Sunshine Needed on Bioweapons Research

Congress is on the verge of passing a new law (H.R. 3160) that would block public access to information about the US biological defense program under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Secrecy will do little to protect public safety, since extensive information has already been widely published about bioweapons agents, most of which are naturally-occurring. The Sunshine Project explains the public relations agenda behind the drive for secrecy, which may have more to do with protecting corporate reputations than public safety. "Companies which promote an image of solving the world's illnesses with massively expensive drugs do not want their laboratories identified as housing collections of very dangerous and repugnant biological weapons agents. So, in order to cash in on Federal dollars for biodefense research, the industry needs a structure that will isolate its image from that of the more ambiguous and dangerous work on biological weapons agents. The FOIA exemption provides just that distance and deniability, enabling the biotech industry to score major government contracts without 'dirtying' its white coat image with detailed information about its defense activities, allowing industry to carefully pick and choose what information it wants public."