Project Jefferson

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Project Jefferson was a covert U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency program designed to determine if the current anthrax vaccine was effective against genetically-modified bacteria. The program's legal status under the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) is disputed.[citation needed]


The operation[edit]

Project Jefferson began in 1997[1] and was designed to reproduce a strain of genetically-modified anthrax isolated by Russian scientists during the 1990s.[2] The goal was to determine whether or not the strain was resistant to the commercially available U.S. anthrax vaccine.[2]


The project was disclosed in a September 4, 2001 article in The New York Times.[3][4] Reporters Judith Miller, Stephen Engelberg and William J. Broad collaborated to write the article.[3] It is presumed that the reporters had knowledge of the program for at least several months; shortly after the article appeared they published a book that detailed the story further.[3] The 2001 book, Germs: Biological Weapons and America's Secret War, and the article are the only publicly available sources[citation needed] detailing Project Jefferson and its sister projects, Bacchus and Clear Vision.[3]


Project Jefferson was operated by the Defense Intelligence Agency and reviewed by lawyers at the Pentagon.[4] Those lawyers determined that Project Jefferson was in line with the BWC.[4] Despite assertions from the Clinton and Bush administrations that the project, and its sisters, were legal, several international legal scholars disagreed.[2]

Notable was the fact that the clandestine program was omitted from BWC confidence-building measure (CBM) declarations.[2] These measures were introduced to the BWC in 1986 and 1991 to strengthen the treaty, the U.S. had long been a proponent of their value and some asserted[who?] that these tests damaged American credibility.[2] U.S. desire to keep such programs secret was, according to Bush administration officials, a "significant reason" that Bush rejected a draft agreement signed by 143 nations to strengthen the BWC.[4]


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c d e Tucker, Jonathan B. "Biological Threat Assessment: Is the Cure Worse Than the Disease?", Arms Control Today, October 2004. Retrieved January 6, 2009.
  3. ^ a b c d Enemark, Christian. Disease and Security: Natural Plagues and Biological Weapons in East Asia, (Google Books), Routledge, 2007, pp. 173-75, (ISBN 0415422345).
  4. ^ a b c d Miller, Judith, Engelberg, Stephen and Broad, William J. "U.S. Germ Warfare Research Pushes Treaty Limits", The New York Times, September 4, 2001. Retrieved January 6, 2009.

Further reading[edit]