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C.I.A. Hunts Iraq Tie to Soviet Smallpox
SLATE reference to New Yourk Times Article ^ | Updated Friday, December 6, 2002, at 9:35 AM PT | By Jack Shafer

Posted on 03/27/2003 7:16:02 PM PST by vannrox

December 3, 2002

C.I.A. Hunts Iraq Tie to Soviet Smallpox


The C.I.A. is investigating an informant's accusation that Iraq obtained a particularly virulent strain of smallpox from a Russian scientist who worked in a smallpox lab in Moscow during Soviet times, senior American officials and foreign scientists say.

The officials said several American scientists were told in August that Iraq might have obtained the mysterious strain from Nelja N. Maltseva, a virologist who worked for more than 30 years at the Research Institute for Viral Preparations in Moscow before her death two years ago.

The information came to the American government from an informant whose identity has not been disclosed. The C.I.A. considered the information reliable enough that President Bush was briefed about its implications. The attempt to verify the information is continuing.

Dr. Maltseva is known to have visited Iraq on several occasions. Intelligence officials are trying to determine whether, as the informant told them, she traveled there as recently as 1990, officials said. The institute where she worked housed what Russia said was its entire national collection of 120 strains of smallpox, and some experts fear that she may have provided the Iraqis with a version that could be resistant to vaccines and could be more easily transmitted as a biological weapon.

The possibility that Iraq possesses this strain is one of several factors that has complicated Mr. Bush's decision, expected this week, about how many Americans should be vaccinated against smallpox, a disease that was officially eradicated in 1980.

The White House is expected to announce that despite the risk of vaccine-induced illness and death, it will authorize vaccinating those most at risk in the event of a smallpox outbreak ? 500,000 members of the military who could be assigned to the Middle East for a war with Iraq and 500,000 civilian medical workers.

More broadly, the Russian government's refusal to share smallpox and other lethal germ strains for study by the United States, or to answer questions about the fate of such strains, has reinforced American concerns about whether Russia has abandoned what was once the world's most ambitious covert germ weapons program.

A year ago in Crawford, Tex., Mr. Bush and Russia's president, Vladimir V. Putin, issued a statement vowing to enhance cooperation against biological terrorism. But after an initial round of visits and a flurry of optimism, American officials said Russia had resisted repeated American requests for information about the Russian smallpox strains and help in the investigation into the anthrax attacks in the United States in October 2001.

"There is information we would like the Russians to share as a partner of ours," William Winkenwerder Jr., assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, said in an interview. "Because if there are strains that present a unique problem with respect to vaccines and treatment, it is in the interests of all freedom-loving people to have as much information as possible."

Cooperation on biological terrorism was not discussed at the meeting last week between Mr. Bush and Mr. Putin in St. Petersburg, American officials said, mainly because administration officials are not certain just how willing Mr. Putin is to enhance cooperation in this delicate area. They wonder if he is not doing more because of the military's hostility to sharing the information.

"The record so far suggests he is either unable or unwilling to push the military on this front," an administration official said. "We think it may be a little of both, but we're not really sure at this point or what to do about it."

Administration officials said the C.I.A. was still trying to determine whether Dr. Maltseva traveled to Iraq in 1990, and whether she shared a sample of what might be a particularly virulent smallpox strain with Iraqi scientists.

World Health Organization records in Geneva and interviews with scientists who worked with her confirmed that Dr. Maltseva visited Iraq at least twice, in 1972 and 1973, as part of the global campaign to eradicate smallpox.

Formerly secret Soviet records also show that in 1971, she was part of a covert mission to Aralsk, a port city in what was then the Soviet republic of Kazakhstan, north of the Aral Sea, to help stop an epidemic of smallpox. The Soviet Union did not report that outbreak to world health officials, as required by regulations.

Last June, experts from the Monterey Institute of International Studies, drawing on those Kazakh records and interviews with survivors, published a report saying the epidemic was a result of open-air tests of a particularly virulent smallpox strain on Vozrozhdeniye Island in the Aral Sea.

The island, known as Renaissance Island in English, is between Kazakhstan and another Central Asian country, Uzbekistan. The United States recently spent $6 million to help both countries, which are now independent, to decontaminate anthrax that the Soviet military buried in pits on the island.

Alan P. Zelicoff, co-author of the Monterey report and a scientist at Sandia National Laboratories, said the Aralsk outbreak was a watershed because it demonstrated that the smallpox virus was more easily spread than previously thought and that there may be a vaccine-resistant strain.

The organism can indeed be made to travel long distances, city-size perhaps, and there may be a vaccine-resistant strain or one that is more communicable than garden-variety smallpox, he said in an interview.

The Monterey report led American officials to question whether America's smallpox vaccine would be effective against the Aralsk strain or whether new vaccines or drugs might be needed if the strain was used in an attack. American concern increased in recent months after the White House was told that Dr. Maltseva might have shared the Aralsk strain with Iraqi scientists in 1990, administration officials said.

David Kelly, a former United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq, said there was a "resurgence of interest" in smallpox vaccine in Iraq in 1990, "but we have never known why."

A spokesman for the Russian Research Institute for Viral Preparations declined to comment on Dr. Maltseva or her work. Her daughter, a physician in Moscow, said she had no recollection of her mother's ever going to Iraq.

Svetlana Sergeyevna Marennikova, Dr. Maltseva's deputy in the Moscow laboratory, said in an interview that Dr. Maltseva had never gone to Iraq as far as she knew.

"She worked, and then when she got sick, she took a sick leave when she was no longer able to work," she said. "I don't know about Iraq. I didn't know about a trip there. I don't think she was there. I would know."

Donald A. Henderson, a senior adviser to the Department of Health and Human Services and a leader of the smallpox eradication campaign, described Dr. Maltseva as an "outgoing, hard-working scientist." He said she had traveled widely for the W.H.O in the eradication campaign.

