National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory 
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 National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory


On April 20, 2004, the Boston University Medical Center ran a
full-page ad in the Boston Globe, supporting the development
of the "National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories".

The proposed lab is intended to develop treatments for emerging
diseases that might be introduced through bioterrorism, or
naturally.   The proposal is controversial, because the lab would
be located in a heavily populated Boston neighborhood.

The Globe ad was entitled "10 Things You Should Know About
the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories".
The ad listed the signatures of approximately 400 scientists,
physicians, and researchers who supported the proposed lab.

All ten of the arguments listed in the ad were fallacious.

Hopefully, a bit of rebuttal will show 1) why it is not a good
idea to locate a biowar defense lab in a major population center,
and 2) why you can trust a bit of common sense better than you
can trust the collective wisdom of 400 PhDs and MDs, when
issues of self-interest are coming into play.

Below is a listing of the ad's 10 arguments, followed by
rebuttal.   No effective rebuttal of this sort was ever presented
by the Boston Globe, proving also the media's abdication of
responsibility in educating the public:

"1. The National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories, or
 National Biocontainment Laboratory (NBL) as it is known, is NOT
 a bio-weapons facility.  Bioweapons research is illegal".

    The illegality of bioweapons research is not always much of
    an obstacle, as evidenced by Russia's Biopreparat program.
    Russia instituted this secret program in large part out of a
    belief in their intelligence service, that the United
    States was doing the same thing.

    However, that is beside the point.   Research is not safe or
    unsafe, based on whether it is maliciously intended or
    well-intended.   The lines between defensive research
    and offensive research are blurred.  They entail many of the
    same considerations.

    In order to develop a vaccine against a virus, your lab needs
    many of the same things that you would also need if you were
    preparing to the use the virus as a weapon.  You need samples
    of the virus.  You need a way to cultivate the virus.  You
    need the very same kinds of infectious agents that terrorists
    would be likely to try to acquire.

    You do not always need massive quantities of a virus, in
    order to create a danger.  One of the whole points of the
    lab is to investigate *infectious* diseases, that merely
    need to be introduced, to get a foothold, and then spread,
    on their own.

 "2. Classified research is NOT a planned activity at the site
 and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
 does NOT support classified research.  Researchers will be
 working to develop {*filter*}, vaccines and treatments for emerging
 infectious diseases whether they occur naturally or are
 deliberately introduced through bioterrorism."

   An ad in the Boston Globe is not a legally binding contract,
   particularly when the wording is ambiguous.  There is a
   difference between "planning not to do" something, and "not
   planning to do something".  Is the ad saying that there is
   currently a specific, conscious intention NOT to allow any
   possibility of future classified research, or simply saying
   that no concrete plans have yet been made to do specific,
   classified research?

   It would not make much sense to intend to have no classified
   research at such a facility.  Their need to have classified
   information would be inherent, given the very nature of their
   mission and charter.  They are trying to develop defenses
   against bioterrorism.  Do you want for your enemies to know
   exactly what capabilities and techniques that you have
   developed, so that your enemies can find better ways to
   circumvent your defenses?

   It would be a sign of incompetent planning, to be so naive
   as to imagine that a biodefense lab can freely publish every
   piece of information, in the carefree style of a commercial

   The Boston University Medical Center has no way of knowing
   at this point in time, whether the federal government will
   start dictating, well after the fact, what are to be the
   standards for secrecy.  Secrecy is ever more becoming
   a hallmark of our government and defense industry.

   In all likelihood, the day would soon enough need to come,
   that the residents of Boston would have little or
   no idea what were going on, behind the closed doors.
   They would have no chance to protest, if it were something
   that entailed risk to the community, because they would not
   know that any risky activities were taking place.

   Once that the center exists, you are dealing with a fait accompli.
   The center no longer needs to rationalize itself and placate
   a nervous community.

   It could be similar to a politician, promising whatever the people
   want to hear, just long enough to get elected, and then doing
   whatever he pleases.

"3. The facility will be similar to existing laboratories located
 in BioSquare, the biomedical research and business park adjacent
 to Boston University Medical Center"

  Really?   What is the definition of "similar" being used here?
  Is this argument trying to say that they are already studying
  Ebola and anthrax in Boston, and no one even knew?

  Or this this a Devil's Advocate definition of the word "similar"?

