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US Asks Scientists To Censor Reports To Prevent Terrorism

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the all-terrorists-are-like-the-bad-guys-in-mission-impossible dept.

Medicine 273

Following up on a disturbing story we discussed in November, Meshach writes "The United States is asking scientific journals publishing details about biomedical research to censor articles out of fear that terrorists could acquire the information. 'In the experiments, conducted in the United States and the Netherlands, scientists created a highly transmissible form of a deadly flu virus that does not normally spread from person to person. It was an ominous step, because easy transmission can lead the virus to spread all over the world. The work was done in ferrets, which are considered a good model for predicting what flu viruses will do in people.' The panel cannot force the journals to censor their articles, but the editor of Science, Bruce Alberts, said the journal was taking the recommendations seriously and would most likely withhold some information. Are we heading for another Rorschach-style cheat sheet being developed?"

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273 comments

Fuck you, Science (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38446330)

Fuck you, Science, I'll send my papers to Nature now!

the information has been PUBLICALLY presented... (5, Informative)

acidfast7 (551610) | more than 2 years ago | (#38446336)

... at several conferences. Anyone who wants the information can get it. This is RIDICULOUS (coming from a biochemist.)

Re:the information has been PUBLICALLY presented.. (4)

sociocapitalist (2471722) | more than 2 years ago | (#38446392)

From TFA: The panel said conclusions should be published, but not “experimental details and mutation data that would enable replication of the experiments.”

Have the "experimental details and mutation data" already been presented at these conferences, or only the conclusions?

Re:the information has been PUBLICALLY presented.. (5, Interesting)

acidfast7 (551610) | more than 2 years ago | (#38446404)

As far as I understand it, the soon-to-be-redacted information has already been publicly (wow, my spelling sucks) presented. I haven't seen it live, but everything could easily be cobbled together by someone with standard virology knowledge and the publicly presented information (mutational data with associated details.) Maybe someone who attended the actual conferences could speak up.

Re:the information has been PUBLICALLY presented.. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38446582)

you're right, your spelling does suck - i'm pretty sure that isn't how you spell "i just presumed i knew what i was talking about, but now you make me actually think about what i'm saying, i don't have a fucking clue"

Re:the information has been PUBLICALLY presented.. (2)

acidfast7 (551610) | more than 2 years ago | (#38446622)

lol. this story has been circulating for many, many months around Europe. Much before it gained media attention. It's a commonly-known fact that the mutations and the methodologies have been publicly presented. But, that's OK, I'm sure that you know more about the situation.

Re:the information has been PUBLICALLY presented.. (4, Insightful)

muon-catalyzed (2483394) | more than 2 years ago | (#38447144)

Streisand effect -- somebody tried to ban the paper and now even the nerds on Slashdot knows about it. It has made multiple hits on Reddit, Digg, Fark, the social networks, TV channels and the blogosphere. The whole internet is aware of it and talking about it. Finally it is time to suppress and censor the journals with a scientific Patriot act of sorts. Face palm.

Re:the information has been PUBLICALLY presented.. (5, Insightful)

bmo (77928) | more than 2 years ago | (#38446408)

âoeexperimental details and mutation data that would enable replication of the experiments.â

But the whole point of science is to see if results can be replicated or not. This is anti-science and pro-stupid and if taken to its logical conclusion means a drastic slowdown in research since people have to reinvent wheels for no reason except for bad movie plots.

Fuck this government-by-fear bullshit. Publish.

--
BMO

Re:the information has been PUBLICALLY presented.. (4, Interesting)

sociocapitalist (2471722) | more than 2 years ago | (#38446488)

There is arguably some science that we don't want in the public domain. Weapons tech comes to mind, of which this is an excellent example - particularly if the methods involved (and I am completely ignorant on this subject but generally speaking) don't require much to duplicate (ie easier to replicate than a nuclear bomb).

Re:the information has been PUBLICALLY presented.. (4, Insightful)

acidfast7 (551610) | more than 2 years ago | (#38446520)

then why fund it with public money (NIH funded this) which usually dictates that the information is placed into public domain.

