by Xinhua writer Xu Chi
GENEVA, Aug. 24 (Xinhua) -- A U.S. government bioweapons lab, inspired by a Nazi bioweapons expert and with a mission to poison cattle in the Soviet Union, is believed to be the source of the lyme disease, said a university professor and a long-time investigative journalist in a recent interview with Xinhua.
Karl Grossman, a full-time professor of journalism at the State University of New York, has spent five decades investigating a U.S. government laboratory on Plum Island, known as the Plum Island Animal Disease Center, which is located about one mile (about 1609 meters) off Long Island of New York.
For Grossman, this laboratory is "shrouded in secrecy."
"I wish, there would be 'transparency.' That's the word that has been used for decades in the U.S., so that people would know what their government has done," he said.
"I am hopeful, but I am kind of doubt it, considering the decades and decades of secrecy involving the Plum Island," he added.
The "godfather" of the Plum Island laboratory was a Nazi bioweapon expert, Erich Traub, who was brought to the United States after the Second World War.
"During the WWII, Traub ran a Nazi secret biological warfare laboratory in the Baltic on an island called Riems, with a mission to poison cattle in the Soviet Union. Also, Traub had some familiarity with the New York area before the WWII. He was also involved in Nazi activities on the Long Island," Grossman noted.
"This Erich Traub maybe thought he had a smart idea having an animal biological warfare lab like he had in the Baltic to be established on this little island," he said.
"There was a military base on the island at that time for over 50 years, which was called Fort Terry. Thus this notion was to make this laboratory to do biological warfare," he said, noting the lab was later taken over by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
"In 1993, an investigative reporter for Newsday, John McDonald, was able to obtain documents including a document which was reprinted on the front page of Newsday," he said.
"This document said the mission of Plum Island would in fact to develop biological warfare weaponry that would be used to poison cattle and other livestock in the former Soviet Union," he added.
Grossman was the first journalist who exposed the U.S. government's admission to doing biological warfare work on Plum Island in 1971.
"The USDA decided to open Plum Island to reporters for a tour. The public relations person for the USDA told me the night before the tour, 'we do defensive biological warfare'. 'Defensive'! This is the first time there was ever the admission that they do biological warfare at all," he said.
The U.S. mission on Plum Island shifted away in the 1950s from bioweapons work directed at cattle in the Soviet Union.
Still, a pathogen worked with on Plum Island was linked years later to U.S. offensive use in biological warfare directed at animals in Cuba.
"Newsday, a newspaper on Long Island, reported in 1977 about African Swine Fever having broken out in Cuba in 1971, which was devastating to the pigs in Cuba, and connected the breakout of the African Swine Fever in Cuba to Plum Island," Grossman said.
"The only place African Swine Fever virus existed in the Western Hemisphere was on Plum Island where it was experimented upon. The Newsday account connected this African Swine Fever outbreak in Cuba with Plum Island, and with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and with a CIA operation in the Canal Zone, Panama," he said.
"What it would indicate, if correct, was that this strictly 'defensive' use of biological warfare done on Plum Island might not all be true, there may have been offensive biological warfare activities going on," he added.
However, famines may not be the only product of Plum Island and some of the pathogens it has been experimenting on can cross over to humans.
Grossman said that a 2007 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) exposed some of the pathogens on Plum Island "could also cause illness and deaths in humans."
According to a 2005 report by the GAO, the Plum Island experimented with pathogens that can potentially cause fatal diseases in humans, including West Nile virus, Nipah virus, Rift Valley Fever.
Plum Island is also suspected to start the global epidemic of Lyme disease, a disease transmitted through tick bites, and can result in chronic suffering if untreated.
"John Loftus is an attorney, he was a specialist at pursuing Nazis for the Office of the Special Investigations of the U.S. Department of Justice, and he tells in his 1982 book about Nazi germ warfare scientists experimenting with poisoned ticks dropped from planes. He suggests in the book the hypothesis that the poisoned ticks were the source of Lyme disease," Grossman said, adding that ticks have long been regarded as a disease vector in biological warfare.
Grossman added Kris Newby, an "excellent science writer connected to Stanford University," wrote a book in 2019 featuring interviews with Willy Burgdorfer, who is credited with the discovery of the microbe causing Lyme disease, and the book exposed that Burgdorfer had earlier "developed bioweapons for the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD)."
In 2019, the U.S. Congress passed an amendment requiring the Inspector General of the DOD to investigate the "possible involvement of DOD biowarfare labs in the weaponization of Lyme disease in ticks and other insects."
The amendment was offered by Representative Chris Smith from New Jersey who said, "those interviews combined with access to Dr. Burgdorfer's lab files suggest that he and other bioweapons specialists stuffed ticks with pathogens to cause severe disability, disease-even death-to potential enemies. Americans have a right to know whether any of this is true."
Grossman recalled from his three past visits to Plum Island that the place was "scary."
"We need to come clean, the United States, I believe, on what is going on for all these years on Plum Island," said Grossman. Enditem