Archives for May 12, 2003

Plague Prof Professes Probity

I’m kind of late to this, but…
From CNN, Dr. Butler, an ‘internationally renowned plague researcher’ is being charged with smuggling plague, in addition to lying to investigators about destroying plague samples (first reporting them stolen). He has plead innocence.

Where did he smuggle plague? To federal labs in Ft. Dietrich, MD, Ft. Collins, CO, and to the country of Tanzania. Ft. Dietrich is home of USAMRIID, “… the lead medical research laboratory for the U.S. Biological Defense Research Program”, and Ft. Collins, CO, is where the CDC’s ‘Parallel Lab’ for their Atlanta lab is located. And Tanzania is where the plague samples he used originated.

The Lubbock Avalanche Journal reports that the smuggling charge resulted from not identifying these samples when he flew home, for not having permits to move the samples to the government labs, and for shipping them to Tanzania without the proper description (labeled as lab equipment instead of plague).

Without getting into the whys, it strikes me as really stupid that the government is charging him for smuggling samples into federal labs. I can understand their being bent about the rest of it, and I can even understand their tax charges (they no doubt scoured his finances to see if he sold the plague, etc, and found that he cheats on his taxes, too), but I don’t get charging him with providing the government with samples from a recent plague epidemic for study.

“Butler, 61, faces a maximum of 74 years in prison and a $3.6 million fine if convicted on all counts, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.”

Please note I’m not for anyone running around with plague, and that some of the things he is accused of warrant punishment, but this set of charges is stupid.