Re:the information has been PUBLICALLY presented.. (4, Insightful)

sociocapitalist (2471722) | more than 2 years ago | (#38446836)

All military research is funded with public money and is not going to put into the public domain. This is research that has a military application and as such should perhaps have been more restrictive to start with.

I am not pro government and I am not at all against the sharing of information to further the good of human-kind.

I am, however, fully against the spread of weapon technology be it nuclear, chemical or as in this case, biological.

Re:the information has been PUBLICALLY presented.. (5, Informative)

Marc Madness (2205586) | more than 2 years ago | (#38447184)

This is research that has a military application and as such should perhaps have been more restrictive to start with.

Arguably, most research can have military application. If we start asking all such projects to self sensor themselves, the scientific process gets cut off at the knees. The dividing line between civilian and military applications is vacuous at best (think Internet).

Re:the information has been PUBLICALLY presented.. (3, Insightful)

phayes (202222) | more than 2 years ago | (#38446894)

Stop beating that ridiculous straw man. Publicly funded does not automatically imply publication to the public at large. The Manhattan project was also publicly funded yet even independently researched theses that describe the implementation of an A-bomb cave been classified.

Re:the information has been PUBLICALLY presented.. (4, Informative)

golden age villain (1607173) | more than 2 years ago | (#38446576)

Now that the whole world knows what it is about and since some of the results (if not all) have already been presented at public events, it seems likely that the information will anyway percolate to the scientific community at large in the years to come. Moreover, the virus does not seem like a very good weapon to me as it is simply impossible to control or contain its propagation once released. This is the reason why modern armies do not use gas for instance. The Germans tried it during the first world war and it proved to be rather unpredictable making it in effect useless.

Population reduction (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38446754)

What if some bigot doesn't care about it being controlled and just wants the world population thinned 90%?

Such a person/organization would be very quick to pull the trigger.

Re:the information has been PUBLICALLY presented.. (5, Insightful)

sociocapitalist (2471722) | more than 2 years ago | (#38446804)

Now that the whole world knows what it is about and since some of the results (if not all) have already been presented at public events, it seems likely that the information will anyway percolate to the scientific community at large in the years to come. Moreover, the virus does not seem like a very good weapon to me as it is simply impossible to control or contain its propagation once released. This is the reason why modern armies do not use gas for instance. The Germans tried it during the first world war and it proved to be rather unpredictable making it in effect useless.

That is a valid point that you're making, perhaps without quite meaning to. Fear of a virus spreading uncontrollably would not deter people who are willing to blow themselves up to make a point or to get to their enemies.

Re:the information has been PUBLICALLY presented.. (3, Informative)

onyxruby (118189) | more than 2 years ago | (#38446930)

The problem is that your assuming someone values control over the virus. Just as we once assumed that hijackers wanted to live after hijacking airplanes. It's a dangerous assumption to make.

A virus that would be out of control and could kill half the population of the world. It's an Eco-terrorists wet dream. Think of the carbon reduction from reducing the population by half? With one release of this virus you topple almost every government in the world, end globalization and meet just about every eco goal in existance.

Eco-terrorists are becoming increasingly radicalized, they already do things like break into research centers and release all of the animals into the wild without care for the fact that the animals will then all have to be euthanized. Assuming a bad guy is going to act rationally or have the same values as most people is a really good way to get screwed by the bad guys.

That being said, censorship is something I find abhorrently wrong, one of societies great evils. I'm just saying that something that would allow the weaponization of a biological agent arguably does rank up there with the fine details of how to build a nuclear bomb. Biological weapons of mass destruction were widely used in WW2 and killed far more people than the atomic bombs ever did.

I would have to imagine that the panel would have told them to go fish if there wasn't a reasonable basis for them asking to begin with. That being said I am far from qualified to know if this paper would raise that kind of concern. Their argument is valid, even if in this case they are wrong, I just don't know.

Re:the information has been PUBLICALLY presented.. (1, Insightful)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 2 years ago | (#38447710)

Throw in the religious Christian and Islamic radicals that believe in the rapture too and you've got a recipe for disaster. Or maybe a N. Korean that's all pissed off his Dear Leader kicked the bucket and realized his life was all a lie. Whatever. Censored or not, the information will get released or R&D will be thrown into making this with the full confidence that it can be done via announcement of this publication. Not to be Mr Doom & Gloom here, but this will get released sooner or later. I can only hope governments around the world start mass-producing a vaccine ASAP. This isn't a waste of time or money. It's exceedingly important that we treat this as an urgent matter.

