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Fact or fiction: Congressman claims evidence links Lyme disease to US military bioweapons research
A lawmaker who wants the Pentagon to investigate whether military biological weapons experiments with ticks cause Lyme disease insists he is not spreading conspiracy theories.
"Why wouldn't we want to know?" Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) told Task & Purpose. "Let the IG [inspector general's office] decide that — and put this to bed forever — if indeed it's a fable, if it's untrue."
Smith authored an amendment to the House version of the Fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act that would require the Pentagon to investigate if the military released infected ticks onto an unsuspecting American public "by accident or experiment design."
But experts say they are skeptical of any link between U.S. military bioweapons research and the outbreak of Lyme disease.
"Ticks and Lyme Disease would be a very strange choice as a deliberate bioweapon because ticks are difficult to work with, don't have wings, and Lyme would hardly be a force reducer," said Robert Peterson, an entomology professor at Montana State University.
Pentagon spokeswoman Heather Babb declined to discuss Smith's amendment because the Defense Department does not comment on proposed legislation.
"DOD takes extreme care in all of our research programs to ensure the protection of our personnel and the community," Babb said.
When Smith announced his amendment, he cited the book "Bitten: The Secret History of Lyme Disease and Biological Weapons," which looks at U.S. military experiments with ticks.
"There's just too much evidence for a reasonable man or woman to just turn the page and say: 'Put on your tinfoil fat. This is just a conspiracy theory,'" Smith said. "And yet, people with credentials will say that, which begs the question: Why would they even say that?"
Kris Newby, who wrote "Bitten," said she discovered circumstantial evidence linking the outbreak of Lyme disease in the 1960s to the U.S. military.
As proof, Newby cites an interview she had with Dr. Willy Burgdorfer, the American scientist who discovered what causes Lyme disease, who told her shortly before his death that he had been instructed to keep his research into a possible cause for Lyme disease a secret.
"My hypothesis is that was the biological weapon they were trying to cover up," said Newby, a science writer at the Stanford School of Medicine in California.
But Newby said she cannot definitively link Lyme disease to the U.S. military's bioweapons research efforts conducted at Fort Detrick, Maryland.
"I can't connect all those dots right now," said Newby, who survived Lyme disease. "My theory is that it was a genetically engineered Rickettsia [bacteria] but, as a journalist, I can't prove that."
Others find the idea the notion that the U.S. military infected ticks with Lyme disease more than a little far-fetched.
"I've heard a little bit about this story and speculation and whatnot — it's a really intuitively weak accusation," said Jeffrey Lockwood, who teaches natural sciences and humanities at the University of Wyoming.
Lockwood wrote "Six-Legged Soldiers: Using Insects as Weapons of War," about the U.S. military's biological warfare experiments with ticks, flies, and fleas. It turns out the Army did conduct research into whether ticks could be used to spread tularemia, relapsing fever, and Colorado fever during the Cold War.
Despite these experiments, Lockwood said he is "profoundly dubious" that the U.S. military looked into using ticks to transmit Lyme disease.
Ticks are not the best vector to spread bioweapons because they do not go very far and Lyme disease is a slow-acting pathogen, Lockwood told Task & Purpose. Other tick-borne diseases are far worse to humans.
"Weaponizing Lyme disease with a tick vector just doesn't add up to make a whole lot of sense," Lockwood said. "On the other hand – quite frankly – U.S. military weapons development hasn't always made a whole lot of sense."
UPDATE: This story was updated on Aug. 9 to more clearly reflect Kris Newby's comments.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Department of Defense has released some information on its revamped approach to vetting and security concerns for foreign military students in the United States.
Some initial information came Friday, a few days before Secretary of Defense Mark Esper's visit to Naval Air Station Pensacola to discuss new vetting and security procedures with installation leadership.
The DoD began its review of those procedures following the Dec. 6 shooting at NAS Pensacola that left three people dead and eight others injured. The gunman, 21-year-old Saudi lieutenant Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, a flight student, was fatally shot by an Escambia County sheriff's deputy.
In a Galaxy — err, I mean, on a military base far, far away, soldiers are standing in solidarity with galactic freedom fighters.
Sitting at the top of an Army press release from March 2019, regarding the East Africa Response Force's deployment to Gabon, the photo seems, at first glance, just like any other: Soldiers on the move.
But if you look closer at the top right, you'll find something spectacular: A Rebel Alliance flag.
Three sailors from the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower have been charged in connection with the Dec. 17 brawl at a holiday party in Norfolk, Virginia, that was caught on video.
DUBAI (Reuters) - An Iranian lawmaker offered a $3 million reward to anyone who killed U.S. President Donald Trump and said Iran could avoid threats if it had nuclear arms, ISNA news agency reported on Tuesday amid Tehran's latest standoff with Washington.
U.S. disarmament ambassador Robert Wood dismissed the reward as "ridiculous", telling reporters in Geneva it showed the "terrorist underpinnings" of Iran's establishment.
DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - Swiss officials foiled an apparent spying operation by Russians posing as plumbers in Davos, site of the World Economic Forum's annual meeting, a newspaper reported on Tuesday, but police did not confirm key details of the account.
The report in the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper said the two Russians were checked by Swiss police in August last year in the ski resort, which is hosting the WEF gathering of the global business and political elite this week. The pair presented diplomatic passports and left the country, the paper said.