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October 2007 Citizens Watch Newsletter

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100 Accidents in U.S. Bio-Labs

by Rob Schwartz
from Tri-Valley CAREs' October 2007 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Since 2003, bioagent research laboratories in the United States have experienced more than 100 accidents and shipping mishaps involving some of the world's most deadly pathogens, including anthrax, bird flu virus, monkeypox, plague-causing bacteria, Ebola virus, and Q fever. The number of these incidents has risen steadily in conjunction with an increase in the number of these labs over the past few years.

The mishaps include skin cuts, workers being bitten or scratched by infected animals, needle sticks, missing animals, broken vials and containers, defective seals in airtight containers, missing or defective shipments, leaks of contaminated wastes, and various other incidents.

Livermore Lab was recently fined $450,000 for an anthrax release that occurred in September 2005 (see article at right). Currently, the Lab is proposing to operate a Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3) facility at the Livermore Lab Main Site. Research at this facility would involve agents that may cause serious or potentially lethal infection. Deadly biological agents would be aerosolized and genetically modified in the proposed BSL-3.

A recent Congressional hearing addressed the national proliferation of these high-containment biological research laboratories in recent years. Rep. Bart Stupak, Chair of the House Committee that held the hearing, noted that the "accidental or deliberate release of some of the biological agents handled at these labs could have catastrophic consequences." We agree. This concern is at the heart of Tri-Valley CAREs' litigation against the proposed BSL-3 facility at Livermore Lab.

The increase in biodefense work began after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the still-unsolved anthrax mailings shortly thereafter. Funding for biodefense research skyrocketed, with little planning, oversight or restriction. To cite just one example, biodefense funding from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has increased almost tenfold, from $187 million in 2002 to $1.6 billion in 2006.

Federal investigators have said that the rapid growth in the number of biodefense laboratories over the past few years has overwhelmed the government's ability to adequately monitor these facilities. In fact, no single federal agency even tracks the numbers or locations of U.S. biowarfare agent research labs.

"I would say we're at greater risk" for accidents and misuse as a result of the recent expansion, Keith Rhodes of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) told Congress. Experts agree that there is a baseline risk associated with each lab and that the cumulative risks have increased with the expansion of these facilities over the past few years.

Proper reporting of accidents and shipping mishaps at these bio-labs is a major issue. A laboratory at Texas A&M University failed to report exposures, specific types of experiments being conducted by researchers, and missing vials and containers. The GAO has highlighted the importance of identifying and overcoming barriers to reporting in order to assure the public that accidents are examined and contained.

The GAO also noted the importance of increasing training of lab staff, developing mechanisms for informing medical providers about the agents being researched, addressing confusion over the definition of exposure, ensuring that safety and security measures are adequate, and maintaining the integrity of the physical structures over time.

Tri-Valley CAREs would add to the GAO recommendations that the U.S. should conduct an overarching assessment of our present biodefense capabilities before building any additional labs to experiment with biowarfare agents. How much is too much is a legitimate question that must be asked - and answered - before more of our communities are placed at risk.

Livermore Lab Causes Anthrax Release

by Rob Schwartz
from Tri-Valley CAREs' October 2007 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

New information reveals that biological researchers at Livermore Lab mishandled anthrax, breached security and access requirements and violated shipping laws leading to a release of anthrax during a transfer to two other laboratories, one in Virginia and one in Florida.

The incident has resulted in a $450,000 fine, the largest levied in recent history for a biowarfare accident by the federal Dept. of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The DHHS Office of the Inspector General stated specifically that "anthrax was released from the shipped vials."

The fine was made public October 4, 2007 while the House Energy and Commerce Committee held the first congressional hearing on the safety and security of the Nation's biodefense research laboratories (see also article at left). The anthrax release occurred in 2005.

Tri-Valley CAREs circulated a press release following the hearing, and additional information has come to light as a result of media interest. We now know the two shipments involved huge amounts of potentially deadly anthrax.

