(NaturalNews) You may have heard that smallpox has long been eradicated but what you may not know is that the United States and Russia still maintain stocks of the disease, and the U.S. is still in the business of researching and developing it. The question is, why?
According to the U.S. government, Washington and Moscow recently supported a decision to keep the two stocks intact, arguing that more research needed to be conducted on one of the world's deadliest diseases. Specifically, researchers say more work is needed in order to come up with a safer version of the vaccine and better treatments for those who are already infected with smallpox.
"In other words," wrote Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, in explaining the Obama administration's decision, "we've beaten smallpox once, but we must be ready and prepared to beat it again, if necessary."
While that may sound like a reasonable explanation on the surface, there could be more to it than that. After all, if a disease has been eradicated since 1977, it doesn't sound like there needs to be much more "research" done to combat it - does it?
Consider this: The U.S. military maintains a biohazard research facility at Ft. Detrick, Md., and, according to this report posted on the Centers for Disease Control website, clearly the Pentagon is concerned that weaponized smallpox and other highly contagious and deadly agents could be unleashed on the American people, if not by a national government then by terrorists.
According to the report, the U.S. discontinued its offensive biological weapons research program in 1969, though the former U.S.S.R. continued theirs and eventually produced smallpox virus by the ton, according to the book, "Biohazard," by Ken Alibek. But there appears to be enough evidence to suggest that the U.S. is keeping its samples of smallpox around for the purpose of conducting further research - research that is banned under various treaties and executive orders.
"During the first two decades after the United States ratified the BWC (Biological Weapons Convention), the U.S. Biological Defense Research Program was conducted in a reasonably open manner," says this report by Jonathan B. Tucker, a senior researcher at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies.
He adds, "Threat-assessment studies and development projects were unclassified and described in detailed annual reports to Congress. During the late 1990s, however, heightened concern over chemical and biological terrorism apparently caused some elements of the U.S. biodefense community to alter this policy. The Pentagon and the intelligence community began to conduct secret threat-assessment studies that clearly exceeded the limits for defensive research specified in the Scowcroft memorandum, but Congress was not informed of the change. Indeed, during the Clinton administration, some classified biodefense work took place even without the full knowledge of the National Security Council staff."
Further, in 2001 - just a week before the 9/11 attacks, The New York Times reported that three secret threat-assessment projects were being conducted by the Defense Department, in conjunction with the U.S. intelligence community. They were called Project Bacchus, Project Jefferson, and Project Clear Vision, each designed to reconstruct a banned bioweapon or mass production facility, and each violated the provisions of bioweapons treaties and agreements to which the U.S. was a party.
And the research is ongoing.
"Today, despite U.S. participation in the BWC, American scientists continue to conduct ongoing research on biological agents," said this PBS report. "Since 2001 the U.S. government has spent or allocated more than $50 billion to address the threat of biological weapons, including an effort to develop an even deadlier strain of the anthrax virus to test against current vaccines. Scientists are also working on vaccines against the smallpox virus, which has been eradicated worldwide since 1980."