The Inspector General for the United States Department of Justice has declined to investigate false and misleading statements made by a DOJ employee concerning domestic legislation which appears to violate an international bioweapons treaty.
In a recent unsigned letter issued on DOJ stationary, the IG’s office refused to look into written statements made by Dean Boyd, Press officer for the DOJ, wherein he made an incorrect legal citation when asked to comment on the perception that Section 817 (The Expansion of the Biological Weapons Statute) of the U.S. Patriot Act violates the International Bioweapons Convention (BWC).
The BWC was signed by the U.S. in 1972 . Boyd was specifically asked to comment on 817, but denied the violation, instead referring this reporter to the law which 817 amended, which is 18 USC Section 175.
When his error was pointed out, he shut down all communications with this reporter, writing: â€œWe have nothing further for you.â€ The Secretary of State was also contacted concerning the apparent international violation that occurred when Section 817 of the U.S. Patriot Act was passed into law, following the attacks of September 11. That office initially ignored all contacts from this reporter and only responded after this reporter contacted the British and Russian governments, who along with the U.S., are the repositories of the BWC.
The focus of concern is a particular caveat at the end of 817, which states that â€œ(c)Whoever knowingly violates this section shall be fined as provided in this title, imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both, but the prohibition contained in this section shall not apply with respect to any duly authorized United States governmental activity.â€ This release from the prohibitions could be seen to substantially violate both the letter and intent of The BWC, which was enacted to prohibit the development and stockpiling of biological weapons.
In an email which stipulates that it is unattributable to any person or department within the SOS, the State Department issued a statement to this reporter that this caveat only applies to the â€œRestricted Personâ€ issue, and therefore only expands the potential agents who may transport or possess these biological weapons. Scott Yundt, an attorney with Trivalley Cares, a grassroots organization dedicated to nuclear disarmament, disputes this perception. In a recent interview, he stated that his perception was that the caveat contained in c) revealed an intention to obviate the U.S. government from any prohibitions contained within Section 817.
Yundt has also evinced concern about the general language of Section 817, which he states opens the door to development of offensive weaponry under the guise of defense. In an email this March, Yundt wrote: â€œThe difficult thing with this language in the patriot act (and in my personal opinion the patriot act in general) is that it is vague and leaves room for a wide variety of interpretations. â€œIts use of term “prophylactic” as a justified reason to have bioagents leaves open exactly this kind of varied interpretation. It also gets to an issue that we have been addressing for years- that the lines between defensive or intellectual or “prophylactic” bio research and offensive bioweapons research are easily blurred. They are especially blurred to the outside viewer (aka other nations trying to examine a country’s bio programs under an inspection regime) when bioresearch happens behind “classified” fences (for example at a nuclear weapons laboratory like Lawrence Livermore National Lab).â€
The particular language in this section of the Patriot Act has raised questions as to whether Section 817 is also authorizing the deployment of these biological agents against citizens of the US, as the legislation does not appear to be restricting the use of these weapons to a battlefield or against a foreign foe. There is no enforcement or investigatory arm of the BWC as written into law.