A Republican in Congress, Rep. Christopher Smith from New Jersey, successfully added an amendment to the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act that would order the Pentagon to admit whether it experimented with ticks and other insects for biological weaponry, and in turn, if those experiments contributed to the massive Lyme disease explosion seen in the United States in recent years.
If true — it wouldn’t be the worst secret experimentation conducted by the Department of Defense, or by the U.S. government.
It’d just be the latest to come to light.
The backstory is this: Smith said he added the amendment after he read “a number of books and articles suggesting that significant research had been done at U.S. government facilities, including Fort Detrick, Maryland, and Plum Island, New York, to turn ticks and other insects into bioweapons,” The Daily Mail reported.
One such book?
“Bitten: The Secret History of Lyme Disease and Biological Weapons,” by Kris Newby, about Lyme pathogen discoverer Willy Burgdorfer, who thought the disease was due to military experimentation.
Smith wants the inspector general of the Defense Department to look at records between 1950 and 1975, determine if the experimentation occurred and if it did, if any of the insects were released, purposely or inadvertently, outside the lab settings, into the general U.S. population.
“With Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases exploding in the United States, with an estimated 300,000 to 437,000 new cases diagnosed each year, and 10-to-20 percent of all patients suffering from chronic Lyme disease, Americans have a right to know whether any of this is true,” Smith said, from the House floor, The Hill reported.
And before dismissing as tin foil hat foolishness, let’s remember — America’s government has a history of secret experimentation. On human test subjects, too.
In 1946, U.S. researchers, some affiliated with the National Institutes of Health, kicked off the Guatemala Syphilis Study to determine the effectiveness of penicillin. But the study was conducted absent any compliance. Most of the unaware subjects were scooped from insane asylums, prisons and from the Guatemala military.
“In order to covertly inflict [1,500] Guatemalan people without their knowledge, U.S. surgeon John Charles Cutler and his team of scientists hired prostitutes already infected with the disease,” Imarc Research reported.
Similarly shocking was the “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male.” In 1932, the U.S. Public Health Service conducted a study on 600 black men in Alabama, 399 of whom had syphilis. The point of the study was to track the progression of the disease. But researchers only told the test subjects they had “bad blood,” and failed to give them the proper medical treatments for syphilis — even after penicillin became the recognized successful treatment, in 1947. The test period was supposed to span six months, but actually lasted 40 years, and during this time, the subjects were repeatedly misled about their disease, as well as their treatment options.
“The men were never given adequate treatment for their disease,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wrote.
That’s a drop in the bucket.
In 1954, the CIA ran Project QKHILLTOP to “study Chinese brainwashing techniques” but which led to researchers’ development of “secret drugs and various brain damaging procedures,” Best Psychology Degrees reported. Also in the 1950s, the CIA kicked off MK-ULTRA, a program that ultimately used a variety of test subjects from a state school for mentally impaired boys, from the U.S. military, from state-run hospitals and from other sources — “some who freely volunteered, some who volunteered under coercion, and some who had absolutely no idea they were involved” — to conduct “mind control” and behavior modification experiments, History.com reported.
Around this same time, the CIA also sponsored Project Artichoke and Operation Midnight Climax, two other programs aimed at seeing how mind-altering drugs could be used to control the mostly unwitting test subjects.
That doesn’t even touch on the many, many more unethical experiments conducted on America’s inmates, children and military members by medical professionals, university scholars and psychology professionals. All in the name of science, of course.
All for the greater good of future generations.
So weaponized ticks released by Pentagon researchers into the wild — ticks that then bite and infect Americans with Lyme disease?
Not only is it possible.
Given the secretive past of U.S. government experimentation, it’s actually quite probable. And what’s more: It wouldn’t be anywhere near the blackest mark on the fed’s history.
• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @ckchumley.