Strauss and Jonathan King, “[t]hese steps—the gen­er­a­tion of a poten­tial BW agent, devel­op­ment of a vac­cine against it, test­ing of the effi­ca­cy of the vaccine—are all com­po­nents that would be asso­ci­at­ed with an offen­sive BW pro... gram.“27 Clear­ly, with­out an anti­dote or vac­cine to pro­tect attack­ing troops, the util­i­ty of a stock­piled BW agent would be seri­ous­ly lim­it­ed.


Pres­i­dent Nixon’s 1971 announce­ment that Fort Det­rick would be con­vert­ed to a cen­ter for can­cer research could not be imme­di­ate­ly imple­ment­ed. First, BW agents stored there, such as the anti-crop agent rice blast, had to be destroyed. The build­ings were then decon­t­a­m­i­nat­ed and the facil­i­ties were turned over to the NCI, which renamed the facil­i­ty the Fred­er­ick Can­cer Research Cen­ter; Lit­ton-Bio­net­ics was named as the prime con­trac­tor.. A major play­er in the mil­i­tary-indus­tri­al com­plex, the cor­po­ra­tion worked exten­sive­ly on the dis­per­sion of BW agents from planes, and includ­ed U..S. Air Force con­tracts for “the super­son­ic deliv­ery of dry bio­log­i­cal agents.“28 From 1966 to 1968, Bio­net­ics Research Lab­o­ra­to­ries (which became Lit­ton-Bio­net­ics in 1973) held two con­tracts with the U.5. Army BW program.29 At the same time, it held major con­tracts with the NCI.30

One of Bio­net­ics Research Lab­o­ra­to­ries’ most impor­tant NCI con­tracts was a mas­sive virus inoc­u­la­tion pro­gram that began in 1962 and and ran until at least 1976, and used more than 2,000 mon­keys. Dr. Robert Gal­lo, the con­tro­ver­sial head of the cur­rent U.S. AIDS research pro­gram at NCI and its chief of its tumor cell biol­o­gy lab­o­ra­to­ry, and Dr. Jack Gru­ber, for­mer­ly of VCP and then NIH, were project offi­cers for the inoc­u­la­tion pro­gram. The mon­keys were inject­ed with every­thing from human can­cer tis­sues to rare virus­es and even sheep­’s blood in an effort to find a trans­mis­si­ble can­cer. Many of these mon­keys suc­cumbed to immuno­sup­pres­sion after infec­tion with the Mason-Pfiz­er mon­key virus, the first known immuno­sup­pres­sive retrovirus,31 a class of virus­es that includes the human immun­od­e­fi­cien­cy virus.

Breaking the “Species Barrier”

In 1976, Dr. Sey­mour Kalter, a promi­nent NCI sci­en­tist and for­mer mil­i­tary med­i­cine expert, report­ed on exper­i­ments so dan­ger­ous that oth­er sci­en­tists pub­licly asked for an end to such work.32 By blend­ing the genet­ic mate­r­i­al of virus­es caus­ing can­cers in mice and baboons, he cre­at­ed a new virus which could cause can­cer in dogs, mon­keys and even chim­panzees. Because it could attack chim­panzees, oth­er sci­en­tists feared it could spread to genet­i­cal­ly sim­i­lar human beings. The new virus was a prod­uct of some of the first crude genet­ic “recom­bi­na­tion” exper­i­ments.

Lawrence Loeb and Ken­neth Tartof of the Insti­tute for Can­cer Research in Philadel­phia, Penn­syl­va­nia, went even fur­ther in call­ing for change and called for a ban on such poten­tial­ly dan­ger­ous exper­i­men­ta­tion.