While the organization's records show that she visited Iran, Iraq and Syria, Dr. Henderson recalled that he had also sent her to Pakistan to follow up on an outbreak there. "She clearly enjoyed the international travel circuit," he said.

Scientists and American officials have speculated that Iraq may have tried to buy the Aralsk strain from Dr. Maltseva, whose institute, like so many other scientific labs in Russia, has fallen on hard times since the Soviet Union's collapse.

Dr. Henderson said he was deeply disappointed that Dr. Maltseva and other Russian scientists with whom he had worked closely had helped cover up outbreaks of infectious diseases that should have been reported to the W.H.O.

The Russian government has never publicly acknowledged that Aralsk outbreak or that it tested smallpox in the open air. At a World Health Organization meeting in Lyon, France, last August, officials said, Russian virologists argued privately, in response to the Monterey report and news accounts, that there was no reason to believe that the Aralsk incident was anything other than a natural outbreak and that the strain was not particularly virulent ? assertions with which some American experts concur.

American officials familiar with discussions about Aralsk said Russians scientists had confirmed that Dr. Maltseva took tissue samples from Aralsk back to her Moscow lab in 1971. But Russians have insisted that the material was destroyed when Russia quietly moved its smallpox strain collection from the Moscow lab to Vector, where the collection is now stored.

Many American scientists and officials, even those who doubt that the Aralsk strain is unusually potent, are deeply skeptical that the strain was destroyed. Former Soviet germ warfare scientists have privately told American officials that the military took control of these strains when the collection was moved.

American health and defense officials have tried without success to press Russia for help in securing a sample of the strain from the Aralsk smallpox outbreak.

The American officials have also been unable to obtain information that they believe could help federal investigators with their stalled inquiry into the anthrax attacks of October 2001, in which 5 people died and at least 17 were infected.

TOPICS: Anthrax Scare; Business/Economy; Constitution/Conservatism; Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Extended News; Foreign Affairs; Germany; Government; Israel; Miscellaneous; News/Current Events; Philosophy; Russia; United Kingdom
KEYWORDS: 1990; alanpzelicoff; alanzelicoff; alanzelikov; alanzellikov; anthrax; aral; aralsea; aralsk; aralskstrain; biologicalwarfare; bioterrorism; biowarfare; bush; centralasia; cia; crawford; data; donahenderson; donaldahenderson; donaldhenderson; donhenderson; drmaltseva; epidemic; eradication; eradicationcampaign; germ; germs; henderson; iraq; judithmiller; judymiller; kazakhstan; kgb; maltseva; marennikova; miis; miller; montereyinstitute; neljamaltseva; neljanmaltseva; outbreak; poison; pootie; pootiepoot; putin; renaissanceisland; rrivp; saddam; science; smallpox; sovietunion; stpetersburg; svetlanamarennikova; tissuesamples; ussr; uzbekistan; vaccinations; vaccine; virologist; vladimirputin; vladimirvputin; vozrozhdeniye; vozrozhdeniyeisland; weapon; who; williamwinkenwerder; winkenwerder; wmd; worldhealth; worldhealthorg; zelicoff; zelikov; zellikov
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Leak of the Week: Madame Smallpox
"C.I.A. Hunts Iraq Tie to Soviet Smallpox," by Judith Miller, Dec. 3, New York Times.
By Jack Shafer
Updated Friday, December 6, 2002, at 9:35 AM PT

Judith Miller covers the weaponized germ beat for the New York Times and, with fellow Times reporters William Broad and Stephen Engelberg, wrote the well-received Germs: Biological Weapons and America's Secret War last year. Miller got the bug bug when she viewed 10 large fermenters for making anthrax at a now-shuttered Soviet bioweapons factory. "I thought, 'My God, Ronald Reagan was right, it really was an evil empire,' " she said this year in an interview.

Miller's Tuesday scoop in the Times, "C.I.A. Hunts Iraq Tie to Soviet Smallpox," explores the theory that a Russian virologist named Nelja N. Maltseva might have given "a particularly virulent strain of smallpox" to the Iraqis, a finding that obviously grows out of the expertise she acquired in writing the book.

But the prolific blind sourcing in Miller's article to "senior American officials," "foreign scientists," "American officials," "an administration official," "administration officials," and "an informant whose identity has not been disclosed" calls into immediate question who talked to Miller about the alleged Madame Smallpox and why. Not to denigrate Miller's enterprise, but if the CIA is investigating Maltseva and people in a position to know are talking to Miller, why aren't they speaking for attribution?

My gurus in the discipline of blind sourceology are journalist Edward Jay Epstein and Brookings' Stephen Hess, who counsel us to view leaks through a skeptical lens. Leaks come in both the authorized and unauthorized form, and the leaker almost always has a motive. If you have a moment, click here for a primer on their views, including Hess' taxonomy of leaks, before reading on.

With the Epstein and Hess primer as our guide, let's dissassemble Miller's scoop.

Who Didn't Leak? Although the story is about a CIA investigation of virologist Nelja N. Maltseva, nowhere in the story does Miller cite an intelligence source. That doesn't mean that Miller didn't talk to intelligence sources or get information from them that she then confirmed with sources outside of the intelligence community. But the absence of a blind sourced "intelligence official" indicates that the CIA probably didn't tip her. Nor does it cite Department of Defense sources, who might conceivably leak the info to make their sometimes friend, sometimes enemy, the CIA, look bad.

Then Who Were the Leakers? Halfway through the piece, Miller candidly writes, "Administration officials said the C.I.A. was still trying to determine whether Dr. Maltseva traveled to Iraq in 1990, and whether she shared a sample of what might be a particularly virulent smallpox strain with Iraqi scientists." This is essentially a better written and better sourced version of her lede, which attributes the scoop to both senior American officials and foreign scientists. So which is it? American officials or foreign scientists?

