Trust Us

Homeland Security Gasses the Subway Again

By Jim Knipfel

It was quietly reported recently that the Department of Homeland Security would be releasing a gas into the New York City subway system as part of a bioterror preparedness drill. Here's the text of a story concerning the test that appeared in the New York Daily News on Saturday, May 7:

"The Department of Homeland Security will release 'harmless particle materials' in the city's subway system next week.

"The 'non-toxic, safe gas material' will be released at subway stations in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens in order to understand where hazardous material would travel in the event of a biological terrorist attack.

"'This is important information to help local authorities to enhance their emergency preparedness,' DHS Program Manager Dr. Donald Bansleben said Friday."

Okay, so we'll take them at their word, especially seeing how they went to great lengths to emphasize terms like "non-toxic" and "safe." But just for fun let's consider history.

Even if the story of the US Cavalry distributing smallpox-infected blankets among the Indians isn't wholly mythological, it's at least become a bit muddied over the years. To the best anyone can determine, it was actually a British officer during the French and Indian Wars who made the initial suggestion, and though it was discussed seriously (smallpox-infected blankets were in ready supply, after all), other, more practical ways of eradicating the Indians were counterproposed, and there's no solid evidence that the plan was ever enacted.

There is, however, no shortage of documentation concerning dozens of instances in which the US military, intelligence agencies, and government-funded research labs did conduct biological, chemical and radialogical tests on unwitting soldiers, prison inmates, hospital patients, and other US citizens, usually for reasons (if vague ones) of national security.

In 1931, for instance, a Dr. Cornelius Rhodes of the notorious Rockefeller Institute injected healthy patients with cancer cells, just to see what would happen. Beginning the following year and continuing for several years afterward, 200 black males diagnosed with syphilis became unwitting subjects in the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. They were neither informed of the diagnosis nor treated, as doctors studied and recorded the progress of the disease. In the years immediately following the end of the Second World War, government-sponsored studies of the effects of radiation exposure (some conducted by Dr. Rhodes) were carried out on civilian and VA hospital patients, and the CIA began their earliest investigations (often with unknowing subjects) into the possible use of LSD as a mind control weapon. The experiments, in one form or another, would continue into the '70s.

To test the susceptibility of a major US city to a biological attack, the Navy launched a biological attack. In 1950 they sprayed a cloud of bacteria over San Francisco. Dozens of people soon came down with what were reported to be pneumonia-like symptoms. Two years later, to test how efficiently they could launch a chemical attack on an enemy city, the military released zinc cadmium sulfide gas over six American cities. That same year military and intelligence agencies conducted joint experiments in which they exposed citizens in both NYC and again San Francisco to Serratia marcescens and Bacillus glogigii, both airborne germs. To determine their effectiveness as a biotoxin delivery agent, in 1956 the military released mosquitoes carrying yellow fever over cities in Florida and Georgia, then studied the subsequent symptoms exhibited by the citizenry.

In 1966, researchers with the US army's biowarfare division, still trying to nail down the best way to disperse a biological agent within a densely populated urban center, dropped lightbulbs filled with Bacillus subtilis variant niger (an ostensibly harmless anthrax variant) onto the ventilation grates at various points around the NYC subway system. It's estimated that some one million New Yorkers were exposed.

During the Giuliani administration, New York experienced what was termed an "outbreak" of the mosquito-borne West Nile Virus. Although few people actually contracted the disease and few of those became terribly sick as a result, the city in conjunction with the CDC soaked residential areas with a new and highly toxic pesticide known as Anvil. Dozens ended up in local hospitals complaining of respiratory issues. Meanwhile a small company called OraVax received a hefty government contract to develop a WNV vaccine. It was strongly suggested by the CDC that as soon as the vaccine was ready, we all receive an inoculation. The chief researcher at OraVax, Dr. Timothy Monath, had previously been a researcher with the Army's biowarfare division at Ft. Dietrich. The vaccine never materialized, and today we are instructed to avoid West Nile by simply getting rid of any standing water in the backyard. It remains unclear exactly what was going on back then, but representatives from the NIH did make the rounds of Staten Island households, taking blood samples from residents after the spraying was complete. About a year later epidemiologists studying the spread of the virus traced its vector back to the government's Plum Island animal disease research facility off the coast of Long Island.

Very quietly in mid-April of 2012, it was announced that on three non-consecutive days in July, the NYPD, in conjunction with the Brookhaven National Labs, would be releasing an odorless, colorless perfluorocarbon gas in the subway system. The goal of the test was to help the city increase its preparedness in the event of an attack with biological, radiological or chemical agents. The announcement was made so quietly, in fact, that only a small handful of media outlets reported it at all.

The object of the study, we were told, was to examine the way the airflow around the five boroughs changed as a result of the subway system, as well as to help determine which subway lines should be shut down in the event of an attack in order to best control the spread of an airborne toxin. Approximately 200 sensors were installed both on subway platforms and aboveground to track the spread of the "harmless" gas, and, one must imagine, to help determine where the bodies will start piling up first.

The New York Times, while admitting that the plan might seem worrisome to some residents, blithely dismissed those concerns as "science fiction scenarios," and assured its readers the NYPD and Brookhaven had nothing sinister in mind. To prove this, the reporter quoted NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly and a lab spokesman, both of whom said it was all perfectly safe.

But as is evidenced above, there is nothing at all "science fiction" about the concern. They've done it dozens of times in the past, they've been using an unsuspecting populace as experimental guinea pigs for over eighty-five years now, they always do it under the cheap guise of "national security," and now more than ever they've been given a public mandate to do whatever they want.

The results of the 2012 NYPD/Brookhaven experiment were never made public, obviously enough, but they were also apparently never shared with the Department of Homeland Security, which would now repeat an experiment that has been conducted lord knows how many unreported times in the subway system since the early 1960s. It does, or at least should, make you wonder what's going on. After some eighty-five years of experimenting on us, there's little reason to believe they'd stop now.

Published May 14th, 2016

Jim Knipfel is the author of Slackjaw, The Blow-Off, These Children Who Come at You With Knives, and several other books.