The pro­duc­tion of malig­nant tumors in a vari­ety of pri­mate species sug­gests the pos­si­bil­i­ty of cre­at­ing virus­es that are onco­genic for humans... There­fore, we urge that all exper­i­ments involv­ing co-cul­ti­va­tion of known onco­genic virus­es with pri­mate virus­es be imme­di­ate­ly halt­ed until the safe­ty of such exper­i­ments are [sic] exten­sive­ly evaluated.33

Exper­i­ments per­formed under NCI con­tract includ­ed many dan­ger­ous viral inoc­u­la­tion pro­grams, like the pri­mate inoc­u­la­tion pro­gram run by Gal­lo and Gru­ber.. So-called “species bar­ri­ers” were rou­tine­ly breached in efforts to find or cre­ate infec­tious can­cer virus­es. Virus­es native to one species were inject­ed into ani­mals from anoth­er species in hope of trig­ger­ing can­cers. Often the recip­i­ent ani­mal would be immuno­sup­pressed by radi­a­tion, drugs, or oth­er treat­ments. NIH pri­mate researchers were well aware that “the eco­log­i­cal nich­es of man and ani­mal cross with increas­ing fre­quen­cy, and this undoubt­ed­ly will cre­ate or uncov­er new problems.“34

At a 1975 NCI sym­po­sium, a par­tic­i­pant, Dr. J. Moor-Janows­ki admit­ted that “envi­ron­men­tal-moti­vat­ed, we moti­vat­ed groups begin to con­sid­er pri­mate lab­o­ra­to­ries as being a source of dan­ger.” He con­tin­ued to com­ment that “a [Euro­pean] pri­mate cen­ter was not able to begin oper­a­tions as a result of adverse pub­lic­i­ty they obtained because of Mar­burg dis­ease” The speak­er was refer­ring to a 1967 out­break in Yugoslavia and West Ger­many of this viral dis­ease, which killed sev­er­al peo­ple. Tis­sues obtained from African Green mon­keys used in bio­med­ical work were the source of the mini-epi­dem­ic. Dr. Moor-Janows­ki sug­gest­ed that researchers should fight against tighter restric­tions on pri­mate experiments.35

VCP Intellectual Recombination

Under the Nation­al Can­cer Insti­tute aegis, VCP pro­vid­ed many oppor­tu­ni­ties for con­ta
ct between for­mer BW spe­cial­ists and oth­ers in the sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty. For­mer BW spe­cial­ists Drs. Peter Gerone and Arnold Wedum were promi­nent mem­bers of the Bio­haz­ard Con­trol and Con­tain­ment Seg­ment of the VCP. Their posi­tions allowed them fre­quent con­tact with lab­o­ra­to­ries han­dling haz­ardous virus­es. Gerone and Wedum both worked for many years at Fort Det­rick; they were both spe­cial­ists in the air­borne trans­mis­sion of dis­eases. In the 1950s, Wedum was in charge of U.S. Army tests of tularemia (“rab­bit fever”) on human “vol­un­teers.” In Gerone’s BW research, he used pris­on­ers from the Fed­er­al Prison Camp at Eglin Air Force Base in Flori­da. This group of human guinea pigs was more for­tu­nate than Dr. Wedum’s; they were exposed only to cold virus­es. Gerone was award­ed the Army’s Mer­i­to­ri­ous Civil­ian Ser­vice Award for his efforts at Fort Det­rick.

The 1975 NCI spon­sored sym­po­sium on “Bio­haz­ards and Zoonot­ic Prob­lems of Pri­mate Pro­cure­ment, Quar­an­tine, and Research“36 illus­trates anoth­er aspect of NCI-mil­i­tary coop­er­a­tion. Zoonoses—diseases that can be trans­mit­ted from ani­mals to humans—make up the major­i­ty of BW agents. The meet­ing brought togeth­er NCI researchers, nine mil­i­tary offi­cers from Major to U. Colonel and a civil­ian from the Edge­wood Arse­nal, a U.S. chem­i­cal war­fare facil­i­ty, also in Mary­land. The offi­cers were from the U.S. Army Med­ical Research Insti­tute of Infec­tious Dis­eases, the Defense Nuclear Agency and the Armed Forces Insti­tute of Pathol­o­gy. In addi­tion, Drs. Wedum, Duff, Gru­ber, and Gerone were all in atten­dance.