  Perhaps the ad is using a logic to the tune that:

  "1) Other existing labs are studying diseases.  
   2) We will be studying diseases.  

      Therefore,  we will be 'similar' facilities."

  Similar in what?  Similar in the flower pots that decorate
  the balconies, or similar in the receptionists who greet you
  at the door?

  Not, they are not "similar".  Studying to find a cure for say,  
  Alzheimer's disease is not at all the same as studying to
  find a cure for anthrax infection.

"4. The Biosafety Level 4 (BSL-4) suite comprises 13% of the site"

   Three Mile Island probably comprises less than 1% of the
   geographic area of the state of Pennsylvania, yet it still
   managed to be a problem, didn't it?  Imagine that.

   This argument is a manipulative trick, trying to pretend that
   issues of risk versus safety are determined by the square
   footage that you occupy, and not by the nature of what you are

"5. There has NEVER been a community incident or accidental
 environmental release connected with a laboratory of this kind."

   This argument is fallacious because it is pretending that
   we have an extensive history with many facilities of this
   kind, from which we can draw experience.  We do not.  Facilities
   of this type exist in handfuls, and have existed only for the
   span of relatively few decades.

   It is also an overstatement to say that there have been no
   incidents.  The ad is not counting, for example, the
   experience in Russia, at the Sverdlovsk biolab, that had to
   be curtailed in 1979 after an accidental release of anthrax
   spores from the facility killed some 70 people.

   For many years, the Russia government covered up the real
   cause of these deaths, and blamed them on natural

   It is not particularly clear that we have had no similar
   incidents in the United States, as well.   There has long
   been suspicion that the outbreak of lyme disease in
   Lyme, Connecticut, occurred because it directly adjoins
   the secretive Plum Island research facility.

   The public should be wary, because an atmosphere of
   secrecy also provides a marvelous opportunity to cover up
   accidents and responsibility.  After the successful coverup,
   you then will have ready-made propaganda to prepare you
   the next round, with the circular and self-justifying argument
   that "there has never been an accident."

"6. Sites similar to the laboratory are NOT known or likely targets
of terrorist activity".

   This argument contradicts the primary purpose of the lab.

   The lab exists to combat bioterrorism.  It will have samples
   of every deadly virus that terrorists might want to employ.

   Why would terrorists not be interested in the lab, when
   the lab exists specifically to deal with everything that
   might be of possible interest to terrorists?

   The public is already nervous about the facility.  Terrorists
   know how to play for the sheer psychological effect, and to
   exploit such fear, much less to have an obvious opportunity
   to get their hands on deadly viruses.

"7. The laboratory will create approximately 660 jobs at ALL job
 classification levels.
 8. Thir{*filter*} hundred jobs will be created during construction;
 with a goal of HALF of these going to Boston residents."
 9. The biotechnology industry in Massachusetts has contributed
 to half of all new industrial jobs over the past five years."

   Here, maybe we are starting to get at the real reasons
   for the push behind the lab- it is all about money and

   What good would it be, though, to create 660 jobs, only
   to have an accident or incident, down the road, that costs
   thousands of lives and uncalculated damage?

"10. Community outreach is an ongoing component of the project.
 BUMC is committed to outreach with the community. There
 have been more than fifty community meetings held to date."

   Why have there been so many meetings?  Precisely because
   many people are concerned about the lab.   Yet, somehow
   the ad is citing the number of meetings as if that should
   measure our reassurance that everything is fine, not a
   measure of the concern.  Probably, at all 50 meetings, the
   public was subjected to propaganda, similar to the above.
   What cause is that for reassurance?

The 10 arguments above, in favor of the lab, are not
merely weak.  They are absurd.  They are obnoxious.
They are calculated propaganda, and intentional manipulation.

It takes only a little common sense to see through it.
The Boston Medical Center is apparently counting on the
community to lack that much common sense.  

The above is a good example of how science can be
corrupted by self-interest.  It shows how large numbers
of highly educated experts can be herded into complicity
for a propaganda campaign.   This is all the more illustration
of why the public needs to reexamine important questions
such as the true origins of the AIDS epidemic [1].

No one is saying that we do not need biodefense labs.
The point is simply that they should be located in
remote areas, not in major population centers.  The first
consideration should be for public safety, not for the
convenience of the lab workers, and not for business profits.

Tom Keske

[1] http://www.***.com/

Thu, 09 Nov 2006 12:04:20 GMT
 [ 1 post ] 

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