Now that I think about it, producing the vaccine requires making the original virus in the first place right? It's not looking good I think.

Re:the information has been PUBLICALLY presented.. (1)

kiwix (1810960) | more than 2 years ago | (#38446952)

Moreover, the virus does not seem like a very good weapon to me as it is simply impossible to control or contain its propagation once released. This is the reason why modern armies do not use gas for instance.

The threat we are currently worried about is not a modern army, it's a bunch of crazy terrorists. They don't need to control the propagation.

Note: I'm not saying that we should be worried about terrorists plots, I'm just saying that, as a society, we are.

Re:the information has been PUBLICALLY presented.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38447174)

You are assuming that you are dealing with rational people.
Terrorist by their very nature are not rational. Especially those that believe in dying for their cause...

Re:the information has been PUBLICALLY presented.. (1)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 2 years ago | (#38447186)

...the virus does not seem like a very good weapon to me as it is simply impossible to control or contain its propagation once released

I can think of quite a few leaders who are about as unstable as any mutated form of virus. That instability didn't die with Kim Jong-Il. I certainly wouldn't take that bet.

Re:the information has been PUBLICALLY presented.. (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 2 years ago | (#38446580)

B-b-but information wants to be free!

Seriously though, it's really almost impossible to keep something like this locked up, especially when it's in a public research field. Okay, so let's say we start censoring scientific reports. What's to stop someone with "terrorist" leanings from becoming a biologist and learning how to do it firsthand? What's to stop, say, China, Russia, etc. selling secrets that they stole from another country on the black market?

Once something is discovered, it's almost impossible to put the genie back in the lamp.

Re:the information has been PUBLICALLY presented.. (1)

u38cg (607297) | more than 2 years ago | (#38446588)

If it's not in the public domain, it is almost by definition not science. And nukes are not that hard to do for a seriously committed organisation with a bit of cash to spend.

Re:the information has been PUBLICALLY presented.. (1, Insightful)

bmo (77928) | more than 2 years ago | (#38446652)

>arguably

This is a weasel word and to start a sentence with it means that the sentence is mealy-mouthed bullshit.

If you're going to censor, you need some evidence to justify it, not bad movie plots.

--
BMO

Re:the information has been PUBLICALLY presented.. (1, Insightful)

shiftless (410350) | more than 2 years ago | (#38446666)

There is arguably some science that we don't want in the public domain.

Bullshit. All information ends up in the public domain regardless. Excessive attempts to control it only result in the common man getting screwed over. We are eventually going to figure out how to make a super flu anyway, same as anyone today who was determined enough could build a nuclear weapon if they wanted, despite many years of secrecy. There is no point trying to hold this back.

Re:the information has been PUBLICALLY presented.. (3, Insightful)

sociocapitalist (2471722) | more than 2 years ago | (#38446872)

1) All information does not end up in the public domain and to think so implies a level of naivete a bit beyond belief.
2) 'The common man' does not need to know how to make nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. I'd just as soon that organizations that want to attack my society also not know how to make such weapons.
3) Where some few governments have succeeded, with the help of other governments, I'm sure there are a lot of people and organizations, not to mention countries, who have been very determined to make a nuclear weapon who have obviously failed or we'd know about it.

Re:the information has been PUBLICALLY presented.. (4, Insightful)

fearofcarpet (654438) | more than 2 years ago | (#38446702)

There is a huge difference between engineering plans for a weapon and the scientific research that underlies the technology; you cannot build a nuclear bomb knowing only the nuclear physics/chemistry of fission. Granted, in this particular case, the scientific discovery also contains the blueprints for creating the virus, but the authors are certainly not disclosing plans for making a biological weapon. In fact, you can construct a nuclear weapon without knowing any of the underlying science, but someone lacking extensive training in biochemistry/virology would not be able to reproduce the virus from this work from the experimental section of the their paper. And a nuclear weapon won't make itself. In this case, the authors have discovered that relatively small mutations can convert a benign virus into a deadly, pandemic-ready beast of a virus. Disclosing this information publicly will not change the probability of it occurring naturally through random mutation, will not enable your average terrorist to produce a weaponized virus, but it will spur the pro-active research of cures or preventative methods.