Gerone pre­sent­ed a paper on the “Bio­haz­ards of Exper­i­men­tal­ly Infect­ed Pri­mates”; he now head­ed Tulane Uni­ver­si­ty’s Delta Region­al Pri­mate Research Cen­ter. In pass­ing, he men­tioned aerosol haz­ards and rec­om­mend­ed “expos­ing ani­mals so that only the head is in con­tact with the aerosol” rather than using “whole body expo­sure.” Wedum had pre­vi­ous­ly briefed him on BW tests involv­ing just such expo­sure of mon­keys to aerosolized staphy­lo­coc­cal entero­tox­in; in these tests four Fort Det­rick work­ers still became ill through expo­sure to the ani­mals. Pre­sum­ably Gerone was also aware of a 1964 acci­dent when 15 Fort Det­rick work­ers inhaled aerosolized staphy­lo­coc­cal entero­tox­in B, “mil­ligram for mil­ligram, one of the most dead­ly agents ever studied.“37

In addi­tion to sym­posia which brought togeth­er mil­i­tary and civil­ian spe­cial­ists, the VCP uti­lized con­sul­tants with strong bio­log­i­cal war­fare back­grounds. At times, Dr. Stu­art Madin and Mark Chatigny from the NBL, Peter Gerone, and Arthur Brown were all list­ed as con­sul­tants to the NCI. Brown, the for­mer head of the Virus and Rick­ettsia Divi­sion of Fort Det­rick, had already been involved in a bla­tant instance of attempt­ed covert recruit­ment of micro­bi­ol­o­gists for BW research.

In 1966, Brown signed a let­ter solic­it­ing research.38 It asked sci­en­tists to sub­mit pro­pos­als to study the recom­bi­na­tion of bac­te­ria, but tried to dis­guise the true source of fund­ing-the Depart­ment of Defense. NCI sci­en­tist Karl Habel also signed the let­ter; Habel was “con­nect­ed with viral research at the Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health.“39 The attempt to recruit micro­bi­ol­o­gists to work on recom­bi­na­tion of bac­te­ria fiz­zled after the fund­ing source was pub­licly exposed. That it was attempt­ed at all, shows that NIH sci­en­tists were will­ing to team up with the Fort Det­rick spe­cial­ist in covert oper­a­tions and that some were also will­ing to deceive their col­leagues into col­lab­o­rat­ing with them.

Covering for BW Research

Research into virus­es dur­ing the War on Can­cer pro­vid­ed an ide­al cov­er for con­tin­u­ing bio­log­i­cal war­fare research. As Colonel Tigertt advised, the NCI project allowed the mass pro­duc­tion of virus­es, the devel­op­ment of means to enhance vir­u­lence, explo­ration of aerosol trans­mis­sion, and the pro­duc­tion of new recom­bi­nant dis­ease agents. These “civil­ian” projects ran con­cur­rent­ly with “mil­i­tary” projects in many cas­es. When polit­i­cal expe­di­en­cy dic­tat­ed an end to overt U.S. BW research, the Viral Can­cer Pro­gram pro­vid­ed a means to con­tin­ue exper­i­ments that would oth­er­wise be dif­fi­cult to jus­ti­fy.

