Associated Press and the new york times
WASHINGTON — The Defense Intelligence Agency plans to develop small amounts of a potentially more potent variant of the bacterium that causes deadly anthrax, Pentagon officials said Tuesday.
"We plan to proceed" once internal legal reviews have been completed and Congress has been fully informed, said Victoria Clarke, spokeswoman for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
The project is part of a broader research effort to improve U.S. defenses against biological agents. Rumsfeld has identified biological weapons as one of the most worrisome national security threats.
Clarke said the purpose of developing a new strain of anthrax is strictly defensive: to ensure that an effective vaccine is available should a biological weapon be used against American troops.
"We have a vaccine that works against all the known anthrax strains," she told reporters at the Pentagon. "What we want to do is make sure we are prepared for any surprises, we’re prepared for anything that might happen that might be a threat. So in the early part of this year, the DIA started to look into … how we could develop that modified anthrax strain so we could test our vaccines against it."
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