FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT
Mark S. Zaid, Esq.
ANTHRAX HEARINGS TO BE HELD FOR FIVE MARINES FACING COURT-MARTIALS AT TWENTY-NINE PALMS, CALIFORNIA
Extraordinary Hearing Is First To Debate Placing The Anthrax Vaccine On Trial
WASHINGTON, D.C. --
On June 10-11, 1999, five Marines facing court-martial charges for refusing to receive the anthrax vaccine will appear in court to determine whether concerns regarding the safety, efficacy and necessity of the vaccine can be challenged. A motions hearing will be held before a Military Judge at Twenty-Nine Palms Marine Base, California, to hear issues relating to evidence, expert witnesses and lawfulness. Included within the scope of the hearing will be the defense's request to obtain samples of the anthrax vaccine in order to permit independent testing to explore allegations of illegal modification.
The May 1999 issue of Vanity Fair revealed the results of a study that found the presence of squalene, a highly toxic adjuvant that does not have FDA approval, in the blood of those military personnel who have received the anthrax vaccine. In anticipation of a legal challenge to the vaccine, the Department of the Army has provided approximately $100,000 to a scientific contractor to prove that squalene is not present in the vaccine. Although initial investigative reports found "no measurable amount of squalene" present in specific vaccine lots, later reports were amended to reflect that "no squalene was detected." This distinction has led some to interpret that squalene may be present in certain lots.
"This hearing is the first stage of the trial of the century with respect to the anthrax vaccine. The sanctity of the entire vaccination program is being challenged. It may literally live or die based on what happens at this hearing," said Mark S. Zaid, the Executive Director for The James Madison Project and lead civilian defense counsel. Zaid added that the Pentagon's unrelenting efforts to prosecute these court-martials has turned these cases into the equivalent of a military OK Coral.
The Defense Department is forcibly inoculating all 2.4 million active duty personnel, regardless of duty station or responsibilities, against anthrax at an estimated cost of $130 million. The immunization series calls for six injections of the vaccine over a period of 18 months, followed by annual booster shots. Vaccinations began in March 1998. The FDA approved the vaccine in 1970. However, concerns have been raised about the vaccine's effectiveness against massive doses of weaponized anthrax anticipated in an intentional biological warfare attack. In addition, the only FDA-approved manufacturer, the Michigan Biologic Products Institute (now BioPort), has been repeatedly cited for quality control problems.
The Pentagon's Anthrax Vaccination Immunization Program has been the subject of intense public criticism, particularly for the issuance of misleading and false statements concerning the vaccine. Hundreds of service-members have refused to accept the vaccine, and many have been dissuaded from filing reports with the FDA concerning possible adverse reactions. More importantly, dozens of reserve fighter and supply pilots are quitting rather than take the vaccine, thereby jeopardizing the Air Force's capabilities to conduct an air war. Several Congressional members have requested Secretary Cohen to cease the program or make it voluntary.
"The evidence to be presented at the court-martials will, among other points, unequivocally demonstrate that no information exists concerning the long-term effect of the vaccine on humans, and that the adverse reaction rates are up to seventy times greater than approved by the manufacturer and the FDA," said Mr. Zaid. He added that documents reveal that the Pentagon determined the current six shot series was "outdated" and "unnecessary", and that the independent expert retained by the Government to approve the program has admitted he has no expertise, suggesting that the independent review was conducted purely as a public relations tool.
In April 1998, Zaid was the first attorney to represent military personnel refusing the vaccine when several sailors onboard the U.S.S. Independence refused to submit to the vaccination. In March 1999, JMP represented the first anthrax refuser at Travis Air Force Base in his court-martial. In addition to the Marines at Twenty-Nine Palms, JMP represents Marines facing court-martial proceedings at Camp Pendleton and Miramar Marine bases, both of which are located in California. Zaid testified at the first oversight hearing on the anthrax vaccine held by the Subcommittee on National Security, Veterans Affairs, and International Relations of the Committee on Government Reform in the U.S. House of Representatives on March 24, 1999.
The five Marines at Twenty-Nine Palms who have refused the vaccine are: Lance Corporal Jason Austin (Borger, Texas), Lance Corporal Michael McIntyre (Mt. Vernon, Washington), Lance Corporal Jared Johnston (Henrietta, Oklahoma), Lance Corporal Michael Metzig and Lance Corporal Jared Schwartz. They are scheduled to go to trial on charges that they disobeyed a direct order in violation of Article 90 of the Uniform Military Code of Justice beginning June 16, 1999.
JMP is a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit organization with the primary purpose of educating the public on issues relating to intelligence gathering and operations, secrecy policies, national security and government wrongdoing.
The June 10-11th hearing is open to the public.