Michael Goldberg expected to hear from the FBI because he knew the agency wanted "The List." So the phone call from federal investigators to the American Society of Microbiology in Washington, DC, requesting the names and addresses of 43,000 members came as no surprise. Goldberg, the society's executive director, received a letter citing the names of two agents who would come to the ASM office. The letter says it "reaffirms ... that all membership information disclosed by ASM will be used for official purposes and is not subject to [public] disclosure."

The organization happily complied with the FBI. But the official scrutiny fuels a growing uneasiness among some US life scientists. Once touted as the leaders of the country's next economic miracle—a burgeoning biotechnology sector—they increasingly feel themselves the targets of paranoia and misunderstanding.

The controversy over cloning and stem cell research had already created a rift between biologists and...

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