Why Would Senior American Officials Leak? Senior officials from the Bush administration might leak the sketchy details of the CIA's smallpox investigation 1) to add urgency to its mass smallpox innoculations plan; and 2) to gin up support for the coming war with Iraq. To use Hess' taxonomy, that would make them Policy Leakers.

Why Would Foreign Scientists Leak? As the Washington Post's Barton Gellman chided Slate's Chatterbox a few weeks ago, it's fun to unmask other journalists' sources, but we should remember that the source doesn't always drive the transaction with a reporter. It could be that Miller's story started with the foreign scientists at the Research Institute for Viral Preparations in Moscow, where Nelja N. Maltseva worked until two years ago, when she died. The scientists might have informed Miller of their interviews with the CIA. From those contacts, Miller could have worked back to administration officials who gave her multiple Good Will Leaks confirming what she had learned rather than stonewalling her. The foreign scientists might be, to use Hess' terms again, Ego Leakers, Good Will Leakers, Animus Leakers, or Whistle-Blower Leakers.

Who Benefits From the Leak? The Bush administration. As already argued, it helps make the case against Saddam. But does it? When reduced to its base elements, Miller's story is about a CIA investigation of a dead virologist who might have handed off a virulent strain of Soviet war-machine smallpox or might not have. To begin with, we don't know if Maltseva visited Iraq in 1990, as the mysterious "informant" alleges. (Miller writes that the informant's "identity has not been disclosed.") We don't even know for sure if the smallpox strainâ??said to have caused an epidemic of smallpox in Aralsk, Kazakhstan, in 1971, when Kazakhstan was a Soviet republicâ??even exists. The Russians still deny an outbreak happened and, logically, refuse to give the United States samples of the rumored pathogen.

Who's Hurt by the Leak? The Russians look terrible, because the story accuses them of weaponizing smallpox and transferring it to the Iraqis. The Iraqis suffer, too, although it's not as if they've got reputation to lose.

Why the Administration Would Never Leak the Story. If the CIA is really investigating Maltseva and the Aralsk strain, all this blabbing would probably scare potential sources away.

Why the Administration Would Leak It in a Heartbeat. Or maybe the administration has decided publicity might elicit new sources of information in the stalled investigation. Or maybe the leak is designed to send a message to the Russians about how much the United States knows about their bioweapons programs. By publicizing the role of Maltseva, the United States might be putting new pressure on Russia to cooperate in tracking smallpox strains and anthrax.

Is the Leak the Story, or Is the Leaker the Story? Both.

Where the Next Miller Scoop Might Drop. In the aforementioned interview, Miller notes that four former Soviet scientists now work for Iran's advanced bioweapons programs.

Does Miller's Reach Exceed Her Grasp? Miller presents only circumstantial evidence that Nelja N. Maltseva ferried to Iraq a germ that might not exist. The primary source for the allegation is not only unnamed but unknown to Miller. Maltseva had good reason to visit Iraq in 1972 and 1973, as Miller reports, because she was part of the global smallpox eradication effort. Likewise her trip to Aralsk to combat the 1971 smallpox epidemic. Maltseva's daughter and her former laboratory deputy say she didn't visit Iraq in 1990, as the mystery source says.

Yet the story is so carefully couched, right down to the underselling headline, "C.I.A. Hunts Iraq Tie to Soviet Smallpox," and its placement on A18, that nobody can accuse Miller of hyping her material. It entertains speculation and listens to theorizers but it also quotes doubters. If it contains a hidden agenda, I can't find it. And Miller is not out there whistling alone. Earlier this fall (Nov. 5), the Post's Gellman reported findings from a CIA's Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation and Arms Control Center study that said "a former Soviet scientist told U.S. officials that his country 'transferred [smallpox] technology in the early 1990s to Iraq.' " Madame Smallpox, perhaps?

I'm looking for leaks to deconstruct. If you've seen a good one, throw it my way:

1 posted on 03/27/2003 7:16:02 PM PST by vannrox
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To: vannrox
Is it me, or does it seem that there are a lot of women in the weaponized pathogen biz lately?
2 posted on 03/27/2003 7:37:59 PM PST by SpaceBar
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To: vannrox
And the plot thickens....

Interesting timeline for flights vs. suspicion of trip timing:

WASHINGTON (October 27) – U.S. Rep. Benjamin A. Gilman (20th-NY), Chairman of the House International Relations Committee, sent the following letter today to Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright concerning sanctions against Iraq:

October 27, 2000

Dear Madam Secretary:

We suspect that you are extremely concerned, as we certainly are, about the increasing number of sanctions-violating flights into Iraq. Needless to say, it is not surprising that these flights have been initiated by Russia and France, both of which are permanent members of the Security Council.

Following the lead of Russia and France, other countries have likewise flown into Iraq. Among these countries are recipients of significant amounts of U.S. foreign aid.

This, Madam Secretary, is outrageous.

Since August, Russia has permitted three direct commercial flights to Baghdad, requesting permission for only two of those flights from the U.N. Sanctions Committee. We understand that Russia does not view these flights as sanctions violations.

In your testimony last month before the Foreign Relations Committee, you emphasized that this is not the U.S. position; specifically, you made clear that the United States believes "that these flights need approval, and . . . I think that absent any new kind of consensus, the [Sanctions Committee] will continue . . . to operate under practices of the last 10 years, that these flights require approval, not just notification."

Sanctions are a vital tool in denying Saddam Hussein the funding and supplies necessary for him to pursue weapons of mass destruction. Vigilance is all the more urgent, given the absence of weapons inspectors in Iraq for nearly two years.

