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U.S. germ research for 'defensive purposes'

By Jamie McIntyre
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United States has several scientific research programs looking into germ warfare, but they are for "defensive purposes" and are allowed under the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention, Pentagon officials said Tuesday.

Pentagon spokeswoman Torie Clarke said one of the programs -- known as the Jefferson project -- involved using "simulants" of a Russian strain of anthrax, but not producing actual strains themselves.

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"The purpose is to protect the men and women of the armed services and the American people from what we see as a real threat," Clarke said.

The biological warfare pact allows germ research for peaceful purposes. The New York Times reported Tuesday that the Pentagon's secret research may "test the limits" of the treaty, because the pact doesn't fully define what constitutes "defensive" research or spell out what studies are prohibited.

Pentagon officials declined to provide details of the ongoing research, but a spokesman said the current programs were reviewed by the State Department, Defense Department, Justice Department, and the National Security Council in late 1999, and found to be fully treaty compliant.

The 1972 Biological Weapons Convention permits, "working with biological agents of types and quantities that are consistent with the prophylactic, protective, or other peaceful purposes."

Officials say current Pentagon research includes studying "minute quantities of known agents for the purpose of protecting U.S. personnel from its use."

U.S. officials say that a companion program by the CIA to test a mock "bomblet" designed to disperse biological agents was temporarily halted in late 2000, but that a decision to continue the research is expected soon from the Bush administration.

The program, known as "Clear Vision" may be moved over to the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency, officials said.

The mock bomblet design was based on intelligence gathered about a Soviet weapon.

Officials said the CIA tests on the bomb model did not violate the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention, although the New York Times reported that some officials in the Clinton administration believed it could have done so.

• State Department: Biological Weapons Convention
• United Nations: Biological Weapons Convention

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