In one case, 1,025 vials of anthrax were shipped to Palm Beach, Florida. Two of the anthrax vials did not have any caps (i.e., they were open and spilled) and a third had a loose twist top. Workers in Florida who unknowingly opened the package were potentially exposed and had to be placed on the antibiotic Cipro for a week before they could return to work.

A second anthrax package, sent by Livermore the following day to a lab in Virginia, contained 3,000 anthrax vials, too much anthrax for the package and a violation of regulations.

We now also know that a researcher, who was not authorized to handle potentially lethal bioagents like anthrax, packed the two shipments. Further, the biosafety officer whose responsibility it was to supervise the packaging operation failed to do so. These are both security breaches that could have led to a diversion or deliberate release of the deadly pathogen.

Marylia Kelley, the Executive Director of Tri-Valley CAREs who lives across the street from Livermore Lab, responded: "I am angry that Livermore Lab officials deliberately withheld important information from the public. Moreover, because Lab officials and their attorneys failed to disclose that an anthrax release had taken place during our litigation over the environmental and security impacts of bio-weapon research at Livermore Lab, this amounts to a cover-up."

"Livermore Lab lied to us, the court and the public about this accident," Kelley continued. "The research conducted at the Lab is neither safe nor secure. We will continue our efforts to ensure that no new biowarfare agent research facilities open at Livermore Lab - and that the existing research comes under greater scrutiny."

Robert Schwartz, Staff Attorney at Tri-Valley CAREs, said, "I am particularly troubled that Livermore Lab allowed an unauthorized individual to package a biowarfare agent. This not only violates government regulations but raises the specter that Livermore Lab's handling of dangerous biological agents may increase the risk that a terrorist could access anthrax at the Lab. This danger is at the heart of Tri-Valley CAREs' litigation to prevent the operation of a new, Biosafety Level-3 (BSL-3) facility at Livermore Lab. A BSL-3 would allow the Lab to conduct aerosol experiments with anthrax, plague, Q fever and scores of other biowarfare agents."

Schwartz continued, "Any day now, Livermore Lab is slated to release a final version of the environmental and security analysis we won in the federal courts. If that analysis dodges this and other accidents at the Livermore Lab and proposes to bring even more of these potentially fatal pathogens to Livermore, we will haul them back to court. We simply cannot allow Livermore Lab to endanger our lives like this."

On the web at, our press release of Oct. 5 contains a link to the DHHS Office of the Inspector General / Enforcement Actions web site. See also our press release of Oct. 9 for more on Tri-Valley CAREs' ongoing efforts to obtain additional information on this accident. Serious questions remain.

Alerts 4 You

from Tri-Valley CAREs' October 2007 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Saturday, October 27
No Wars! No Nukes!
11:00 AM, March from SF Civic Center to Dolores Park
1 PM onward, Tri-Valley CAREs and colleagues will host the "No Wars, No
Nukes" interactive tent, Dolores Park, 566 Dolores Street, San Francisco
(925) 443-7148 for details

Participate in the march and rally - or meet us at the interactive tent at 1 PM. At Dolores Park, Tri-Valley CAREs, along with other organizations, will be sponsoring an exhibit and convergence that will include a maze of the nuclear fuel cycle and tools for taking action against nuclear weapons and war. Join us for all or part of the day's events. Call Jedidjah at the Tri-Valley CAREs office to volunteer or for more information.

Thursday, November 15
Tri-Valley CAREs meets
7:30 PM, Livermore Library
1188 So. Livermore Ave.
(925) 443-7148

Join your favorite environmental group. At our November meeting, we will catch you up on all the latest news and events. Information is power, but only if we use it to take action to create a more peaceful and just world. By working together, we at Tri-Valley CAREs are making a positive difference. You are invited to participate.