Being fully committed, as we are, to ensuring that this despot does not develop the weapons to threaten the United States, our allies, or our interests, we acknowledge that this will be increasingly difficult if Saddam’s neighbors (and our allies and aid recipients) continue to violate the sanctions intended to protect them.

Madam Secretary, two points: 1) In your view, absent permission from the sanctions committee, do these flights constitute sanctions violations? And (2) Under the terms of Section 534 of the Foreign Operations Appropriations Act of 2000, do you agree that no assistance should be provided to nations in violation of U.N. sanctions on Iraq?

Please let us hear from you as to how Section 534 applies to the countries in violation of UN sanctions, and in particular to Russia and Egypt, two flagrant violators who receive billions in U.S. foreign aid.

We urgently need your response, Madam Secretary.


(signed) (signed)

3 posted on 03/27/2003 7:44:18 PM PST by Calpernia (
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To: Calpernia
And the plot further thickens:

Iraqi Entity: Kimadia

Entity Name: Kimadia
Activity Memo: Part of the Ministry of Health; site to which biological growth media from Al-Hakam was declared by Iraq to have been transferred; inspectors reportedly found a freeze-drier labeled “smallpox” at its maintenance shop in the mid-1990s.
Also Known As: State Company for Drugs and Medical Appliances Marketing
Program: Biological
Physical Location:
Date Entered: 10/2/2000 4:03:00 PM
4 posted on 03/27/2003 7:58:29 PM PST by Calpernia (
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To: Calpernia
And yet ANOTHER Clinton Oversite....

October 20, 1999



Congressman Hunter, Congressman Weldon, and members of the Subcommittees, thank you for the opportunity to discuss the issues of biological weapons and biological defense preparedness with you. I am in a rather unique position to discuss these issues, since I developed biological weapons for the Soviet Union for nearly twenty years, until my defection in 1992. When I left the Russian biological warfare program, I had been serving for four years as First Deputy Director of Biopreparat. Biopreparat, the civilian arm of the biological weapons program, comprised over half of the entire program’s personnel and facilities. At that time, I was responsible for approximately 32,000 employees and 40 facilities. Since arriving to the United States, my personal and professional goal has been to make the greatest contribution I can to eliminating the danger of biological weapons.


Biological weapons are weapons of mass destruction (or mass casualty weapons, to be precise, since they do not damage nonliving entities) that are based on bacteria, viruses, rickettsia, fungi, or toxins produced by these organisms. Compared to other types of weapons (nuclear, chemical or conventional), biological weapons are unique in their diversity. Dozens of different agents can be used to make a biological weapon, and each agent will produce a markedly different effect. These differences in effect are shaped by various properties of the particular agent, such as its contagiousness, the length of time after release that it survives in the environment, the dose required to infect a victim, and of course the type of disease that the agent produces.

Although most people think of biological weapons as anti-personnel weapons, some biological weapons are designed to destroy crops or livestock. In the future, it is theoretically possible that new types of biological weapons will be produced that:

damage military equipment by causing corrosion

degrade different types of plastics used in equipment, computers, etc.

render fuels useless.

Biological weapons formulations are of two types: a liquid or a dry powder. For most agents, the liquid form is easier to produce, but the dry form stores longer and disperses better when deployed. The basic steps for creating a liquid biological weapon are:

obtaining a sample of the microorganisms to be used

culturing the microorganisms until there is enough for a weapon

concentrating the culture to make it strong enough for a weapon

adding certain ingredients to stabilize the culture.

For a dry weapon formulation, this liquid culture is dried out and then ground up into microscopic particles. For toxin weapons, the toxin must first be extracted from the source—either the liquid bacterial culture or a plant or animal—and then concentrated.

Biological weapons are relatively inexpensive and easy to produce. Although the most sophisticated and effective versions require considerable equipment and scientific expertise, primitive versions can be produced in a small area with minimal equipment by someone with limited training.

Biological weapons can be deployed in three ways:

contamination of food or water supplies, which are then ingested by the victims

release of infected vectors, such as mosquitoes or fleas, which then bite the victims

creation of an aerosol cloud, which is then inhaled by the victims (or, if the targets are plants, the cloud then settles on and infects the plants).

Since the U.S. has highly effective water purification systems, contamination of the water supply is the least effective method for disseminating a biological weapon in this country. Contamination of food supplies would most likely be used in a terrorist rather than a military attack, since it is difficult to contaminate enough food to gain a military advantage. Release of infected vectors is not particularly efficient for either military or terrorist purposes and entails a high probability of affecting those producing the weapons or living nearby.

By far, the most efficient and effective mode for applying biological weapons is creation of an aerosol cloud. Such a cloud is made up of microscopic particles and is therefore invisible. It can be produced in several ways, all of which involve either an explosion (a bomb or a bomb within a missile) or spraying (usually involving a special nozzle on a spray tank). The effectiveness of the cloud is determined by numerous factors, such as the amount of agent that survives the explosion or spraying, and the wind and weather conditions. The primary result of an effective cloud is simultaneous infections among all those who were exposed to a sufficiently dense portion of the cloud. In addition, agents that can survive for a long time in the environment will eventually settle, contaminating the ground, buildings, water and food sources, and so on. In some cases, these sediments can form another dangerous aerosol cloud if they are disturbed.


Although the Soviet Union was a party to the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, it continued a high-intensity program to develop and produce biological weapons through at least the early 1990s. The size and scope of this program were enormous. For example, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, over 60,000 people were involved to varying degrees in the research, development, and production of biological weapons. Hundreds of tons of anthrax weapon formulation were stockpiled, along with dozens of tons of smallpox and plague. The total production capacity of all of the facilities involved was many hundreds of tons of various agents annually.