That the U.S. would covert­ly con­tin­ue a BW pro­gram should not be quick­ly dis­count­ed. Right up to the start of the VCP, U.S. covert oper­a­tors con­duct­ed clan­des­tine tests sim­u­lat­ing aerosol BW attacks. The NBL sup­plied per­son­nel, lab facil­i­ties, and equip­ment for a secret 1950 aerosol attack on San Fran­cis­co which result­ed in dos­ing almost every­one in the city with a BW agent “simulant.“40 Oth­er mil­i­tary exper­i­ments used spe­cial­ized cars and suitcases.41 The Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Divi­sion of the CIA, which oper­at­ed from Fort Det­rick, engaged in sim­i­lar covert tests using LSD and oth­er chem­i­cal under the MK-ULTRA pro­gram. Anoth­er CIA-SOD pro­gram, MK-NAOMI, col­lect­ed bio­log­i­cal tox­ins and disease.42

While Nixon ordered a sup­posed end to BW offen­sive efforts in 1969, the Cen­tral Intel­li­gence Agency retained a secret BW and tox­in weapon capability.43 Giv­en this record of decep­tion in the U.S. BW pro­gram, the Viral Can­cer Pro­gram may well have used the search for a cure for can­cer as a cov­er to con­tin­ue its exper­i­ments on bio­log­i­cal war­fare.


Richard Hatch is a research chemist with 12 years’ indus­tri­al expe­ri­ence. He cur­rent­ly designs sci­en­tif­ic instru­ments for use in biotech­nol­o­gy and relat­ed fields.

1. Charles Piller and Kei­th R. Yamamo­to, Gene Wars: Mil­i­tary Con­trol Over the New Genet­ic Tech­nolo­gies (New York: Beech Tree Books/Morrow and Co.)t 1988, p. 50.

2. Louis Wolf, “This Side of Nuclear­War,” CAIB, (Sum­mer 1982), p. 14.

3. The bureau­crat­ic orga­ni­za­tion of NCI units changes. Some NCI con­tracts began before the VCP actu­al­ly start­ed. For sim­plic­i­ty, these con­tracts are referred to as VCP con­tracts when they con­tin­ue under the VCP effort.

4. The author believes that the vast major­i­ty of sci­en­tists involved in the NCI were and are well-inten­tioned col­leagues whose ethics a:re not in ques­tion.

5. U.S.Army Activ­i­ty in the U.S. Bio­log­i­cal War­fare Pro­grams, Vol­ume II, Unclas­si­fied, Feb­ru­ary 24, 1977, pp. I‑C-4–5.

6. The U.S. treaty oblig­a­tion was under the Gene­va Con­ven­tion on the Pro­hi­bi­tion ofthe Devel­op­ment, Pro­duc­tion, and Stock­pil­ing of Bac­te­ri­o­log­i­cal (Bio­log­i­cal) and Tox­in Weapons and on Their Destruc­tion, signed at Wash­ing­ton and Moscow on April 10, 1972, and pub­lished in Gene Wars, op cit., pp. 162–63. This treaty specif­i­cal­ly bound its par­ties [Arti­cle I] nev­er to “devel­op, pro­duce, or stock­pile... micro­bial or oth­er bio­log­i­cal agents, or tox­ins what­ev­er their ori­gin or method of pro­duc­tion of types and in quan­ti­ties that have no jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for pro­phy­lac­tic, pro­tec­tive or oth­er peace­ful pur­pos­es.” Thus, dan­ger­ous can­cer virus­es would be dif­fi­cult to pro­duce in “quan­ti­ties that have no jus­ti­fi­ca­tion” unless a med­ical cov­er could be found. (Piller and Yamamo­to, op. cit.).

7. Spe­cial Virus Can­cer Project Progress Report, 1972, Eti­ol­o­gy Area Nation­al Can­cer Institute,U.S. Depart­ment of Health, Edu­ca­tion, and Wel­fare (DHEW), Pub­lic Health Ser­vice, p. 33.

8. Erhard Geissler, ed., Bio­log­i­cal and Tox­in Weapons Today (New York: Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 1986), p. 22.

9. The Viral Can­cer Pro­gram Progress Report, U.S. Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health, June 1971, p. 272.

