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THE 1970s

The Senate is angry. In the fall of 1975, Senate hearings uncovered a number of astonishing projects, plans, and plots by our BW (biological warfare) scientists, working with the military.

At least 16 different, terrible diseases were stockpiled, mostly at Fort Detrick. The single largest item was anthrax.

The germ treaty. That same year, 1975, an international germ treaty took effect. All BW arsenals throughout the world were to be totally destroyed within three years. How wonderful if that had happened! But it did not take place.

Soviets in fast forward. Shortly afterward, secret papers smuggled out of the Soviet Union revealed that Soviet leaders were continuing to amass and develop germ weapons. Then, in 1978, a senior Soviet diplomat at the UN defected to the United States (Arkady Shevchenko, Breaking with Moscow, pp. 34, 172-174, 179, 202). But his warnings, like those in the secret papers, were largely ignored by our leaders. They did not believe him.

The Sverdlovsk accident. Then, in October 1979, a Russian-language newspaper for Russian immigrants living in Germany revealed something important. Newly arrived immigrants told of a thousand Russians living in a village close to Sverdlovsk, an industrial complex in the Ural Mountains, who had, within two weeks, died of anthrax. The report said that Soviet troops quickly entered the area and spread fresh dirt over the ground (Jeff Goldberg, Plague Wars, pp. 71-74).
This story went around the world. U.S. intelligence compared data and photos and verified activity in that area at the time specified. It was clear that an accident had occurred and the Soviets were, indeed, continuing to produce, refine, and stockpile biological weapons.

Deadly anthrax. The anthrax bacillus can enter the human body in three ways: into the lungs by breathing spores, into the digestive tract by eating infected livestock, or into scrapes or open sores on the skin.

Bacteria from spores in the lungs produce several toxins that attack cells. The first symptoms are coughing and fatigue, then a brief recovery as the body fights the infection. This is usually followed by respiratory failure and death. But a major drawback in attacking an enemy with anthrax is that the spores can persist in the soil for decades.