News & Politics

Did the Pentagon Weaponize Ticks? Congressman Says Americans 'Have a Right to Know'

Deer tick under a microscope (AP Photo/Victoria Arocho, File)

Even as a boy, I was never really into comic books. That’s to say, I could be wrong about this, but I seem to remember some comic book superhero plot line involving the Pentagon weaponizing ticks. Likes I said, I could be wrong. If I am, it would make an excellent plot for a comic book. A Republican in the House of Representatives, though, believes that it actually happened. To find out, Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) has called for an investigation into whether or not the Pentagon tried to weaponize ticks.

Rep. Smith’s amendment, which has been added to the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act,  was approved by a voice vote. The rise in cases of Lyme disease in this country is the driver behind Smith’s push to investigate the possibility of whether or not the Pentagon experimented on ticks with the goal of weaponizing the nasty little creatures. Last week, the New Jersey congressman made a statement on the House floor in which he cautioned his colleagues:

With Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases exploding in the United States—with an estimated 300,000 to 437,000 new cases diagnosed each year and 10-20 percent of all patients suffering from chronic Lyme disease—Americans have a right to know whether any of this is true. And have these experiments caused Lyme disease and other tick-borne disease to mutate and to spread?

His amendment directs the Inspector General of the Department of Defense to “conduct a review of whether the Department of Defense experimented with ticks and other insects regarding use as biological weapons between the years of 1950 and 1975.”

If anything is uncovered during the investigation that points to the Pentagon experimenting with ticks and other insects, “the Inspector General shall submit to the Committees on Armed Services of the House of Representatives and the Senate a report on: (1) the scope of such experiment, and (2) whether any ticks or insects used in such experiment were released outside of any laboratory by accident or experiment design.”

If you want to read more about the amendment, I direct you to a statement posted on Congressman Smith’s website. The statement explains:

According to Smith, he was “inspired to write the amendment”—now part of the House-passed 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)—by “a number of books and articles suggesting that significant research had been done at U.S. government facilities including Fort Detrick, Maryland and Plum Island, New York to turn ticks and other insects into bioweapons.”

During debate on the floor, Smith said that, “The most recent book—Bitten: The Secret History of Lyme Disease and Biological Weapons—includes interviews with Dr. Willy Burgdorfer—the researcher who is credited with discovering Lyme disease.  The book reveals that Dr. Burgdorfer was a bioweapons specialist. Those interviews combined with access to Dr. Burgdorfer’s lab files suggest that he and other bioweapons specialists stuffed ticks with pathogens to cause severe disability, disease—even death—to potential enemies.”

Rep. Smith adds that “Americans have a right to know whether any of this is true.”