10. John Cook­son and Judith Not­ting­ham, A Sur­vey of Chem­i­cal and Bio­log­i­cal War­fare (New York: Modem Read­er, 1969), p. 82.

11. Sey­mour Hersh, Chem­i­cal and Bio­log­i­cal War­fare (New York: Bobbs-Mer­rill, 1968), p. 226.

12. The Viral Can­cer Pro­gram Progress Report, U.S. Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health, June 1977, pp. 272, 302.

13. Amer­i­can Men and Women of Sci­ence (New York: R.R. Bowk­er, 1976), p. 1097.

14. U.S. Army Activ­i­ty in the U.S. Bio­log­i­cal War­fare Pro­grams, op. cit, p. D2.

15. Hersh, op. cit., p. 128.

16. Amer­i­can Men and Women of Sci­ence (N
ew York: R.R Bowk­er, 1989), p. 358.

17. The Viral Can­cer Pro­gram Progress Report, U.S. Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health, June 1977, p. 52.

18. Ibid., p. 302.

19. Spe­cial Virus Can­cer Project Progress Report, 1972, Eti­ol­o­gy Area-Nation­al Can­cer Insti­tute, DHEW, p. 7.

20. Cook­son and Not­ting­ham, op. cit., p. 82.

21. Ibid., p. 91.

22. U.S. Army Activ­i­ty in the U.S. Bio­log­i­cal War­fare Pro­grams, op. cit.

23. Sci­ence, Vol. 204, June 22,1979, p. 1287.

24. Spe­cial Virus Can­cer Project Progress Report, 1971, Eti­ol­o­gy Area-Nation­al Can­cer Insti­tute, DHEW, p. 114.

25. Hersh, op. cit., p. 255.

26. U.S. Army Activ­i­ty in the US. Bio­log­i­cal War­fare Pro­grams, op. cit., p. K2‑3.

27. Piller and Yamamo­to, op. cit., p. 117.

28. Hersh, op. cit., pp. 59–60.

29. U.S. Army Activ­i­ty in the US. Bio­log­i­cal War­fare Pro­grams, op. cit. p. I‑C-4.

30. Spe­cial Virus Can­cer Project Progress Report, 1971, Eti­ol­o­gy Area-Nation­al Can­cer Insti­tute, DHEW, p. 68.

31. A retro­virus is a virus whose genet­ic mate­r­i­al is com­posed of RNA instead of DNA and which must con­vert to a DNA fonn before it can repro­duce. The human immun­od­e­fi­cien­cy virus­es are retro­virus­es.

32. Sci­ence, Vol­ume 193, July 23, 1976, p. 273.

33. Ibid.

34. H. Bain­er and WJ.B. Bev­eridge, eds., Infec­tions and Immuno­sup­pres­sion in Sub­hu­man Pri­mates (Bal­ti­more: Wini­ams and Wilkins Com­pa­ny, 1970), p. 116.

35. “Pro­ceed­ings of a Can­cer Research Safe­tySym­po­sium,” DHEW Pub­li­ca­tion No. (NIH) 76–890, March 19,1975.

36. “Pro­ceed­ings of a Can­cer Research Safe­ty Sym­po­sium,” op. cit., p. 62.

37. Piller and Yamamo­to, op. cit., p. 53.

38. Hersh, Op. cit., p. 278.

39. Ibid.

40. J.B. Nielands, “Navy Alters Course at Berke­ley,” Sci­ence for the Peo­ple, Novem­ber-Decem­ber 1988, p. 11.

41. “CIA May Have Test­ed Bio­log­i­cal Weapons in New York in ’50s, Church Says,” Wash­ing­ton Post, Decem­ber 4, 1979, p. A7.

42. John Marks, The Search for the Manchuri­an Can­di­date (New York: McGraw-Hili, 1980), pp. 74–75.

43. Church Com­mit­tee Report, “Unau­tho­rized Stor­age of Tox­ic Agents” Vol. 1, pp. 189–99.


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