Anthrax Vaccine: A Case for Accountability
By Retired LTC John Richardson

The Pentagon's illegal anthrax vaccine program was the subject of one of Hack's last columns, titled "Soldiers Shouldn't be Guinea Pigs". [i] As usual, he was blunt and right.

Recently some retired generals have been equally blunt.

 

Retired Army BG John Batiste wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post calling for the civilian Pentagon leadership to be held accountable for Iraq War mistakes. [ii]

 

Retired Marine LtGen Greg Newbold also eloquently observed in Time Magazine that the "commitment of our forces to this fight was done with a casualness and swagger that are the special province of those who have never had to execute these missions--or bury the results."[iii]

 

Accountability applies to generals, too

 

But some field grade and junior officers have observed that the blame extends to the uniformed military leadership as well.[iv] Nowhere is that more true than with force protection, where measures that would have stopped bullets and IEDs were ignored while the Pentagon wasted hundreds of millions on an unsafe -- and unnecessary -- anthrax vaccine.

 

If the deaths and abuses of Iraqis at Abu Ghraib were wrong, then so are the deaths and illnesses -- of US military servicemembers -- associated with the once mandatory DoD anthrax vaccine program.

 

Both of are the result of a "command climate" that willfully ignores the law.

 

Since the mandatory anthrax vaccine program began in 1998, not one general or admiral has objected to forcing troops to take an anthrax vaccine made by a company that DoD allowed to be sold to a non-citizen, Fuad El-Hibri, who then gave 13% ownership to former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. William Crowe in 1998 for nothing. [v] [vi]

 

Even after federal Judge Emmet Sullivan declared the mandatory anthrax shot program to be "illegal" and issued an injunction to shut it down in 2004, not one senior officer spoke out against this illegal experiment on the troops. [vii]

 

The 2002 FDA-approved package insert acknowledges both six deaths related to anthrax vaccine and also a wide range of autoimmune disorders.[viii] In November 2005, Newsday reported that FDA has now quietly admitted to 21 deaths.[ix] A wide range of credible media sources have reported these adverse reactions and deaths over many years.

 

Yet, despite detailed investigative reports like the Newport News Daily Press December 2005 expose', the FDA will not investigate because it is integrally involved in covering up DoD's secret anthrax vaccine experiment.

 

Service Members' trust betrayed

 

SFTT first published a detailed critique of the DoD anthrax vaccine program on Dec 7, 1999. After 9/11, the nation was headed to war and Americans had to trust the government's official assertions about Iraqi WMD and the need to protect against them.

 

However, the joint CIA-DIA post-invasion Iraq Survey Group (ISG) has now made clear that Saddam had no WMD and that his biological warfare program ended in 1996.[x] A subsequent ISG addendum report found no evidence that the non-existent WMD had been moved to Syria or any other country.[xi] The ISG and others have also detailed how the primary source on WMD was an Iraqi defector, code-named "Curveball", who was never even interviewed by US intelligence personnel.[xii] Curveball's assertions of mobile biological weapons labs have been repeatedly discredited.[xiii] [xiv] [xv]

 

This should not be a surprise. In fact, the Government Accountability Office published at least four reports between 1999-2002 that undercut DoD threat assertions used to justify the mandatory anthrax vaccine program.[xvi] [xvii]   CIA analysts have confirmed that the intelligence supporting these GAO reports was willfully ignored by the White House and by a Pentagon intent on forcing troops to take an unsafe anthrax vaccine.[xviii]

 

There were no Iraqi WMD after the mid-1990's. There was no anthrax threat in Iraq or Afghanistan. Yet a year after the Iraq War made clear there was no WMD, the Pentagon in violation of its own regulation mandating a "validated threat" -- attempted to expand the mandatory anthrax vaccine program. Why?

 

Go to the Pentagon's anthrax website and you'll see references to the post-9/11 anthrax letters as another "threat" justifying anthrax shots. What this DoD website does not say is that former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, former HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, and former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer all publicly acknowledged that the origin of anthrax letters was domestic, not Iraq or Al Qaeda, and was likely tied to the government's mismanaged secret biodefense programs at Ft. Detrick and elsewhere.[xix]

 

So why does the Pentagon still willfully mislead troops about the threat to convince them to "volunteer" to take anthrax vaccine before you deploy to Iraq, Afghanistan or Korea? 

 

Because the DoD, likely aided by the National Institutes of Health and other federal health agencies, is conducting a secret experiment and it needs guinea pigs.

 

The anthrax vaccine experiment was described in author Gary Matsumoto's 2004 book "Vaccine-A." In a 2000 press briefing DoD vaguely acknowledged after years of Clinton-like denials -- that squalene was in anthrax vaccine.[xx] But the Pentagon has continued to deny and cover-up the secret experiment and its deadly results.

