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U.S. Biodefense Lab Raises Concerns


FORT DETRICK, Md. (UPI) -- The Bush administration is building a massive biodefense laboratory in Maryland that will simulate calamitous bioterrorism attacks, it was reported Sunday.

But much of what the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center in Fort Detrick, Md., does may never be publicly known because the White House intends to operate the facility largely in secret, the Washington Post reported.

In an unusual arrangement, the building itself will be classified as "highly restricted space," from the reception desk to the lab benches to the cages where animals are kept, the newspaper said.

Not even nuclear labs operate with such secrecy.

The covertness has some arms-control specialists concerned that U.S. biodefense policy, as carried out by the Department of Homeland Security, the center's creator, could "skirt the edges" of an international treaty outlawing the production of even small amounts of biological weapons, the newspaper said.

The administration insists the center's work is purely defensive and thus fully legal. It has rejected calls for oversight by independent observers outside the department's network of government scientists and contractors.

Copyright 2006 by United Press International