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Anthrax Powder: We Made It Too

Officials at Dugway Proving Ground in Utah say U.S. Army scientists have produced dry anthrax powder in recent years, according to reports in The Washington Post, The New York Times and the Baltimore Sun. The statement from Dugway did not specify which strain of anthrax was produced there, but the Post, citing government officials and shipping records, reported that the finely ground weapons-grade anthrax spores belong to the Ames strain, which was used in the letters sent to government officials and TV networks. However, the New York Times article states that the strain developed in powder form by the U.S. was not the Ames strain used in the deadly letters.

The Dugway statement is the first admission that the U.S. government has produced a dry version of anthrax since the United States signed the treaty banning biological weapons in 1969. We now know that the former Soviet Union continued its bioweapons research after signing the treaty.

The Dugway statement says researchers there have worked with anthrax since 1992, turning small amounts of wet anthrax into powder. They say this work does not violate the treaty, since they were using the powder to test ways to defend against biowarfare.

Until the latest anthrax threat, Dugway scientists sent anthrax samples by FedEx to the Army?s biodefense center at Fort Detrick, Md., where the bacteria was made harmless through radiation before being returned to Dugway to be turned into powder for the experiments. Samples were shipped to Ft. Detrick in a wet paste form to minimize the danger of a spill or accident.

According to the Army, all the anthrax its scientists have worked on is accounted for. Learning that we did develop powdered anthrax, after previous denials, and also hearing that we continued to work on bioweapons after we signed a treaty banning them, makes us wonder if this last statement is true.

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