The Soviet Union’s biological weapons program was established in the late 1920s. Prior to World War II, research was conducted on a wide variety of agents. By the beginning of the war, the Soviet Union was able to manufacture weapons using the agents for tularemia, epidemic typhus, and Q fever, and was also working on techniques for producing weapons using the agents for smallpox, plague, and anthrax. My own analysis of a tularemia outbreak among German troops in southern Russia in 1942 indicates that this incident was very likely the result of the USSR’s use of biological weapons. There was also a suspicious outbreak of Q fever in 1943 among German troops vacationing in the Crimea.

World War II brought several advances for the Soviet biological weapons program. First, the USSR gained access to German industrial techniques and machinery for manufacturing large-scale biological reactors and other industrial equipment. Second, the Soviets obtained valuable information from the Japanese biological weapons program. This information gave the Soviet program an instant boost in its development.

After the war, the Soviet program continued to expand and develop. In many cases, it closely shadowed the U.S. biological weapons program. While the pre-war list of weaponized agents included tularemia, epidemic typhus, and Q fever, the post-war list was expanded to include:




Venezuelan equine encephalomyelitis



Marburg infection.

Numerous other agents were studied for possible use as biological weapons, including:


Junin virus (Argentinian hemorrhagic fever)

Machupo virus (Bolivian hemorrhagic fever)

yellow fever

Lassa fever

Japanese encephalitis

Russian spring-summer encephalitis.

Techniques and equipment were developed and refined for more efficient cultivation and concentration of the agents. Methods for producing dry weapons formulations for a number of agents were also developed. In addition to weapons to affect humans, a number of weapons to affect crops and livestock were developed using such agents as:

psittacosis (affects fowl)

ornithosis (affects fowl)

Rinderpest virus (affects cattle)

African swine fever virus (affects swine)

wheat stem rust spores (affect wheat crops)

rice blast spores (affect rice crops).

During this post-war period, which lasted until the signing of the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, the Soviet Union also formulated its doctrine regarding the production and use of biological weapons. In the Soviets’ definition, "strategic" weapons were those to be used on the deepest targets, i.e. the U.S. and other distant countries; "operational" weapons were those intended for use on medium-range targets, nearer than the strategic targets but well behind the battlefront; and "tactical" weapons were those to be used at the battlefront. Biological weapons were excluded from use as "tactical" weapons, and were divided into "strategic" and "operational" types. "Strategic" biological agents were mostly lethal, such as smallpox, anthrax, and plague; "operational" agents were mostly incapacitating, such as tularemia, glanders, and Venezuelan equine encephalomyelitis. For both types of weapons, use was envisioned on a massive scale, to cause extensive disruption of vital civilian and military activity. The Soviets also established so-called mobilization capacities: facilities whose peacetime work was not biological weapons production, but which could rapidly begin weapons production if war was imminent.

It is important to note that, in the Soviets’ view, the best biological agents were those for which there was no prevention and no cure. For those agents for which vaccines or treatment existed—such as plague, which can be treated with antibiotics—antibiotic-resistant or immunosuppressive variants were to be developed. This is in sharp contrast to the philosophy of the U.S. program (terminated in 1969 by President Nixon’s Executive Order), which stringently protected the safety of its biological weapons researchers by insisting that a vaccine or treatment be available for any agent studied.

After the Soviet Union became a party to the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, internal debate ensued about the fate of the existing biological weapons program. The end result was that the program was not dismantled, but further intensified. During the period 1972-1992, the focus of the program was expanded. In addition to continuing previous types of work (developing improved manufacturing and testing techniques and equipment; developing improved delivery means for existing weapons; and exploring other possible agents as weapons), new emphasis was placed on:

conducting molecular biology and genetic engineering research in order to develop antibiotic-resistant and immunosuppressive strains and to create genetically combined strains of two or more viruses

studying peptides with psychogenic or neurogenic effects as possible weapons

transforming non-pathogenic microorganisms and commensals into pathogenic microorganisms

testing all of the facilities considered part of the "mobilization capacity" to verify their readiness.

During this period, the Soviet program not only caught up with the U.S. program (which was halted in 1969), behind which it had lagged by about five years, but it became the most sophisticated biological weapons program in the world by far.

However, as the Soviet Union weakened during the late 1980s and early 1990s, and as more and more detail was revealed regarding the Soviet biological weapons program, the West put increasing pressure on the Soviets. In 1991, a series of trilateral visits were conducted among the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union. Note that the Soviet program still existed when these visits took place; the Soviets covered up the evidence as best they could.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, in early 1992, Russian President Boris Yeltsin signed a decree banning all biological weapons-related activity. Considerable downsizing in this area did indeed occur, and included destruction of existing biological weapons stockpiles. However, there still remains doubt that Russia has completely dismantled the old Soviet program.

Certainly, now that the Cold War is over and U.S.-Russia relations have changed markedly for the better, Russia presents far less of a military threat to the U.S. However, it would not be prudent to consider that Russia presents no military threat whatsoever. In addition, biological weapons technology can possibly proliferate from Russia to other countries less friendly to the U.S. For these reasons, it is important that we continue to analyze the situation with biological weapons in Russia.

There are three main reasons that I am concerned about possible biological weapons research and development in Russia today. First, many of Russia’s former biological weapons facilities have never been subjected to international inspections or even visits by foreign representatives. Second, Russia continues to publicly deny the size or even existence of many aspects of the former Soviet program. And third, among Russian scientists’ published work, there are many studies I feel are dual-purpose or even outright offensive biological weapons work.


