A curious thing happened in Georgia last year. After widespread media speculation in April 2013 that Georgia was housing a bio-weapons lab, namely the Richard G. Lugar Center for Public and Animal Health Research in Tbilisi, which the US had long denied existed, the newly recognised facility was visited by the Prime Minister of Georgia, the Georgian Health Minister and the US Ambassador.
Hours later the Georgian government formally announced the liquidation of this Center, with no reason being given. Most countries pride themselves on their levels of scientific development, and would wear a public and animal health research centre as a badge of pride, particularly one which had been established and funded by that most prestigious of allies, the US. Therefore the sudden closure of this facility of May 2013 raises many questions about what its real purpose actually was, and what negotiations took place to first bring it to Georgia and then close it.
It would be easier to answer these questions if the lab had actually been closed. But this has not happened. According to Georgian government decree No 422, dated 7th May 2013, the assets of the Center were to be handed over to the Georgian National Centre for Disease Control and a liquidation commission would be set up, manned by representatives of various government entities. However, as previously reported, when journalists checked with staff at the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta (CDC), they were told that “the lab is managed by the US Department of Defense” and suggested to contact USAMIRID (U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.
Nothing has been heard about this matter since. One would think that the newly elected Georgian government would be concerned at the non-fulfillment of a government order, or, if this were done with their agreement, explain why the lab remains under the control of the US military, at least according to the CDC, when its existence had been subject to so much media speculation.
When the lab was closed it was claimed that it was non functional and never had been functional. So what is the problem? Why suddenly liquidate it, and hand over its implicitly non-existent assets to another agency, if it is not actually doing anything to begin with?
It has long been speculated that Georgia has been conducting dangerous experiments with bio agents. Voice of Russia, Russian public health officials and media outlets in various countries have reported this. According to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE, Organisation Mondiale de la Santé Animale), Georgian and U.S. microbiologists and virologists are conducting joint research into the cholera virus in Georgia. Bodies participating in this project include USAMRIID, Fort Detric and the Georgian Institute of Bacteriophage, Microbiology and Virology. Given the balance of resources between these two bodies, the project can thus best be described as military rather than public health in nature.
Many published reports show that that the US is engaged in illegal bioweapons research and has been reported as in violation of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC).
There are also several Americans and others walking around Tbilisi, who may be encountered in the usual expat hangouts, who openly work for this supposedly non-functioning lab. One of its employees has recently said, to defend himself: “Did I mention that there are no bio agents in the entire building? That is what is so funny about these stories. I read of all the danger there and the outbreak of something in Georgia, Coincidence? It is laughable. I will not work inside a dangerous, germ-ridden building.”
In fact, unrelated links and sources suggest that it has been used as a command and control center, not a lab, for a number of years. It is part of a 40 million dollar project which has ended up costing nearly 300 million dollars, a typical occurrence in Georgia.
Background to this story
The Central Reference Laboratory of the Richard Lugar Centre was opened with the assistance of the American government under a Defense Reduction Program. The alleged purpose of these programmes was to bring the stocks of bio weapons and agents left over after the collapse of the Soviet Union under national control. Officially, specialists study the genetics of bacteria and viruses there, despite it being non-functioning according to the same official sources. US taxpayers might have something to say about their funds being spent to employ teams of scientists, who do not come cheap, to live in a foreign country, allegedly undertake certain work on their behalf.
Former media advisor to the President Jeffrey Silverman believes that the laboratory was probably engaged in developing viruses rather than studying them. He also stated that the centre existed when this was denied, and has since demonstrated how a large quantity of weapons, including bio weapons, have found their way to the world’s trouble spots in support of the US position via Georgia. He also has plans of a facility within the Center which appears to be designed for disposing of bodies. Staff working at the centre responded to these claims by hospitalising him in November of this year by hitting him on the forehead with a thrown brick.
