The U.S. Department of Defense on Friday identified five more laboratories that received live Anthrax shipments bringing the total to twenty four laboratories in eleven states and Australia and South Korea.
U.S. Department of Defense Deputy Secretary, Bob Work on Friday ordered a comprehensive review of Defense Department laboratory procedures and protocols associated with inactivating spore-forming anthrax, the Defense Department said. The anthrax was prepared at Dugway Proving Ground in Utah, as part of what was described as a “routine” research process and sent out to the U.S. Department of Defense and commercial labs in at least eleven states between March 2014 and March 2015. The Anthrax shipments were supposed to include only inactive anthrax but a government official confirmed that a Maryland lab received “live” Anthrax spores, and suspected the other labs did too. A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokesman, Jason McDonald said four American civilians have been started on preventive measures called post-exposure prophylaxis.
In October, 2001, five people were killed and 17 others were hospitalized when envelopes containing Anthrax bacterium spores were sent through the U.S. mail to two U.S. senators and to well known members of the media in Florida, Connecticut. Washington, D.C. and New York — just weeks after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. On October. 5, 2001, Robert Stevens 63, a photo editor from Florida was identified as the first American killed after opening a letter containing the deadly anthrax spores at the Boca Raton headquarters of American Media Inc. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security suspected that a government scientist who committed suicide in 2008 was responsible in the 2001 anthrax attacks, however, no one was ever charged.
A heated debate among scientists and academics regarding if a balance between national security and academia in scientific research is possible has grown since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Many bio-terrorism experts and scientists have expressed concern over the massive federal spending on “hot” laboratories and research projects that focus on “select agents” as potential bioterror pathogens are making it more likely that an attack could originate from “insiders.” In a new USA TODAY Network report, investigators found that dozens of American universities and research organizations ignored information requests or attempted to charge hundreds of dollars in fees for records they are required to make public as a condition of their federal research funding. Others sought to conceal information about the pathogens they experiment with, lab mistakes or disciplinary actions taken by federal regulators.
The Government Accountability Office has repeatedly warned that not even the federal government and state health departments charged with responding to disease outbreaks know the scope of research and safety records at U.S. laboratories, and some national security breaches are putting the public at risk. In 2011, Federal Bureau of Investigation Assistant Director, Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate, Vahid Majidi testified during a hearing by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs that there is evidence that al Qaeda and its affiliates have expressed interest in biological weapons. Majidi told a panel of experts that documents discovered at Tarnak Farms, a former Afghan training camp near Kandahar confirmed al Qaeda’s active program to obtain biological seed stock.