Of course, Russia is not the only biological weapons threat we face. A number of other states are known or suspected to possess biological weapons. Terrorist groups also present an increasing threat; the Aum Shinrikyo cult in Japan was working on biological weapons, and Osama bin Laden’s organization apparently has biological weapons as well. The extent of the threat is no surprise. Biological weapons have a number of very attractive features for both military and terrorist uses: Their killing power can approach that of nuclear weapons. They destroy only people, leaving infrastructure intact. They are relatively inexpensive to make. A small-scale biological weapons attack using a common disease organism, such as tularemia or plague, can be masked as a natural outbreak. The raw material—disease-producing strains of microorganisms—is fairly easy to obtain. And the techniques and equipment that are used in ordinary biotechnology research and production can be used for biological weapons.

Since the Soviet Union and Russia had the most sophisticated and powerful biological weapons program on earth, Russia presented and presents a great proliferation threat. I should note that, to the best of my knowledge, the Soviet Union and Russia have not exported actual weapons strains of microorganisms. However, there are a number of other ways that proliferation can occur.

The first is by experienced scientists traveling or moving abroad. For example, I have unconfirmed information that some scientists from the Kirov facility visited North Korea in the early 1990s. In addition, numerous scientists who used to work for the biological weapons program are now living abroad. Many of these scientists live in the U.S. and in Europe, but others have gone to Iran and other countries where their expertise can be put to nefarious use.

A second type of proliferation involves scientists from other countries being brought to the proliferating country for training in biotechnology, microbiology, and genetic engineering techniques. For instance, for years Moscow State University provided such training to scientists from dozens of countries, including Cuba, North Korea, Eastern Bloc nations, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Libya.

A third form of proliferation involves private companies selling scientific expertise. For instance, I have a flier from a company that advertises recombinant Francisella tularensis bacteria with altered virulence genes. Ostensibly, these organisms are being offered for vaccine production; the flier also notes that they can be used as genetic recipients and to create recombinant microorganisms of biologically active agents. The authors of the flier also express willingness to form cooperative ventures to which they will contribute their genetic engineering knowledge. The director of this company used to work for the USSR’s biological weapons program.

A fourth type of proliferation occurs when the proliferating country sells equipment that can be used in biological weapons production. An example of this is the planned sale by Russia of large fermenters to Iraq after the Persian Gulf War. Similarly, in 1990, Biopreparat was negotiating the sale of equipment to Cuba.

The fifth kind of proliferation consists of published scientific literature. Just by reading scientific literature published in Russia in the last few years, a biological weapons developer could learn how to genetically engineer vaccinia virus and then transfer the results to smallpox; how to create antibiotic-resistant strains of anthrax, plague, and glanders; and how to mass-produce Marburg virus and Machupo virus. The billions of dollars that the Soviet Union and Russia put into biotechnology research are available to anyone for the cost of a translator.

I must emphasize the complexity of the proliferation issue for biological weapons. In many cases, the same equipment and knowledge that can be used to produce biological weapons can also be used to produce legitimate biotechnological products such as vaccines and antibiotics. Thus, we cannot forbid the export of most of the relevant knowledge and equipment. Given the current economic situation in the states of the former Soviet Union, the incentive to sell these wares without regard to their eventual use is great both for the government and for individual scientists and businessmen.


The ultimate goal of biodefense is to prevent suffering and loss of life, thereby rendering biological weapons ineffective. We must first be able to identify that an attack has occurred. This involves developing equipment to detect a biological attack and diagnostic equipment to identify the weapons agent, as well as providing training to hospital and health department personnel in recognizing and reporting the signs of a biological attack. Once an attack has been identified, we must be able to treat the disease or, better yet, prevent symptoms from developing.

I have a number of particular concerns regarding U.S. military preparedness for biological attack.


Currently available detection equipment can identify four biological agents. The planned improved version will be able to detect "at least eight agents". A system to be fielded in 2002 will presumably be able to detect more than eight agents, though I have seen no specific number. Yet there are dozens of agents that could potentially be used as biological weapons. Our current systems that identify four or eight agents essentially serve as instructions to potential attackers to use agents other than those specific four or eight, to evade our detectors. Are there any plans to develop a "universal" detector that is not limited to specific agents?

How and where will point detection equipment be deployed in the field? Is this equipment portable? The area in which biological attacks could take place on a battlefield is very large.

In my opinion, the most useful detection equipment would be a portable, nonspecific detection system that could be easily positioned anywhere on the battlefield (e.g., each platoon could have one) and would detect at least the fact of a biological attack, even if it is incapable of identifying the specific agent. Detectors capable of rapidly identifying the specific agent, such as those we are currently developing, could be used after the fact of the biological attack has been established by the nonspecific detector.

How will the information provided by these detectors be used? Instantaneous detection (which is not currently available) might serve as a signal to troops to don protective gear, but detection with any delay (such as we have now) would not serve this purpose. At most, it would signal medical personnel to administer any available urgent prophylaxis, obtain appropriate medical supplies, and brace themselves for the onslaught of illness.

Protective equipment

What is the strategy for deploying protective equipment? Do we plan to have personnel use this equipment all the time (which is not realistic)? Only after an attack has been detected (when it may cut the number of casualties somewhat, but would not eliminate them)? Or some criteria between these two possibilities?

What procedures are in place for large-area decontamination (for persistent agents) and deratization (for agents that will infect the local rodent population)? (Presumably we do not plan to have soldiers wear their gear for an indefinite time after an attack.) Do we have any research and development being done in this area?

Medical countermeasures

There are a substantial number of additional vaccines under development. Are we planning to develop vaccines against all possible agents? As it stands now, the development and administration of specific vaccines simply serve as instructions to our potential attackers to use an agent against which the troops are not vaccinated.

Do we plan to vaccinate servicemen against all possible weapons agents? Against most of them? What are the criteria by which we will decide to vaccinate our troops against particular agents? How will we accommodate changing threat situations, given that vaccines take weeks to months to reach full effectiveness?

Given personnel turnover in the military, what are our plans to keep all of our troops vaccinated?

