Recent reporting by Mother Jones magazine of a “modern-day Manhattan project” involving up to $10 billion in biological weapons development money has drawn questions from lab watchdogs about whether such work will be conducted by Rocky Mountain Laboratories if and when it blossoms into a Biosafety Level 4 research facility. The Mother Jones article cites increased government funding to build high-tech labs equipped to handle deadly infectious organisms, but doesn’t name Hamilton.
“The point of the [Hamilton] lab is to fight the war on bioterrorism,” Women’s Voices for the Earth Director of Science and Research Alexandra Gorman said. “If you [are going to] develop a vaccine against something, the only way that it works is to have the bioweapon onsite, and infected animals.”
The answer to whether or not the Lab will conduct bioweapons research is no.
“The issue about bioweapons research was brought up at a public meeting in December,” Lab Associate Director Marshall Bloom said. “I showed a slide which has two quotes that clearly state there will be no work on biological weapons.”
Bloom responded heatedly to questions on the topic, saying that Rocky Mountain Laboratories is grounded in health, not the Pentagon.
The website for the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, which oversees the Hamilton Lab, supports Bloom’s claim: “NIAID-funded research will not include research on bioweapons (which is not even permissible under international law),” the website says.
In 1969, President Nixon signed on to a National Security Decision Memorandum which forbade the use of lethal methods of bacteriological/biological warfare and ordered the destruction of all stockpiled agents.
But according to Mother Jones, “Just months before Sept. 11, the Bush administration walked away from negotiations to impose biological-weapons inspections, in part because American pharmaceutical companies didn’t want to open their labs to international inspectors.”