Weaponized ticks? House passes Smith amendment seeking answers
The House of Representatives this week passed an amendment offered by New Jersey Congressman Chris Smith, directing the federal government’s “watchdog” agency to investigate the Department of Defense’s (DOD) possible weaponization of ticks and other insects with Lyme disease during its consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022 (H.R. 4350).
“In the spirit of transparency and accountability, my amendment directs the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to probe whether the Department of Defense ever weaponized ticks with Lyme disease or any other dangerous pathogen,” said Rep. Smith, the founding co-chair of the House Lyme Disease Caucus.
“Americans deserve the truth,” Smith said.
Millions with Lyme have a right to know
“The millions of Americans suffering from Lyme disease have a right to know whether any of this is true, and if any old research documents could be applied by current-day scientists to finding a better diagnostic or treatment—something that’s desperately needed,” said Smith, who has been advocating for Lyme patients and a more robust government response to the devastating disease since 1992.
Smith’s amendment requires the GAO to report findings to Congress of any DOD experiments on ticks or other insects for use as biological weapons from 1950 to 1977, including the experiment’s scope and whether any insects may have been “released outside of any laboratory by accident or experiment design.”
Similar amendments authored by Smith passed the House in 2019 and 2020, but did not make it through the Senate.
Questions raised by the book “Bitten”
The legislation comes in the wake of credible assertions made in numerous books and articles that significant research was conducted at Fort Detrick, Plum Island and elsewhere by the DOD to turn ticks into bioweapons causing severe disability, disease and even death to potential enemies.
One book—Bitten: The Secret History of Lyme Disease and Biological Weapons by Kris Newby—includes interviews with Dr. Willy Burgdorfer, the researcher credited with discovering Lyme disease who also worked as a bioweapons specialist.
Combined with access to Burgdorfer’s lab files, the interviews suggest that he and other bioweapons specialists stuffed ticks with dangerous pathogens.
“To stop the spread of these horrific tick-borne diseases, we must first understand their origins and how they came to be so pervasive,” Smith said.
“If the investigation concludes our government’s bioweapons program did not contribute to the proliferation of Lyme, we turn the page. And if it did, hopefully this investigation and research will contribute to a cure,” he said.
Smith’s amendment now moves to the Senate for consideration as part of the National Defense Authorization Act.
PRESS RELEASE SOURCE: The Office of Congressman Chris Smith
Some things author Newby revealed for the first time in the book were: that ticks were developed and deployed as stealth biological weapons during the Cold War, and that Willy Burgdorfer, the scientist the Lyme bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, was named after, was at the center of this program. According to Newby, specific revelations she makes in book include:
- A 1962 pilot study where infected ticks were dropped on Cuba sugar workers.
- Releases of hundreds of thousands of radioactive, aggressive Lone Star ticks on the Atlantic coastal bird flyway.
- Omissions of other microbes transmitted with Lyme-carrying ticks during the original outbreak (“Swiss Agent”).
- Documentation of military studies where live disease-causing bacteria, some which can be spread by ticks, were sprayed from planes, boats and vehicles on the unsuspecting American public.
The Lyme Disease Association (LDA) encourages Lyme advocates, patients, and the public across the country to contact both of their US Senators to champion and support this amendment. After 45 years of Lyme disease, the truth must be uncovered.
Out of the 860 amendments offered for the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), only 476 were made in order, and this one was included in the even smaller number actually passed. This shows a huge interest by government to explore this issue of Lyme and tick-borne diseases. Also, an amendment for a government investigation passed twice before in the House in 2019 and 2020. This time we all need to help persuade the Senate to keep this amendment when both Houses go to the conference committee to iron out Senate and House bill differences.