Silverman believes that one of the activities of the centre is to inject new strains of biological agents into livestock used for food to see how Georgian people’s immune systems work, and how they react when exposed to these agents. Similar things have also been alleged by Ragnar Skre, a Norwegian journalist who was physically attacked by five masked men hours after a site visit. These outrageous claims of Nazi-style atrocity would be unbelievable were it not for two factors. One, this is Georgia, where recent history has shown that the more extreme a claim is the more likely it is to be proven true. Two, Silverman has been right so far.
Many Russian and American media outlets have alleged that the spread of such dangerous illnesses as swine flu and rabbit fever in Georgia are connected with experiments with bio agents. A sudden unexplained outbreak of measles, not restricted to children as is usually the case, has also been linked with this project. It is also claimed that the Americans are keeping a secret stash of the deadly smallpox virus in Georgia, though purely for research purposes.
Paata Imnadze, Deputy Director of the Georgian National Centre for Disease Control, which was supposed to have taken over the assets of the lab, has tried to dismiss the rise in flu and measles infections by specifically stating that it had “nothing to do with the laboratory.” “At present, elderly people are getting sick because their immunity is low. In 2008 we launched a large-scale campaign to vaccinate one million. But we vaccinated only 500,000, and now we are seeing the consequences,” he said.
However, Imnadze was unable to explain why the vaccine for a children’s disease had been donated by the US Department of Defense rather than a public health entity, like the Centre for Disease Control in Atlanta Georgia. He also did not explain why “informed consent” had not been obtained from those vaccinated, including adults, as the law requires. Silverman maintains that some component of this vaccine was not so harmless, and its donation and issue was likely part of a dark experiment.
As part of the same damage control exercise, on September 13 of last year Voice of America’s Moscow Bureau discussed the US funded laboratory in Georgia and dismissed claims of it being part of a bio weapons programme. It also claimed that these allegations are political, The Kremlin supposedly manufacturing them to provide “a reason to block imports of Georgian fruit and vegetables”. These imports are now in fact being resumed.
The Georgian government has described the statement that a laboratory on the outskirts of Tbilisi is developing health hazardous viruses which are being tested on local residents as “absurd”. Parliamentary deputy Irina Imerlishvili said that “The laboratory was opened during President Saakashvili’s rule. He himself attended the ceremony. It’s well known that Saakashvili does not love his people and loves to conduct experiments on them, of course. However, I believe that this has nothing to do with this case.”
The closing of the Center has also been played down by official sources. According to the Georgian Times, an English language weekly, Amiran Gamkrelidze, Head of the Georgian National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), maintains that the decree liquidating it only concerned the centre’s legal status.
“The research centre was a legal entity of private law, and the NCDC is a legal entity of public law. We had to change its legal status to make it NCDC property,” he told the Georgian Times. “This doesn’t mean that the laboratory will be sold off or that its profile will be changed. It will keep its old name but will be merged with the NCDC and have a multi-sectoral supervisory board, chaired by the Health Ministry,” he added. He did not explain however why a non-functioning centre would be described as being “liquidated” rather than put under new management.
It doesn’t end there. There is mounting evidence that the Richard Lugar Lab is one of many such facilities, and the acknowledgment of its existence is basically a decoy. All the labs so far identified are linked to the Biological Weapon Proliferation Prevention (BWPP) programme and various projects within it. A counterpart laboratory, dealing with plant diseases, operates in Kobuleti, on the Black Sea Coast, under the auspices of the UK’s Ministry of Defence. There is also a smaller biological laboratory in Kutaisi in Central Georgia.
Inventing the future
There are also not-so-secret links between the bio labs in Georgia, the US Defense Department and Lincoln Labs at MIT, and specifically Research Group 48, (biometrics and forensics) which undertakes operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and works in close collaboration with the Persistent Surveillance Team (Group 99). This is another can of worms waiting to open, and the timing to do this may be right, with all else that is going on in the region.
Sources in the Georgian intelligence community state that it is no coincidence that there are many high-level Intel links between Boston, (not only MIT and the Lincoln Lab but other facilities) and the Tbilisi lab project. The Boston facility is working closely with Army DA G2 (intelligence) on biometrics and intelligence applications. They are specifically jointly developing Biometric (DNA, Voice, Facial), and forensic technology policy and operational concepts. The Boston lab undertakes many programmes for the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Defense in these areas.
