Caught in Political Crosshairs

AP Photo/Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Jim Watkins  Thomas Butler It's open season on life scientists. The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) is doggedly determined to prove that Thomas Butler, a researcher and international plague authority at Texas Tech University, is a biocriminal. Ebola investigator Steven J. Hatfill, formerly with the United States Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Disease (USAMRIID), may never recover from the suspicion cast by the FBI's constant surv

John Dudley Miller
Sep 21, 2003
AP Photo/Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Jim Watkins
 Thomas Butler

It's open season on life scientists. The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) is doggedly determined to prove that Thomas Butler, a researcher and international plague authority at Texas Tech University, is a biocriminal. Ebola investigator Steven J. Hatfill, formerly with the United States Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Disease (USAMRIID), may never recover from the suspicion cast by the FBI's constant surveillance after he was named a "person of interest" in its anthrax letters case. In Britain, microbiologist David Kelly committed suicide after Tony Blair's press officer exposed Kelly as a possible source for a BBC story asserting that the government exaggerated Iraq's weapons capability to build its case for war.

Together, these cases threaten to sour relationships between scientists and their governments, prompting researchers to avoid biodefense work just when the governments need them most.

In August, the presidents of...

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to digital editions of The Scientist, as well as TS Digest, feature stories, more than 35 years of archives, and much more!
Already a member?