27.01.2016 Author: Janet Phelan

DoD’s Final Report on Anthrax Fiasco a Whitewash

3453453454Rather than examining why live anthrax was mailed to nearly 200 labs, worldwide, the United States Department of Defense “Committee for Comprehensive Review of DoD Laboratory Procedures, Processes, and Protocols Associated with Inactivating Bacillus anthracis Spores” has produced a report which essentially whitewashes the activities going on at Dugway Proving Ground, a military base in Utah.

In Spring of 2015, Dugway was found to have sent multiple lots of live anthrax to a number of labs. As the scandal grew, more and more labs were added to the list of those which received the deadly pathogen, sent via FedEx. The final count of labs receiving the live killer agent included labs in all fifty states and  nine foreign countries.

The DoD report, published January 13, states that “A single root cause for shipping viable BA (live anthrax) samples could not be identified. DoD personnel appear to have followed their own protocols correctly.” The report goes on to determine that “the committee found inherent deficiencies in protocols for three phases in the production of inactive spores that could lead to non-sterile products: 1) radiation dosing, 2) viability testing, and 3) aseptic operations (contamination prevention).”

The report  discusses why  post inactivation viability testing did not detect the presence of live anthrax and why spores may have survived the irradiation process. A series of recommendations include “enhancement of quality assurance, a more extensive scientific peer review process, and improvements in program management for inactivation and viability testing of BA” (live anthrax).

Steve Erickson, of the Citizens Education Project in Utah, finds the lack of oversight at Dugway to be problematic.  “We’ve been watchdogging Dugway since 1988,” Erickson declared in an interview this past week. He has found the defense base to be “less than transparent,” and states that Dugway is “conducting experiments which could be considered to be potentially dangerous and of questionable value.”

Erickson remembers that a state committee was formed in the 1990s to oversee Dugway. “It died on the vine,” he states. “They simply couldn’t get any information out of Dugway as to what they were doing over there.”  

More Anthrax Fallout at Dugway

And when we say “anthrax fallout,” we mean that literally. Dugway Proving Ground has performed open air anthrax experiments going back as far as at least 1955. One of these experiments involved dropping anthrax “bomblets” on live monkeys at the Proving Ground. According to a recent article in the Salt Lake Tribune, the Army failed to document the effectiveness of these tests.

 The romance between Dugway and anthrax has been going on at least sixty years. When President Nixon discontinued the US’s offensive biological weapons program back in 1969, the only thing that apparently changed was the language of the biological weapons experiments. As it was no longer acceptable to produce weapons grade anthrax as an offensive weapon, the language of the work reported that weapons grade anthrax was produced in order to test countermeasures.

However, with so many national and international labs working on anthrax, it is curious that not even an approved  second generation anthrax vaccine has been produced. The initial anthrax vaccine, given to troops in the Gulf War, has been thought to produce “Gulf War Syndrome.”

According to a confidential source with former military connections, Dugway Proving Ground has been conducting anthrax experiments in pursuit of weaponizing the deadly germ at least since the 1970s and on through the 1990s, at which point the source no longer had direct access to Dugway. According to the source, some of the biological and chemical agent experiments were taking place in underground structures and some in open air.

Dugway Proving Ground lies on 1300 square miles 85 miles southwest of Salt Lake City in Tooele County, Utah. The sprawling complex, which is dedicated to weapons testing, is actually as large as a small East Coast stat.

No one Knows What Is In The Bunkers

There are reportedly entire areas of Dugway which can only be entered in a full protective biohazard or chemsuit. Biological and chemical weapons lie buried in bunkers, deep in the Proving Ground, some of which are simply too “hot” to approach without protective gear.  The bunkers, states the source, were originally constructed to store munitions and other weapons and may contain weapons that no one has accurately logged in and therefore are considered too dangerous to dig up.

Recently, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) sponsored  a bill which proposes to withdraw a chunk of land from the Bureau of Land Management and swap it out with other parcels of federal land, in order to “facilitate enhanced weapons testing and pilot training.”

 Steve Erickson  is concerned that this exchange will provide a greater buffer zone for Dugway’s tests. “One of the designated parcels, called the  Southern Triangle, is contiguous with  border of Dugway, “ states Erickson.

Erickson wants to know why so many labs, worldwide, are working on anthrax.  “Making access to these pathogens available to hundreds of labs increases by many orders of magnitude the risk involved,” states Erickson.  Erickson regrets that the Department of Defense failed to address this issue and calls the DoD report “A missed opportunity at best and a whitewash at worst.”

One of the compelling attributes of anthrax is that there is no human to human transmission of the disease. In other words, one may potentially (and safely) infect a target population without running the risk of exposure to the disease.

Janet C. Phelan, investigative journalist and human rights defender that has traveled pretty extensively over the Asian region, an author of a tell-all book EXILE, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.


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