Based on reports by the Russian-based Strategic Culture Foundation late last year, Georgian intelligence assets “more favourable” to Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanashvili have connected the dots between the late alleged Boston Marathon bomber, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the CIA-linked Jamestown Foundation and the training of Dagestani and Chechen operatives, as well as Tsarnaev, at seminars in 2012 which were co-sponsored by Ilia State University in Tbilisi. Here too is an apparent Tbilisi-Boston connection.
Georgian intelligence has in fact now become a gushing spring of information on CIA and Mossad activities in the Caucasus and the surrounding areas and the links these have to Boston-based projects involving Tbilisi. There is a reason for this. It is obvious that the deal with DTRA and the Defense Intelligence Agency concerning the Lugar Center, made by the pro-U.S. and pro-Israeli President Mikheil Saakashvili, is not acceptable to the new Georgian government.
There is little doubt that pro-government TV and print media outlets have been instrumental in changing the direction of the lab by providing concerted coverage of the allegations that “something sinister was going on there” and that serving “the public good” or “public health” has never been its real mandate.
Russia has long claimed that even when this facility did not officially exist Georgia was exporting viruses to Russia which harmed its citizens, and this was the real, unspoken reason why Russia imposed its embargo on Georgian agricultural products in 2006.
Now with democracy restored to Georgia, barriers were taken down and improvement in relations came swiftly. To show it is serious, also long as, as Russia and others have consistently claimed, Georgia made a quiet decision to put the lab in mothballs, as demand that capacity be build up to its original billing as a center for public health and livestock research
The Tbilisi lab is effectively run by Bechtel National, a US defence contractor implicated in a wide variety of illegal arms trading and money laundering activities. It had cut a deal with the Georgian Technology Management Company (TMC) on biological non-proliferation under the apparent guise of a civilian project. A three star General was initially appointed to head up this project from the US side, despite his total lack of any scientific or specialised training in either human or animal health.
The US Embassy in Georgia responded to the Georgian Times Newspaper’s piece about the lab by releasing a statement in April of last year which read:
“The United States strongly supports freedom of speech and the press and has long advocated for a free and pluralistic media environment in Georgia and elsewhere. Nevertheless, with journalistic freedom comes responsibility, including the responsibility to corroborate information before reporting it. The interview excerpts Kviris Palitra published today on its website and Facebook page contain a number of statements about U.S. policy that are absolutely without any basis in fact, and that, unfortunately, reflect on the veracity [truthfulness] of their apparent source.”
Nowhere did the US Embassy actually produce one single piece of evidence to refute the claims being made about the lab. Interviews about the potential threat posed by this lab were conducted on almost all the main Georgian TV stations, the notable exception being Rustavi2, the mouthpiece of the former Saakashvili regime which has close links to US intelligence and the US National Security New Reporting Service.
If we accept that the Richard Lugar Center is actually functioning and doing good work, identifying harmful infectious agents in animals and health and working out how to combat them, there is nothing to be worried about.
But the centre has been around for some 10 years now, and in all that time we have never heard of its research producing one single positive achievement. The only things we actually know about it are that it was an alleged bio weapons lab that the new Georgian government saw fit to liquidate after its existence could no longer be openly denied.
What happens next?
Now may not be a bad time to cut loose a bio infection. So many people are looking in so many other directions, as that is where the media is leading them. A nice little epidemic might act as a political payoff and even help the NATO and US war effort in the Arab World. Their PR machine is not working very well at the moment, corroded by the flack coming from the unintended consequences of US military operations and various false flag attacks, and when persuasion does not work, the only option left is to get nasty.
Anything is possible for the Americans and the strategic partners, even unleashing anthrax type attacks. If they occur, it will naturally be assumed that one of those crazy Arab leaders who undertook a weapons programme must have had a few petri dishes which were overlooked. Even if this were true, there is only one place they could have got them from. Just look who funds all the labs we know of where they research such things.
Henry Kamens, columnist, expert on Central Asia and Caucasus, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.