Friday, November 16
Local Action to Stop the War
Vigil and Sign Holding
5:30 PM, Downtown Livermore
The Fountains, Corner of First St. and Livermore Ave.
(925) 443-7148 for details

Join Livermore's monthly anti-war vigil and action. Bring a sign, or come ready to make your own. We will have lots of supplies. We are planning to host a local action on the 3rd Friday of each month. Volunteers are needed.

Data Mining and the Livermore Lab

by Loulena Miles
from Tri-Valley CAREs' October 2007 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Most Americans were unaware that Livermore Lab had been developing a massive data-mining tool for use by the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS).

Even fewer knew the data-mining program was forming the underpinning for a "Biodefense Knowledge Center," which is part of a multi-site "National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center."

Expanding ill-advised and insufficiently regulated biowarfare agent research threatens our health. Data-mining at Livermore Lab's Biodefense Knowledge Center targets our privacy and constitutional protections. Even the DHS eventually felt compelled to pull the plug on this program.

ADVISE Goes Too Far

Last month, the DHS called a halt to the data mining-scheme know as ADVISE, the Analysis, Dissemination, Visualization, Insight and Semantic Enhancement program, which had been deployed at the Livermore Lab's Biodefense Knowledge Center and also at Pacific Northwest Labs. $42 million had already spent developing ADVISE before the program was discontinued.

ADVISE was designed to search large quantities of information gleaned from many databases and integrate that data by identifying connections among people, organizations, and events and producing visual representations of these patterns. Reportedly, ADVISE has been under development at Livermore since 2003 and is capable of analyzing one billion pieces per hour of "structured" information and one million pieces per hour of "unstructured" information (a category that includes your email).

The Homeland Security Act of 2002 requires DHS to create data-mining tools to analyze law enforcement and intelligence information for the purpose of identifying potential terrorist threats within the U.S. DHS is focusing on threats that might involve chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or explosive attacks.

The troubles at Livermore Lab apparently began when DHS allowed pilot tests of the ADVISE program using live data, including personally identifiable information, from multiple sources in attempts to identify potential terrorism.

These data-mining pilot tests were done without regard for privacy protections (including those promulgated by DHS itself). Between 2004 and 2007, three pilot tests of ADVISE used personally identifiable information without first issuing required privacy impact assessments.

As of August 2006, there were 12 major data mining efforts in existence within DHS. Livermore Lab's Biodefense Knowledge Center was one of the major centers that had been designed on top of ADVISE data-mining architecture.

Common problems with ADVISE and other, similar data-mining efforts include inability to protect personal privacy, security vulnerabilities and the possibility that individuals could be wrongly investigated and accused based upon false data or duplicative names and personal information.

There is concern that ADVISE may have also violated federal employment laws and credit-reporting rules. Detailed databases are ripe material for identity thieves or even terrorists. These databases can enable an unprecedented amount of snooping on law-abiding people while doing little to enhance security - consequently creating a false sense of safety among an uninformed populace.

It is important to note that no public statements have been forthcoming from Livermore Lab management about the future of the Biodefense Knowledge Center without ADVISE as its foundation. Will the Lab close the Center? Will the Center operate with a different platform? Or, will Livermore Lab management attempt to resurrect ADVISE, perhaps under a different name or with no name at all? Tri-Valley CAREs' attorney, Loulena Miles, summed up the present situation, "It worries me that ADVISE could be re-deployed with little fanfare or public knowledge if the government so chooses."

ADVISE in Context: The Lab's Big Bio-plans

Documents obtained by Tri-Valley CARES via the Freedom of Information Act and other sources reveal that ADVISE is part of a proposal to make Livermore Lab into a major biodefense campus for the Dept. of Homeland Security. The overall project is called the "National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center" or NBACC. The NBACC is headquartered at Fort Detrick, MD. Bio-security experts and arms control analysts have criticized NBACC for excessive secrecy and lack of proper oversight.

