6/16 Secret in the Desert

6/16 Secret in the Desert

Secret in the Desert


adjective 1 not known or seen or not meant to be known or seen by others. 2 fond of having or keeping secrets; secretive.

noun 1 something secret. 2 a method of achieving something that is not commonly known or recognized: the secret of a happy marriage is compromise. 3 something not properly understood; a mystery: the secrets of the universe.

— DERIVATIVES secrecy noun secretly adverb

In the weeks following the 2001 Anthrax Attacks an important clue was overlooked. On December 12th 2001, the Baltimore Sun reported that scientists at Dugway, another U.S. Army facility, had made weapons-grade anthrax virtually identical to the spores mailed to U.S. Senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy.

The U.S. Army’s Dugway Proving Ground is a vast top-secret testing range that is larger than the state of Rhode Island, hidden in one of the most remote parts of the country – the Great Salt Desert of Utah. It lies in the Great Basin, a unique geographic region surrounded by mountain ranges where all rivers flow towards the center – nothing leaks out. The air space surrounding Dugway is controlled by the military and F-16s regularly screech across the high desert skies. For more than six decades this is where the military has been testing and developing its most deadly weapons.


The base has a toxic legacy that stretches back decades – from the “anthrax plots” still contaminated by deadly spores released in testing exercises to the extermination of thousands of sheep by VX in the neighboring Skull Valley in 1968.

Dugway has a long history of working with anthrax and officially is the only lab in the US capable of “weaponizing” anthrax – the process in which anthrax spores are milled and refined into microscopic single spores which are tiny enough to be breathed into the lungs, making it a deadly killer.

The anthrax powder used in the 2001 Anthrax Attacks is considered by many experts to be the most sophisticated and refined ever seen. Yet the FBI has pinned the blame on U.S. Army scientist Bruce Ivins who was working at the U.S Army’s Fort Detrick lab in Maryland. Detrick does not have the equipment to weaponize such refined anthrax, nor did Ivins have the skill set to produce this kind of sophisticated powder.

The full scope of activities at Dugway are shrouded in secrecy. Citizen watchdogs at the Citizen Education Project and the Sunshine Project have been keeping an eye on the goings on at Dugway for more than two decades. They have monitored a dramatic expansion of facilities since the anthrax attacks and are concerned about what secrets are hidden in the desert.

What is going on in the labs?

Postscript 6/19/09

Well, here’s a clue from today’s Washington Post…

Inventory Uncovers 9,200 More Pathogens

Laboratory Says Security Is Tighter, but Earlier Count Missed Dangerous Vials

Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 18, 2009

An inventory of potentially deadly pathogens at Fort Detrick’s infectious disease laboratory found more than 9,000 vials that had not been accounted for, Army officials said yesterday, raising concerns that officials wouldn’t know whether dangerous toxins were missing…

The vials contained some dangerous pathogens, among them the Ebola virus, anthrax bacteria and botulinum toxin, and less lethal agents such as Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus and the bacterium that causes tularemia…