To the People

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Saturday, August 09, 2008

The Nutjobs Are Running the Aslyum, Err, Bioweapons Labs

I'm not completely convinced that this Bruce Ivins guy was the one behind the 2001 Anthrax mailings, although I have to admit it ain't looking good for him. Among other things, he was obsessed with the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority? Come on, man, get real: Everybody knows that Delta Pi Kappa are the real evil bitches.

The question now is, what the fuck was this guy doing working at the labs in the first place? This AP story notes:
Investigators have said that between 2000 and 2006, Ivins was prescribed antidepressants, antipsychotics and anti-anxiety drugs. The Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md., where Ivins worked, has offered no explanation for why he was allowed to work with some of the world's most dangerous toxins while suffering from serious mental health problems.

It wasn't until November 2007, after the FBI raided his Frederick home, that Fort Detrick revoked his laboratory access, effectively putting him on desk duty.
The Washington Post yesterday offered this delightful nugget on how our government monitors these labs:
For the 14,000 scientists with clearances to work with "select biological agents" such as Bacillus anthracis -- many of them civilians working at private universities -- the security regulations are remarkably lax, some experts said.

An individual is denied clearance if he or she has been committed to a mental institution or charged with a federal crime, according to the "select agent" security clearance program operated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Agriculture, in concert with the Justice Department. Also denied clearance are individuals who are involved in any terrorist group, are engaged in intentional acts of violence or are agents of a foreign power.

"They would not, for example, exclude a person who is a radical white supremacist," said Richard H. Ebright, a Rutgers University professor who closely follows lab security protocols. "They would not, for example, exclude a person who is a radical Islamist. They would not, for example, exclude a person who has homicidal tendencies or even a person diagnosed with having a sociopathic personality."

Richard Besser, a director at the CDC who oversees the select agent security assessments, said the background checks for lab scientists are not as stringent as screenings for other federal agencies.
***
In inspecting the 400 biosafety level 3 and 4 labs, the government has numerous security guidelines, but its only legal requirement is that the laboratory doors have locks, Ebright said.

"This is less security than at your local McDonald's or your local convenience store, which does have video surveillance," he said.
Yeah, well, we're only dealing with incredibly toxic diseases and viruses here. No need to, you know, get two locks on the door. And, hey, let's let the guy in the white sheet, the dude with the bomb strapped to his waist shouting "Death to America!" and the Unabomber come on into the labs. I bet they'll have some valuable insights. They might even be up for a demonstration!

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