Think of it this way; I am a chemist. If I published a new and simple synthetic route to methamphetamine in Science, and then put photocopies of that paper under the windshield wipers of cars parked in front of every meth lab in the country, I would get sued by AAAS and exactly zero people in those labs would be able to utilize that information. If, however, I instead placed detailed, step-by-step instructions for how to perform that synthesis in a kitchen sink under those windshield wipers, then I would go to jail and make a lot of meth heads very happy. Science != Engineering

Re:the information has been PUBLICALLY presented.. (2)

sociocapitalist (2471722) | more than 2 years ago | (#38446904)

I understand your very well presented point. I'll focus on one bit, if you don't mind: "...someone lacking extensive training in biochemistry/virology would not be able to reproduce the virus from this work from the experimental section of the their paper."

The problem comes in when you have people are are extensively trained in biochemistry/virology who might be able to do something with the information under discussion.

Similarly, it's not beyond believe to think that the organizations (in Mexico for example) making meth might be able to take your research and do something with it, even if the home brewers couldn't.

Re:the information has been PUBLICALLY presented.. (1)

fearofcarpet (654438) | more than 2 years ago | (#38447024)

Fair enough, though I think the argument then boils down to the open-source vs closed-source security argument. In this particular case, I would wager that there are a lot more "white hats" (e.g., academic scientists) than "black hats" (e.g., terrorists with the know-how to engineer a virus) looking at the source code. Also, a pay-walled scientific journal further inhibiting access to publicly-funded research by redacting experimental protocols, particularly just to avoid bad publicity from layman/journalists/politicians, makes my blood boil.

Re:the information has been PUBLICALLY presented.. (4, Insightful)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | more than 2 years ago | (#38447240)

Biological engineering is incredibly cheap compared to nuclear engineering.

The main reason that nuclear weapons are not more of a threat is that uranium enrichment is such an expensive process. The economic and manufacturing activity associated with doing it is easy to spot. Chemical weapons require feedstocks that are often tracked. It's harder to control, because the level of activity required to produce a successful weapon is much lower.

You could make a biological weapon in a lab with a few tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment, a small team or a lone worker, and sufficient patience. The base materials (biological samples) are available for a few hundred dollars from any number of lab supply companies. You don't need large scale manufacturing to make it effective - bacteria and viruses have this neat property that they will arrange to manufacture themselves. The main constraint on biological weapon manufacture is thus the availability of skills and knowledge, which are becoming much cheaper and easier to obtain.

I also abhor the censorship, but they do have a point. It's a shame they have the wrong response - if the knowledge is already out there (and from comments here, it is), then making a fuss about it will only draw attention from the kind of nutjobs they want to prevent using it. I wouldn't be surprised if radical organizations and individuals are already investigating the requirements to set up their own labs, in response to this.

I'm not sure what the right response would be. Mostly to grow up as a society and stop alienating people to the point where they decide that the solution to their problems with the rest of society is to eliminate as much of it as possible. But I really have no idea how to achieve that.

Re:the information has been PUBLICALLY presented.. (1)

sFurbo (1361249) | more than 2 years ago | (#38446726)

No, no there isn't. Weapons aren't normally very dangerous, at most you can kill tens of people before the authorities get to you. That is a sacrifice I am willing to make in order to live in a free society. More dangerous weapons will either get yourself killed (nerve gas), or demands quite some investments (nuclear bombs). And such censorship isn't going to be succesful anyway, if there were an easy way to kill thousands of people, that knowledge would seep out no matter what. By far the best ways to avoid terrorism is a) Have an effective inteligence service (you do not need to give up rights to have this) and b)stop pissing people off (that in and of itself will not be 100% effective, as some people will always have an irrational reason to do terrorism, but it can minimize the job of the intelligence service).

Re:the information has been PUBLICALLY presented.. (1)

RandomAvatar (2487198) | more than 2 years ago | (#38446790)

ALL science should be made available to the public domain. By censoring information there is a chance at people using it for evil, but also a chance people will use it for good. If people do choose to use it for evil however, it is the governments job to protect it's people, not to remove information that could be used for good.