What are the costs inherent in these mass vaccination programs, including the costs of continually vaccinating new recruits? (As I understand it, the costs of the anthrax vaccination program alone are staggering.)

What are the potential health effects of multiple vaccinations?

How do we plan to deal with the problems of vaccination refusal and public relations, which we are already experiencing with the anthrax vaccination program and which are sure to multiply exponentially with additional vaccinations? When a servicemember refuses to be vaccinated and is subsequently discharged, what does it cost us in terms of the cost of that servicemember’s training and his/her experience?

Do we have any plans to develop vaccines or medical countermeasures against genetically altered forms of the various agents, including antibiotic-resistant and vaccine-resistant strains?


We need to revise our understanding of the biological weapons threat in order to develop an adequate defense. Rather than responding to specific threats, which are variable and can change rapidly by virtue of biotechnology, we should develop measures that are sufficiently broad-spectrum to address potential biological threats before they exist. Although vaccination and traditional medical countermeasures (e.g. antibiotics) are all we have to counter the biological weapons threat at present, I believe it would be a far better use of our resources to develop new treatment and urgent prophylaxis methods, particularly those that are broad spectrum in nature. Similarly, I believe our detection and consequence management approaches should be broad-spectrum in nature.
5 posted on 03/27/2003 8:02:00 PM PST by Calpernia (
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To: SpaceBar
I'm not (bats eyelashes)
6 posted on 03/27/2003 8:02:52 PM PST by Calpernia (
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To: vannrox
Pandora's box?

And Miller is not out there whistling alone. Earlier this fall (Nov. 5), the Post's Gellman reported findings from a CIA's Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation and Arms Control Center study that said "a former Soviet scientist told U.S. officials that his country 'transferred [smallpox] technology in the early 1990s to Iraq.' " Madame Smallpox, perhaps?

7 posted on 03/27/2003 8:12:52 PM PST by GOPJ
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To: SpaceBar
You know how your mom was with making you wash your hands all the time- but your dad probably never thought about it. Maybe a fascination with germs its proportional to the amount of estrogen in the system.
8 posted on 03/27/2003 8:13:15 PM PST by piasa (Attitude adjustments offered here free of charge.)
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To: vannrox

"I thought, 'My God, Ronald Reagan was right, it really was an evil empire,' "

Leftist hits nail on the head.

9 posted on 03/27/2003 8:14:42 PM PST by Paleo Conservative (Time to bomb Saddam!)
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To: piasa
HEY! I resemble that remark!
10 posted on 03/27/2003 8:16:02 PM PST by Calpernia (
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To: piasa
My mom showed me a clever technique for exiting a public restroom without making physical contact with unclean environmental surfaces. I love that woman.
11 posted on 03/27/2003 8:20:54 PM PST by SpaceBar
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To: SpaceBar
Poisons have always been the weapon of choice for women. Anytime there is a poisoning, look for the nearest irritated woman.
12 posted on 03/27/2003 8:21:22 PM PST by Cate ((LET FREEDOM RING!!!!))
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To: Calpernia
A must read.....Notice the 'spray' delivery system, we already found cluster bombs in Iraq.

Former Soviets' Bio-War Expert Details Threat
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON -- Anthrax, plague, smallpox -- the former Soviet Union had them all and was fully prepared to use them, a one-time leader of a secret Soviet biological weapons program told Congress recently.

Dr. Ken Alibek, former deputy director of Biopreparat, the civilian arm of the former Soviets' biological weapons program, appeared in October before a joint meeting of the House subcommittees on military procurement and military research and development. Alibek moved to the United States in 1992 and has since written a book, "Biohazard: The Chilling True Story of the Largest Covert Biological Weapons Program in the World."

Representatives called on Alibek, DoD and other civilian and military experts to clarify the capabilities of chemical and biological weapons. They also wanted perspectives on the threat the weapons pose to the United States and U.S. forces, especially if used by terrorists or rogue nations.

Following Alibek's testimony, DoD officials briefed committee members on the department's ongoing efforts to counter the threat. Since the Gulf War, DoD has beefed up funding to accelerate fielding detection equipment and to develop improved defenses.

Alibek told committee members the Soviets launched their biological weapons program in 1928 and by the late 1980s had "the most powerful and sophisticated program of biological weapons in the world." Biopreparat, the defense and health ministries and even the KGB were developing biological agents that could destroy people, livestock, agricultural crops, equipment and fuel, he said.

Alibek said the Soviet Union established a huge production capability to manufacture biological weapons, and Russia still has four top-secret production facilities. One facility is capable of producing 1,000 tons of anthrax a year; another can make 50 tons a year, he said. Other facilities can produce hundreds of tons of plague and other biological agents such as tularemia and glanders obgrislosis, he added.

Alibek said Soviet military doctrine included the use of smallpox and plague as strategic biological weapons and anthrax, Q-fever and Marburg infection as operational ones. The Soviets were also developing delivery systems such as medium-range bombers with spray tanks, cluster bombs and missiles; and strategic bombers and ballistic missiles with single or multiple warheads.

According to Soviet military doctrine, Alibek said, biological weapons would have been used in massive amounts to significantly destroy any military resistance during war. The KGB also had a sophisticated program to develop biological weapons for assassination, he added.

He asserted the Soviets used biological weapons against German troops during World War II and in Afghanistan in 1982. Anyone who doubts the effectiveness of these weapons is wrong, he stressed -- a small, accidental outbreak of anthrax in the city of Sverdlovsk in 1979 killed hundreds.

"We still don't know how many people were killed, but we know that this biological weapon unfortunately ... worked perfectly," Alibek said.

With the Cold War's end, Russia downsized its biological weapons program and ordered its stockpiles destroyed, Alibek said. He believes only about 10 to 20 percent of the former Soviet capability remains today, "but believe me, it's enough to develop sophisticated biological weapons," he said.