Also alarming are documents stating that NBACC's mission will include "red teaming," a reference to activities that may seek to develop novel biological weapons in the name of determining what an adversary might be able to accomplish. NBACC activities may breach the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), the international treaty banning bio-weapons to which the U.S. is a signatory.

The Livermore Lab Biodefense Knowledge Center is part of NBACC. Tri-Valley CAREs has long been concerned with Livermore's participation in the controversial program. Moreover, new documents show that Livermore Lab's role in NBACC is on the rise. Now, we see that Livermore Lab is explicitly referred to as "NBACC West," signifying the potential movement to Livermore of huge amounts of biowarfare agent research and associated DHS activity.

Livermore Lab's designation as "NBACC West" brings up the question of whether there's a connection between NBACC and the advanced biowarfare agent facility that Livermore Lab is so determined to operate. The proposed bio-lab is a Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3) designed to house up to 100 liters at a time of potentially deadly pathogens such as Q fever, plague and anthrax (see also page 1).

Don't be Silent and Let Them Build New Bomb

by Jedidjah de Vries
from Tri-Valley CAREs' October 2007 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

The Dept. of Energy's plan calls for a revitalized nuclear weapons complex at 8 locations, including Livermore Lab. The "Bombplex" as we call it amounts to this: the DOE gets new nuclear weapons, new facilities to build the nukes and hundreds of billions of our tax-payer dollars. Communities suffer radioactive poisons. And, the whole world faces more nuclear danger and proliferation.

Tri-Valley CAREs has a different plan. We aim to mobilize public opinion, stop the Bombplex, shrink the DOE weapons complex infrastructure, direct tax-payer money to dismantling bombs, and move the U.S. and the world closer to the elimination of nuclear weapons.

On October 3, a small step was taken in Livermore to implement our plan. Tri-Valley CAREs held a community meeting to discuss U.S. policy, the future of nuclear weapons, the facilities that are envisioned by DOE to build them -- and, most important of all, how we can effectively organize and advocate for positive change.

At the center of the community discussion was the DOE plan that it now calls "Complex Transformation" (formerly known as "Complex 2030").

The enabler for "Complex Transformation," according to DOE documents, is the Reliable Replacement Warhead program, or RRW. This program would essentially re-design and rebuild every nuclear weapon in the U.S. arsenal. The first RRW is slated to sit atop submarine-launched Trident missiles. It is being designed at Livermore Lab.

However, in order to move ahead with "Complex Transformation," DOE must follow the process set out by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), our country's most fundamental environmental law. NEPA requires DOE to prepare a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) on its "Complex Transformation" plan. Public involvement is one of NEPA's fundamental principles. The public will have an important opportunity to comment on the draft PEIS when DOE publishes it (probably in November 2007).

According to the law, the DOE must take the public's comments into consideration in making its final decisions. Further, the public's comments become part of the official record and can be used as a basis for future litigation.

Our community meeting focused on preparing members of the public to present comments at the public hearings that will follow the release of the draft PEIS in November. To this end, our meeting consisted of both background briefings and "round table" discussions to formulate alternative visions for the future.

Marylia Kelley, the Executive Director at Tri-Valley CAREs, opened the evening with an overview of "Complex Transformation" noting the essential elements of the plan, including the RRW program a new plutonium "pit" (bomb core} production factory.

Kelley explained how the DOE's published rationale for the Bombplex rests on the Bush Administration's "nuclear posture review," which is a policy paper not a law. She offered the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), an international treaty signed by the U.S. that entered into force in 1970 and stands alongside the U.S. Constitution itself as the "supreme law of the land," as an alternative guide for planning the future of nuclear weapons.

Robert Schwartz, the group's Staff Attorney, then described the NEPA process. He underscored the importance of community participation and explained that the public hearings were created in the law so that the public would have an opportunity to be part of the process. He also emphasized that NEPA explicitly calls for the consideration of alternatives to the DOE's preferred plan.

