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While health officials reported this week West Nile virus has sickened 108 people in 10 states this summer, they continue to withhold opinions on how, where and why the mosquito-born disease originated.

Maybe, say some U.S. intelligence sources of Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin, that’s because they know.

The Centers for Disease Control gave samples of West Nile virus – among other deadly biological agents – to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in the 1980s.

Some national security sources – as well as health professionals – believe Saddam Hussein weaponized those samples and sent them back to the United States, via his ally Fidel Castro in Cuba, in revenge for his defeat in the Persian Gulf War and the decade-long sanctions imposed on his country by the U.S.

Surprisngly, it was the CDC that sent the samples directly to several Iraqi sites that weapons inspectors later determined to be part of Saddam Hussein’s biological weapons program, according to both CDC files and congressional records from the early 1990s. Iraq had ordered the samples, saying it needed them for legitimate medical research.

The CDC and a biological-sample company, the American Type Culture Collection, sent strains of all the germs Iraq used to make weapons, including anthrax, the bacteria that make botulinum toxin, and the germs that cause gas gangrene, the records show. Iraq also got samples of other deadly pathogens, including West Nile virus.

The transfers came in the 1980s, when the United States backed Iraq in its war against Iran.

As previously reported in G2B, some U.S. health officials question why the U.S. strain of West Nile virus is deadlier to humans and birds than anywhere else on the planet – with the exception of Israel. They know West Nile virus has mutated into an illness far deadlier to human beings in the United States – but they don’t know why. Interestingly, the U.S. strain appears almost identical to only one other strain in the world – the one found in Israel.

The disease is spread by mosquitoes, which feed off both birds and humans – along with other susceptible animals.

In most parts of the world where it has surfaced, the virus typically causes illness akin to the flu, bringing fever, headache, muscle aches and fatigue – unpleasant, but rarely fatal. The virus has not even proven fatal to all birds in other parts of the world. But the U.S. strain appears nearly 100 percent fatal to birds. They usually die within five days.

This has caused some health officials and scientists, as well as intelligence sources, to wonder if West Nile Virus is not a weaponized virus – one perhaps deliberately engineered and delivered to the two biggest targets of Islamic terrorism.

Israel was the first place in the world where West Nile virus was associated with killing birds. Until that outbreak in 1997, the virus was known to sicken birds, but not fatally.

Israel also was the site of an outbreak of West Nile virus in humans that caused 450 cases of neurological disease in 2000.

While some American intelligence sources are still suspicious about claims that Saddam Hussein had an active chemical and biological weapons program, others believe he unleashed that program on the U.S. in the form of West Nile virus.

While it is well-known that WNV is of Middle East origin, what is less well-known is the New Yorker report dating back to 2000 in which Saddam Hussein was quoted by a defector referring to “his final weapon, developed in laboratories outside Iraq … free of U.N. inspection, the laboratories will develop strain SV 141 of the West Nile virus.” There is also a report that the Centers for Disease Control actually sent WNV samples to Iraq in 1985.

There is increasing suspicion that one of his labs was not in Iraq at all – but less than 50 miles from the Florida coast. Cuban defectors say that Castro’s Biological Front studied ways of using migratory birds to spread infectious diseases to the U.S. Saddam Hussein was also known to have close ties to Castro. And, according to Soviet defector Ken Alibek, Cuba, Iraq, Iran and other countries simultaneously received transfers of Soviet biotechnology.

Undersecretary of State John Bolton said Cuba’s biological weapons capabilities underscore lingering concerns. He told an audience at the Heritage Foundation the U.S. is suspicious about Cuban biomedical laboratories and their ability to transfer biological weapons technology to Iraq, Syria and Libya – all countries that Castro visited the previous year.

In 1998, Clinton administration Defense Secretary William S. Cohen wrote a letter to Armed Service Committee Chairman Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., stating that he was “concerned about the use of Cuba as a base for intelligence activities directed against the United States” and “Cuba’s potential to develop and produce biological agents, given its biotechnology infrastructure.”

Cohen’s letter concluded by telling Thurmond that the Department of Defense “remains vigilant to the concerns posed by Castro’s Cuba.” Attached to the letter was the defense secretary’s classified report, “The Cuba Threat to U.S. National Security.” The report’s publicly released summary read: “Cuba’s biotechnology industry is one of the most advanced in emerging countries and would be capable of producing biological warfare agents.”

That same year, the CIA released a report that warned of the dangers of a biological terrorist attack on the U.S. The report explained that such an assault, if launched by a country with sophisticated means, could go undetected and be erroneously attributed to natural causes. The report listed a little over a dozen smaller nations as suspected of possessing biological weapons. Included high on the list was Cuba.

But it was a July 12, 1999, article in The New Yorker magazine by Richard Preston, a best-selling author, that perhaps laid the groundwork for the concerns about a Cuba-Iraq connection to West Nile.

Preston stated that the U.S. government “keeps a list of nations and groups that it suspects either have clandestine stocks of smallpox or seem to be trying to buy or steal the virus.” That list is now known to include Cuba.

Preston’s article also laid out suspicions that the outbreak of West Nile Virus on the East Coast may have come from a deliberate terrorist act and not from naturally occurring causes. Initially, some scientists scoffed at Preston’s claim, but things have now changed.

One entomology expert who maintains an open mind on the West Nile outbreak, Dr. Jonathan F. Day of the University of Florida, said: “The sporadic appearance of WNV is disturbing, especially its appearance in the Florida Keys. It really appears that WN has been seeded throughout the eastern half of the United States. I guess the question is, by whom?”

Day continued, “The Florida and East Coast situations relative to human cases are remarkable. In some places, Atlanta, the Florida Keys, WNV appeared in humans without any other indication that the virus was present. In some cases, humans are acting as sentinels for the sentinel (animal carriers). This is unlike any other mosquito-borne virus in North America.”

Dr. Manuel Cereijo, a professor at Florida International University, wrote in an October 1997 paper, titled “Castro: A Threat to the Security of the United States”: “To conduct a bacteriological attack, a country or a terrorist group does not need to have any sophisticated means of delivery, such as a missile. A container the size of a five-pound sugar bag can bring bacteriological materials capable of causing over 50,000 causalities in an urban area, depending on the flow of air and atmospheric conditions.”

In the same paper, Dr. Cereijo states, “Many Cuban engineers and scientists have been trained by former East Germany, the Soviet Union, North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Vietnam and China.”


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Earlier stories:

Mosquito plague spreads to 4 more states

West Nile spreads through U.S.

Is West Nile Saddam’s revenge?

Bio-weapons in Cuba?

Terror link to West Nile?

U.S. West Nile matches Israeli strain

D.C. West Nile outbreaks cluster around Army unit

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