 

Most servicemembers do not realize that they can be lawfully experimented on -- without their knowledge simply "to advance the development of a medical product necessary to the armed forces."[xxi] The question is, did DoD obey the law?

   

A few good...federal judges

 

Despite the recent Pentagon spin that its FDA ally has once again dutifully declared the anthrax vaccine to be "safe and effective," the shot program remains voluntary. Legally, DoD could once again mandate the shots. And clearly, the absence of a threat has nothing to do with the Pentagon's decision to vaccinate. So, why haven't they mandated the shots?

 

Perhaps those responsible for the anthrax vaccine program are getting scared.

 

On Feb 9, 2006 the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals denied the Pentagon's attempt to overturn the federal district court injunction against mandatory shots. While recognizing the FDA's latest ruling on the vaccine, the appellate court sent the case back to Judge Emmet Sullivan. Like a boxing match, this signaled the end of the first round.

 

The real legal fight is still ahead.

 

So far, the Doe v. Rumsfeld lawsuit filed by six courageous servicemembers has focused on regulatory issues related to the FDA's unlawful licensure of the anthrax vaccine. However, the case may now turn to what Judge Sullivan has called the "plaintiffs' numerous substantive challenges" to the safety and efficacy of the anthrax vaccine.

 

This means that the evidence of DoD's on-going cover-up of anthrax vaccine deaths and illnesses may finally be heard in a court where DoD's spin will not be allowed [xxii]. If so, those responsible for the anthrax vaccine program and the criminal cover-up of its consequences will have to testify under oath and under threat of perjury.

 

A separate federal lawsuit brought by Iraq War veteran Sgt Jason Adkins, over being punished for exposing the cover-up of his adverse reaction to anthrax vaccine at Dover AFB, may also expose law-breaking by Air Force and senior DoD leaders. In September 2005, a federal judge denied DoD's motion to dismiss the Adkins v. Rumsfeld lawsuit.

 

As these lawsuits move forward, the troops may learn once again -- that one of the greatest threats to military servicemembers is the Pentagon leadership, both military and civilian. As the 1994 Senate Report 103-97 on secret DoD experimentation noted, this is nothing new. [xxiii]

 

As with all secret or "black" military programs, those responsible do whatever it takes to keep it secret including concocting cover stories to explain deaths.[xxiv] [xxv] [xxvi] The anthrax vaccine cover stories willfully ignore clear acknowledgements by the a U.S. Institute of Medicine report on Gulf War Illness that genetic risk factors, including race and ethnicity, mean some people are more likely to become ill from anthrax vaccine than others.[xxvii]

 

When the officially sanctioned mistruths and disinformation about the safety of the anthrax vaccine results in denying servicemembers medical care and disability payments to which they are entitled by federal law, the secret experiment and those who keep it secret -- violate the law.

 

Warriors or medics who is really in charge?

 

The Joint Chiefs initially resisted political pressure to allow the anthrax vaccine program to proceed. But in 1996, under criticism over the Khobar Towers bombing, they placed their careers ahead of the well being of their troops and gave in to political appointees and medical bureaucrats who knew nothing about war. [xxviii]

 

Since then the military leadership has sought to use anthrax vaccine as "an antidote to accountability" to protect themselves against failures in force protection, while they simultaneously neglected body armor and steel-plating for Humvees and trucks that could have saved thousands of deaths and serious injuries in Iraq.

 

This was nothing less than dereliction of duty, as there is no magic shot to immunize generals' careers.

 

Worse, the military leadership was silent while both active and retired senior officers linked to the anthrax vaccine program accepted non-federal income from private sector entities that benefit from the vaccination program. Would this be tolerated if an operational officer took money from a manufacturer of tanks, ships, or aircraft?

 

In contrast to the generals and the Major (Dr.) Burns clones who do their bidding, in 2001 one brave military physician, Air Force Captain John Buck, refused the vaccine, was court-martialed, convicted, fined $21,000 -- and was then given an honorable discharge because the Pentagon leadership knew his objections to the vaccine were legitimate.

 

Perhaps one general or admiral will finally have the guts to acknowledge what is now obvious: that the anthrax vaccine experiment, justified by willful mistruths about the threat, was morally and ethically wrong; that the on-going cover-up of the deaths and illnesses associated with the anthrax vaccine is criminal and should be prosecuted under the UCMJ; and, that the military leaderships' years of silence and unwillingness to protect the warriors from the Pentagon's medical bureaucrats has been cowardly.

 

Therefore, taking the anthrax vaccine isn't patriotic, or a sign of loyalty to the chain of command. It is simply aiding and abetting a crime by a Pentagon leadership, during both the Clinton and Bush Administrations, that has had no respect for either the law -- or for the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who serve them.

