from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2002, Issue No. 76
August 14, 2002


In response to growing concerns about the publication of scientific research pertaining to biological weapons, the American Society of Microbiologists (ASM) has adopted a measured policy for screening submissions to its journals for unduly sensitive content.

"The ASM recognizes that there are valid concerns regarding the publication of information in scientific journals that could be put to inappropriate use," according to a new policy statement from the nation's professional society of microbiologists.

"ASM members are obligated to discourage any use of microbiology contrary to the welfare of humankind, including the use of microbes as biological weapons."

With that in mind, the Society has enunciated a new set of procedures for flagging manuscripts submitted to ASM Journals that may involve "misuses of microbiology or of information derived from microbiology." Such manuscripts would be subject to special scrutiny and, if found inappropriate by the ASM Publications Board, rejected. See:

The new ASM policy could help to relieve some of the pressure emanating from the Bush Administration to impose controls on scientific publications relating to weapons of mass destruction.

Officials at the White House Office of Homeland Security had been grappling for months with the issue, without resolution, and had privately pleaded with scientific society leaders to take the initiative. The ASM policy provides a significant response.

A related August 13 article in the New York Times reported that new regulations on certain biological agents and possible future restrictions on publication "threaten to undermine the fundamental openness of science and campus life."

But this appears to be a substantial exaggeration.

As noted by the Times, new regulations require laboratories that possess any one of a few dozen highly toxic biological agents to notify the government of that fact, and to deny unauthorized persons access to such agents.

But while unpleasant and burdensome, it is hard to see how "This has the potential for changing the definition of science, the way people do science, and even what we mean when we say science," as ASM President Ron Atlas told the Times.

A creeping transformation of scientific research has indeed been taking place in recent years, but it is due to the growing commercialization and corporatization of science. Nothing comparable can be attributed to government security policies.

See "Sept. 11 Strikes at Labs' Door" by Diana Jean Schemo in the August 13 New York Times here:


The Defense Department continues to declassify information about the Shipboard Hazard and Defense (SHAD) program, which involved tests of active biological and chemical agents against U.S. warships in the 1960s.

At least 45 such tests were performed, with medical consequences for an undetermined number of the 2,700 servicemembers who were involved.

A copy of an August 13 Defense Department press release on SHAD is here:

Project SHAD fact sheets and declassification status reports are posted here:


Within a week of the landmark court decision requiring the government to promptly disclose the identities of most of the individuals who were secretly detained in connection with the September 11 investigation, the Justice Department went back to court to move for a stay of the decision, so as to permit filing of an appeal.

The August 8 motion for a stay, as well as the August 13 response in opposition from the civil liberties groups that won the initial decision, can be found with much of the rest of the case docket on the web site of the Center for National Security Studies:

Consistent with Judge Gladys Kessler's August 2 ruling, the American Bar Association adopted a recommendation calling for disclosure of detainee names and other information at its annual conference on August 13.


Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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