Did Pentagon carry out research to use insects as biological weapons? Did such disease-carrying insects find their way out of the lab?
These questions, which have mostly been dismissed as conspiracy theories so far, will finally be settled as a bill has been passed in the House of Representatives which requires the Department of Defence to investigate whether research on biological weapons using insects took place in a 25-year period and whether these insects were released into the public realm either accidentally or on purpose.
The proposal was an amendment by New Jersey Republican Rep. Christopher H. Smith adopted during House debate on the defense authorization bill. It’s usual for lawmakers to offer amendments to the defense spending bill which is reauthorised every term. The amendment requires the Pentagon inspector general to probe “whether the Department of Defense experimented with ticks and other insects regarding its use as a biological weapon between the years of 1950 and 1975”.
According to Smith, he was inspired to write the amendment by a number of books and articles suggesting that significant research had been done at U.S. government facilities including Fort Detrick, Maryland and Plum Island, New York to turn ticks and other insects into bioweapons.
A book called ‘Bitten: The Secret History of Lyme Disease and Biological Weapons’ by Kris Newby claims experiments by Pentagon could be linked to the spread of Lyme disease in the U.S.
Newby, who had Lyme disease after she was bitten by an insect, narrates in her book that Willy Burgdorfer, the Lyme microbe’s discoverer, revealed that he had developed bug-borne bioweapons during the Cold War, and believed that the Lyme epidemic was started by a military experiment gone wrong. Lyme disease is an infectious disease transmitted through tick bites which causes fever, headache, fatigue and rashes.
Smith referred to Newby’s book during debate on the floor: “The most recent book — ‘Bitten: The Secret History of Lyme Disease and Biological Weapons’ — includes interviews with Dr. Willy Burgdorfer, the researcher who is credited with discovering Lyme disease. The book reveals that Dr. Burgdorfer was a bioweapons specialist. Those interviews combined with access to Dr. Burgdorfer’s lab files suggest that he and other bioweapons specialists stuffed ticks with pathogens to cause severe disability, disease—even death—to potential enemies.”
“With Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases exploding in the United States — with an estimated 300,000 to 437,000 new cases diagnosed each year and 10-20 percent of all patients suffering from chronic Lyme disease — Americans have a right to know whether any of this is true. And have these experiments caused Lyme disease and other tick-borne disease to mutate and to spread?” Smith asked.
Smith said the Department of Defence Inspector General would explore:
What were the parameters of the program?
Who ordered it?
Was there ever any accidental release anywhere or at any time of any diseased ticks?
Were any ticks released by design?
Did the program contribute to the disease burden?
Can any of this information help current-day researchers find a way to mitigate these diseases?
Smith has a long record of fighting for people suffering from Lyme disease. He is the author of the pending TICK (Ticks: Identify, Control, Knockout) Act introduced earlier this year to create a national strategy to fight Lyme disease.