 

Those responsible must now be held accountable.

 

Until there is full accountability, if you are asked to "volunteer" for the anthrax vaccine, follow former First Lady Nancy Reagan's advice about illegal drugs: "Just Say No."

 

John Richardson is a retired USAF Reserve lieutenant colonel, a 1991 Gulf War veteran, and served as a policy analyst on the Joint Staff (J-5) from 1992-1998.

 


[i] Hack's Target, "Soldiers Shouldn't be Guinea Pigs", Apr 11, 2005.

 

[ii] "A Case for Accountability," Washington Post, Apr 21, 2006.

 

[iii] "Why Iraq Was a Mistake," Time Magazine, Apr 17, 2006.

 

[iv] "Young Officers Join the Debate Over Rumsfeld", New York Times, April 23, 2006.

 

[v] The Clinton Administration quickly granted Mr. El-Hibri US citizenship in response to the controversy over the mandatory anthrax vaccine program that was played out in at least a dozen Congressional hearings in 1999-2000.

 

[vi] "Why BioPort Got a Shot in the Arm", Insight Magazine, Sep 20, 1999.

 

[vii] Judge Emmet Sullivan decisions:

Permanent injunction, Oct 27, 2004.

      Preliminary injunction, Dec 22, 2003.

 

[viii] "BioThrax", FDA-approved package insert (2002).

 

[ix] "A Shot in the Dark?," Newsday, Nov 20, 2005.

 

[x] "Report Discounts Iraq Arms Threat, Inspector Says Hussein Lacked Means", Washington Post, Oct 6, 2004.

 

[xi] "Report Finds No Evidence Syria Hid Iraqi Arms", Washington Post,

Apr 2005.

 

[xii] "How U.S. Fell Under the Spell of 'Curveball'," Los Angeles Times, Nov 20, 2005.

 

[xiii] "Blow to Blair over 'mobile labs' - Saddam's trucks were for balloons, not germs," Guardian (UK) June 8, 2003 

 

[xiv] "Lacking Biolabs, Trailers Carried Case for War - Administration Pushed Notion of Banned Iraqi Weapons Despite Evidence to Contrary," Washington Post, Apr 12, 2006.

 

[xv] "Iraqi Trailers Said to Make Hydrogen, Not Biological Arms," New York Times, Aug 9, 2003. 

 

[xvi] GAO reports addressing biological warfare and bioterrorism threat (1999-2002):

 

GAO, "Medical Readiness: Safety and Efficacy of the Anthrax Vaccine", T-NSIAD-99-148 (April 29, 1999).

GAO, "Observations on the Threat of Chemical and Biological Terrorism", GAO/T-NSIAD-00-50, (October 20, 1999)

GAO, "Anthrax Vaccine: GAO's Survey of Guard and Reserve Pilots and Aircrew", GAO-02-445 (October 23, 2002).

GAO, "Diffuse Security Threats: Information on Domestic U.S. Anthrax Attacks", GAO-0-323T (Dec. 10, 2002) (not online)

 

[xvii] "Iraq Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs", US Government White Paper, Feb 13, 1998

 

[xviii] "A Spy Speaks Out", CBS News, Apr 21, 2006.

[xix] "Report Finds Anthrax Contamination at U.S. Institute", Global Security News, Apr 19, 2006.

[xx] Defenselink, DoD press briefing, Oct 3, 2000.

 

[xxi]  10 U.S. Code 980(b)): "The Secretary of Defense may waive the prohibition in this section with respect to a specific research project to advance the development of a medical product necessary to the armed forces if the research project may directly benefit the subject and is carried out in accordance with all other applicable laws."

 

[xxii] Assistant Secretary of Defense William Winkenwerder and Col John Grabenstein, DoD press briefing, Dec 23, 2003.

 

[xxiii] See also: "Report on Search for Human Radiation Experiment Records 1944 1994", Department of Defense (June 1997) and "Human Radiation Experiments: The Department of Energy Roadmap to the Story and Records", Department of Energy (1995).

 

[xxiv] "Winkenwerder: Reservist's Death Was Tragic, Unavoidable", DoD American Forces Press Service, Nov 19, 2003

 

[xxv] "Teleconference Update on Southwest Asia Pneumonia Review", DoD press briefing, Sep 9, 2003.

 

[xxvi] "Defense seeks emergency authority to resume anthrax vaccinations," GovExec.com, Dec 15, 2004. 

 

[xxvii] Sox, et.al., Gulf War and Health: Volume 1. Depleted Uranium, Pyridostigmine Bromide, Sarin, and Vaccines, Institute of Medicine (IOM) (2000) at Chapter 7 (Vaccines), pp. 267-323.

 

[xxviii] "Military Chiefs Back Anthrax Inoculations," Washington Post, Oct 2, 1996.

 





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