No matter how much the information gets censored, unless they censor it to the point that its discovery becomes pointless, it would not be too difficult to gain the information. All you would have to do is get into that area of expertise, and if you can understand everything they are saying in their reports and have easy access to the materials needed to repeat them, chances are the person already is, and has access to that information anyways.

Re:the information has been PUBLICALLY presented.. (2)

sociocapitalist (2471722) | more than 2 years ago | (#38446908)

Militarily applicable research is generally fairly well protected. This research should probably have been kept 'in house' if it's something that the government is worried about.

I'm sorry but I just don't agree that all science should be available to everyone.

Re:the information has been PUBLICALLY presented.. (3, Insightful)

Kythe (4779) | more than 2 years ago | (#38447548)

99% of people and researchers who saw this research would use it for good, or would try to. Unfortunately, the true ratio is irrelevant. Out of the billions of people on earth, all it would take is one competent person who wanted (for whatever reason) to wreak real havoc. If the virus in question maintained the lethality that H5N1 has displayed in bird-to-human transmission, you're literally looking at billions of lives at risk.

Re:the information has been PUBLICALLY presented.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38446934)

Other countries having nuclear weapons put an effective stop to using those weapons in a war.

I can understand why a war-loving dictator wouldn't like that, but for the rest of humanity it seems like a good thing.

Re:the information has been PUBLICALLY presented.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38447204)

"As the Americans learned so painfully in Earth's final century, free flow of information is the only safeguard against tyranny. The once-chained people whose leaders at last lose their grip on information flow will soon burst with freedom and vitality, but the free nation gradually constricting its grip on public discourse has begun its rapid slide into despotism. Beware of he who would deny you access to information, for in his heart he dreams himself your master."

Commissioner Pravin Lal
"U.N. Declaration of Rights"

Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri (Videogame)

Re:the information has been PUBLICALLY presented.. (1)

jduhls (1666325) | more than 2 years ago | (#38447642)

science that we don't want in the public domain

If science is our current empirical understanding of the nature of reality, then, by definition, isn't it already in the public domain? /ducks

Re:the information has been PUBLICALLY presented.. (1)

MitchDev (2526834) | more than 2 years ago | (#38446668)

No kidding. As the government noose tightens around the citizens necks even tighter...

Re:the information has been PUBLICALLY presented.. (2)

sFurbo (1361249) | more than 2 years ago | (#38446688)

From TFA:

the editor of Science, Bruce Alberts, said the journal was taking the recommendations seriously and would probably withhold some information — but only if the government creates a system to provide the missing information to legitimate scientists worldwide who need it.

(emphasis mine). How that would be accomplished is left as a problem for the reader, though.

This is, of course, from the same man who later says

“I wouldn’t call this censorship,” Dr. Alberts said. “This is trying to avoid inappropriate censorship.”

So it isn't censorship, because they do it to avoid repercussions. That man is in serious need of a dictionary.

Re:the information has been PUBLICALLY presented.. (1)

flyneye (84093) | more than 2 years ago | (#38446724)

I suspect this will go farther than science. I can picture engineering on the board too. Can you just see engineering diagrams with black rectangles covering the controversial piece? How about self-defense classes? Poli-Sci classes? Police training? Military? What other parts of life will our Repubmocrat overlords throw to bureaucrazy ? Once started they know no bounds. Remember when we used to have Constitutional rights that
a child could understand until the supreme court interpreted it for the benefit of the Repubmocrat overlords over the last century?

          I think this censorship is just smoke and mirrors for whatever they are REALLY going to do.

Re:the information has been PUBLICALLY presented.. (1)

DarkOx (621550) | more than 2 years ago | (#38446594)

that would enable replication of the experiments.

So the government is banning good science then.

Re:the information has been PUBLICALLY presented.. (1)

Darfeld (1147131) | more than 2 years ago | (#38446394)

Keep it quiet! If we say it don't exist, maybe reality can be fooled.

Re:the information has been PUBLICALLY presented.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38446396)

The US is ridiculous...

Corrected that for you.

