Working with dangerous pathogens soon may become a hazard to intellectual autonomy with new laws that widen federal scrutiny of university labs and other research centers, according to scientists and policymakers. Already the FBI has queried academic scientists about their use of anthrax and other biological materials. The U.S. Attorney General's office is also using criminal, immigration, and national security databases to determine whether people possessing, using or transferring such agents are restricted from doing so or are named in warrants issued by law enforcement agencies for participation in international terrorism.

A provision in the Bioterrorism Preparedness Act, (S. 1765), which the Senate passed Dec. 20, would allow the secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to establish new security restrictions for people possessing or transferring biological agents and toxins. Lawmakers also may codify new limitations on information exchange that have a significant impact on sharing and releasing information.


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