Jedidjah de Vries, the group's Outreach Director, offered more information about the Reliable Replacement Warhead program, explaining that "Complex Transformation" would create the infrastructure to design a new bomb every five years and produce 125 RRWs every year for untold decades into the future. He explained that DOE claims to need "replacement" nukes due to reliability issues with plutonium pits was a "red herring" laid to rest by DOE's own data and the JASON scientific analysis showing that the cores of nuclear weapons would remain viable for a minimum of 100 years or more.

The real issue, said de Vries, was whether the U.S. would lock itself into a future of nuclear weapons forever -- with all of the attendant risks and dangers for ourselves and the world.

Marylia Kelley then tackled the issue of plutonium pits and the plutonium at Livermore. "Complex Transformation" is about producing new plutonium cores for the new RRWs, Kelley explained. Even though Livermore is not a candidate site for a full-scale pit production facility, this aspect of "Complex Transformation" impacts activities at Livermore Lab. This is because the Lab proposes to develop new plutonium assembly line and robotic techniques that would be installed at the full-scale plant when it is built.

Attorney Loulena Miles discussed "Complex Transformation" and its direct impact on Livermore Lab's Site 300 high explosives testing range near Tracy. Miles noted that Site 300 is already heavily contaminated, yet Livermore Lab has applied for a air pollution permit to increase the size of bomb blasts at Site 300 eight-fold and detonate up to 5,000 pounds of uranium-238 (also called depleted uranium) each year. She explained that there was no need to use Site 300 for such tests, and that one of the options the public can advocate is for DOE to close Site 300 altogether as a bomb testing range.

The last presentation was on alternatives to "Complex Transformation." Robert Schwartz reminded the participants that the consideration of alternatives is at "the heart" of the NEPA process. He outlined several possible options -- "Curatorship" (think museum curator for bombs), nuclear disarmament as called for by Article VI of the NPT, and turning Livermore into a "green lab."

After the presentations, participants broke out into small groups to delve into the topics in further depth. Discussion was lively and many attendees said that they left with a better grasp of the issues at stake in "Complex Transformation" and increased confidence in their ability to demand that the government change course and move toward a nuclear weapons free world.

Fact sheets for each of the presentations discussed above are available on our web site at Or, call us at (925) 443-7148 and we will mail you a set.

According to DOE, the draft PEIS is due in Nov. 2007. Public hearings and a written public comment period will follow. If you want to do something important in your life to end the threat of nuclear weapons and war, get involved now.

RRW Update

by Marylia Kelley
from Tri-Valley CAREs' October 2007 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

RRW Update: The JASON scientific panel says the Dept. of Energy cannot guarantee at this time that its first new H-bomb in the "Reliable Replacement Warhead" series will not require a return to full-scale nuclear testing in order to be certified for placement in the arsenal. This new warhead is being designed at Livermore Lab.

The JASON report, which contains an unclassified summary, suggests that the DOE plan to develop the RRW is overly optimistic and not detailed enough. The report reveals that, in some cases, the DOE has not completely developed a "physical understanding" sufficient to make any determination. The report concludes that additional experiments, including hydrodynamic tests, will be needed before DOE can even assess its technical readiness to develop, certify and produce the Livermore-designed RRW without a full-scale underground nuclear proof test.

Moreover, the report alludes to the RRW's centrality in the DOE's "Complex Transformation" scheme (formerly Complex 2030) by noting that the "JASON was not presented with any cost or schedule information for WR1 [the Livermore design] or the RRW concept on transforming the production complex...". (Let's see, too little technical readiness, no cost estimates, no schedule... ka-ching, ka-ching... the sound of hundreds of billions of dollars.)

The JASON calls for a stringent "peer review regime" for the RRW program. While not explicitly stated, one can surmise that the JASON is seeking to prevent DOE from sweeping the panel's recommendations under the first available rug.

At, click into "take action" and find sample letters and postcards you can use to weigh in on RRW and the underlying scheme to revitalize the nuclear weapons complex.

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