Re:the information has been PUBLICALLY presented.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38446634)

his is anti-science and pro-stupid and if taken to its logical
conclusion means a drastic slowdown in research since people
have to reinvent wheels for no reason except for bad movie plots.
seo consultant [seowebconsultant.net]

Re:the information has been PUBLICALLY presented.. (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#38446944)

Also from what I've heard, anyone who might have the education and resources to create such a virus can already get enough information from the little hints that have been dropped early on, so attempting to cover up the information at this point is just whipping up the Streisand Effect.

Watch out! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38446356)

The terrorists are here! And the pedophiles! And the video games!

It's the apocalypse! Ban and censor everything!

Re:Watch out! (1)

JosKarith (757063) | more than 2 years ago | (#38446400)

First they came for the Whistleblowers but I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Whistleblower.
Then they came for the Scientists...

Government concerns (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38446362)

Suppose our enemies used the research to develop a vaccine? Then the research will have been wasted.

Once again (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38446422)

WHY would anyone do this. It's just asking for trouble.

I mean hell. It's on the list of stuff that might wipe out humans.
And it's one of the few we have any chance of doing something about. And the one most likely to be created by people...

Stop fucking around with germs already!

Re:Once again (2)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 2 years ago | (#38446630)

Because nature will inevitably find a way to recreate those research results on it's own.
Atleast now we can be one step ahead of it and start researching ways to combat the virus before it's here.

How long did it take them to actually DO it? (5, Insightful)

msobkow (48369) | more than 2 years ago | (#38446438)

Was this something that they were able to do in a day after getting the idea?

A week?

A year?

I got my original idea of inverting a LALR parser in late 1986 in a 400-series compiler course. I remember discussing it with my lab partner, who's now a professor with Queen's University, specializing in (what else) compiler theory.

That was the inception, the spark, the egg-gets-knocked-up moment.

Gestation lasted 25 years for it to grow into something worthy of being turned into a product or service.

Ideas cannot be stopped or prevented; the risk of an idea being used by a terrorist depends on how much effort and luck is required to go from idea to implementation.

Just because the drug cartels are building custom narco-subs and fielding entire cell phone networks doesn't mean even they have the funding and tenacity to do bioweapons research on this scale or level of complexity, so I don't feel at ALL threatened by terrorists because of this research or it's publication.

Just another case of patriotic fervour and artificial fear being used to paint the world as a scarier and more dangerous place than I believe it is.

Perhaps most importantly, I believe their is risk to everything you choose to do, including the risk of your work being abused. No amount of legislation, threat, or outrage will prevent it, so I believe the benefits of open R&D far outweigh the risks of "terrorists might figure it out."

The United States of Dumberica: Home of Chicken Little Security Politics since 9/11

You fools -- you let the terrorists win. You let them change you at the heart and soul of what the country used to be about.

Re:How long did it take them to actually DO it? (3, Interesting)

CAPSLOCK2000 (27149) | more than 2 years ago | (#38446502)

From what I've read about it the work they did was not very hard (for an experienced scientist). It is a rather classic case of evolutionary improvement. Take a bunch of ferrets, infect them with the flu, take the most effective strain of the virus and feed it to the next group of ferrets. Repeat until you get a virus with the desired properties.

It takes some time and some experience but it is well within the reach of any sufficiently funded and properly motivated organisation.

Re:How long did it take them to actually DO it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38446530)

While I don't agree with the alarmist attitude the censors have put forth in this case I would argue that their publication of this would take it from "bioweapons research" to merely "bioweapons manufacturing." These are concepts that are worlds apart.

Re:How long did it take them to actually DO it? (2, Interesting)

bky1701 (979071) | more than 2 years ago | (#38446554)

"You fools -- you let the terrorists win. You let them change you at the heart and soul of what the country used to be about."

No, not really. We were cowards pretty much since the Civil War. We only ended up joining the two world wars when we thought they might go a way that would hurt us, but in both cases after they had already been largely decided by others. The cold war saw the red scare, which was actually far worse than "the war on terror," with the government shamelessly locking up people for saying the wrong thing. At least now they have the courtesy to lie about it.

Re:How long did it take them to actually DO it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38446640)

Was this something that they were able to do in a day after getting the idea?
A week?
A year?