Proliferation of Russian knowledge and expertise in this field is evident as Russia continues publishing research and development work conducted in the 1980s and 1990s, Alibek said. He said he's convinced that the knowledge has spread to many countries and terrorist organizations.

Many publications produced in the last seven years contain instructions on how to manufacture biological agents, Alibek said. Two or three years ago, he said, he found a flyer offering new techniques to genetically alter tularemia bacteria for increased lethality. Rogue nations can get this information for "the cost of a translator," he said.

Up to 70,000 scientists were involved in Soviet Cold War biological weapons research, development and manufacturing, Alibek said. Some moved to the United States and other Western nations when the Soviet Union collapsed, but others went to Iraq, Iran and other countries and may be proliferating biological weapons.

"A lot of Russian scientists are now underpaid or they have no pay," he said. "It's quite attractive for some of them [if] they got good offers to start working for somebody else."

Alibek noted that while the Soviet Union had about 2,000 scientists developing offensive anthrax weapons and defenses, the United States today has only about a dozen scientists working on developing medical defenses against biological weapons. He stressed the need to develop prevention, pretreatment and treatment techniques as well as new detection systems.
13 posted on 03/27/2003 8:27:56 PM PST by Calpernia (
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To: vannrox

Russian biological weapons seem to be the new boogyman.

"Nelya" is the short form of "Ninel", a rare given name, and one I'm told is used only among Russian Jews. Maltseva on the other hand the female version of a very common slavic family name - I had a neighbor in the Ukraine with this name.

Strange to see it written like this: "Nelya N. Maltseva" is like writing "Jack H. Johnson".


14 posted on 03/27/2003 8:36:50 PM PST by struwwelpeter (ne vezet mne v smerti, povozet v lyubvi)
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To: SpaceBar
There's nothing quite like having a biochem warfare countermeasures specialist in the house.
15 posted on 03/27/2003 8:55:33 PM PST by piasa (Attitude adjustments offered here free of charge.)
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To: vannrox

Aha! I knew the name Maltseva rang a bell. Perhaps a Ukrainian relative?

16 posted on 03/30/2003 2:55:42 PM PST by struwwelpeter (davai za tekh kto s nami byl togda)
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To: Cindy; Alamo-Girl; Shermy; Mitchell; Lion's Cub; Fedora
fyi- interesting article from a while back...
17 posted on 04/27/2004 9:46:58 PM PDT by piasa (Attitude adjustments offered here free of charge)
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To: Calpernia; Cindy
Source:- "The Russian strain," By Robert Goldberg The Wall Street Journal, 27 March 2003 via the Center for Security Policy,

Key Unscom scientists were Russians who had been deeply involved in the Soviet bioweapons program. Tariq Aziz worked with Premier Yevgeny Primakov to pack inspection teams with Russians picked by Moscow. The manipulation paid off. Mr. Spertzel recalls the Russians were "constantly giving the Iraqis the benefit of doubt. They said, 'no way could Al Hakam be a dual-use facility.'" Yet Mr. Spertzel is "100% convinced that Iraq has weaponized smallpox," and that the Russians on the inspection team were "paranoid" about his efforts to uncover smallpox production. They had reason to be, since it is likely that Russia supplied the original virus. The CIA determined that in the 1990s, a Russian scientist, Nelja N. Maltseva, had brought the strain -- named the Aralsk strain after a 1971 smallpox outbreak in the town of Aralsk, at the northern end of the Aral Sea -- to Iraq. The Soviets hushed up the 1971 outbreak; and their successors in Moscow now deny that Maltseva handed any virus over to the Iraqis.
In 2002, Alan Zelicofff, an adviser to inspection teams and a senior scientist at Sandia National Laboratories who has run a hepatitis C monitoring program with Russian epidemiology units, uncovered a Soviet-era secret report about the Aralsk outbreak. When forced to admit its occurrence, Dr. Zelicoff's Russian counterparts claimed it was a natural outbreak triggered by the "garden variety" smallpox virus. But after interviews with victims and an analysis of the outbreak's timing and trajectory, Dr. Zelicoff determined that it was caused by "a new and lethal strain of smallpox that traveled at least 20 miles from a secret biological weapons testing site on an island in the Aral Sea to infect people downwind on a ship." Of the six adults who were exposed to the strain, five contracted smallpox despite being immunized. Dr. Zelicoff and others believe that the strain is more communicable, and might be vaccine-resistant. He asked colleagues in Russia to help him locate the strain last summer and to determine if the current smallpox vaccine can protect people from infection. They replied curtly that no such strain existed, a stance they maintain to this day.

18 posted on 04/27/2004 10:10:44 PM PDT by piasa (Attitude adjustments offered here free of charge)
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To: piasa
Thanks for the ping!
19 posted on 04/27/2004 10:12:32 PM PDT by Alamo-Girl
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To: Shermy; Cindy; Alamo-Girl; Howlin; browardchad; Sabertooth; Lando Lincoln; Cincinatus' Wife
Here is an interesting reference given that the UK's Dr. David Kelly is now deceased after that BBC scandal :

The Monterey report led American officials to question whether America's smallpox vaccine would be effective against the Aralsk strain or whether new vaccines or drugs might be needed if the strain was used in an attack. American concern increased in recent months after the White House was told that Dr. Maltseva might have shared the Aralsk strain with Iraqi scientists in 1990, administration officials said.

David Kelly, a former United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq, said there was a "resurgence of interest" in smallpox vaccine in Iraq in 1990, "but we have never known why."
-- "C.I.A. Hunts Iraq Tie to Soviet Smallpox," By JUDITH MILLER, NY TIMES,December 3, 2002

20 posted on 04/27/2004 10:18:08 PM PDT by piasa (Attitude adjustments offered here free of charge)
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