Does it matter? Scientific journals don't publish just ideas, they publish detailed instructions how to reproduce the result, after all, that's the core of science.

Re:How long did it take them to actually DO it? (1)

adamchou (993073) | more than 2 years ago | (#38446690)

Its absolutely wrong to censor the entire study to the whole world. However, that's not what the article is talking about. There is no reason that you, or I, need to get my hands on this information, regardless of how interesting it is. They are talking about making sure that the experiment in full can be shared with other scientists that would be able to find this information useful.

The only way to win the war on terror: (3, Insightful)

MRe_nl (306212) | more than 2 years ago | (#38446440)

Grow a pair.

Re:The only way to win the war on terror: (1)

cbope (130292) | more than 2 years ago | (#38446946)

Except that the "war on terror" can never be "won".

This IS the solution (4, Insightful)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 2 years ago | (#38447112)

Grow a pair and ignore them.

I fixed that for the GP. The way to combat terror is to not be afraid of "them." That's the whole point of a terrorist - to create fear. They can't actually do much physical damage, as they're too small. Dropping all of the public security that was put in back in 2001, and funneling even half of that theater money into coordination of intelligence and PSAs about how safe a place the first world really is would do far, far more to combat "terror" than the entire government and media playing an unintentional, supporting role in the terror plan.

More troops were killed - by an order of magnitude - and more foreign civilians were killed - by almost 3 orders of magnitude - than died on 9/1/2001 in both towers. Trillions of dollars - more than the entire Wall Street bailout and recovery stimulus - have been spent or lost in productivity due to the reaction to that "attack" - a third of which was foiled by average citizens on the third plane with no training and no advanced knowledge of the attack.. All as a result of our "reaction", the terrorists had their effort multiplied thousands of times.

If you stop fearing a terrorist, you take most of their power away from them. So, yes - all we really need to do is grow a pair.

Re:This IS the solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38447350)

If a known organization causes 5000+ deaths, you can be damn sure they're going to get payback. Whether the response was overkill or not is another matter, but ignoring them isn't as effective as systematically dismantling them. The hard part is to determine whether or not they're trying to manipulate you into a particular response.

Re:The only way to win the war on terror: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38447006)

Grow a pair.

If you tell people that they'll scream you're "racist."

How about restricting access to ferrets? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38446450)

Although I suppose if you outlaw ferrets, then only outlaws will have ferrets.

editor taking recommendations seriously? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38446458)

Does this mean we shouldn't take Science seriously any more?

This will definitely work! (2)

SeaFox (739806) | more than 2 years ago | (#38446470)

After all, there's no way a terrorist organization could have their own scientists doing research for them into these things.

Re:This will definitely work! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38446556)

For example - the USA!

SEO Consultant (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38446570)

There is arguably some science that we don't want in the public domain.
Thanks for sharing.
seo consultant [seowebconsultant.net]

A new way to get on _the_ list... (1)

Coisiche (2000870) | more than 2 years ago | (#38446602)

Buy some ferrets and then keep an eye open for the agent assigned to tail you and observe your behaviour.

1984 Terrorists (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38446632)

They are sensoring this study so only american biomedic companies have the technology to deal with it, hence they will be the only ones selling it when the disease is released in the wild... terrorists my ass...

Terrorists really? (1)

golden age villain (1607173) | more than 2 years ago | (#38446642)

Osama did not crash a plane against the twin towers, he sent other people to do it for him. People running terrorist organisations are not crazy, just power hungry. Blow up a dirty bomb in the middle of NYC? Sure, they are not going to be anywhere near NYC when it happens and they can watch it on TV. Releasing a deadly flu virus which will wipe out 60% of mankind? When you are yourself an ageing man living in a vastly agricultural region with little to no modern infrastructures? No thanks.

Re:Terrorists really? (1)

impaledsunset (1337701) | more than 2 years ago | (#38446786)

You've got to be careful when you're assuming about their reasoning, though. They might not know or realize the speed with which a virus could potentially spread. They might think that if it is released in the USA, it will stay in the USA, somehow magically obeying country borders. This might be because they do not know or care there are other countries in America, or because they think that human deceases can be contained by border control, because of the existence of such control designed for animal pathogens. And it's on the other side of the planet, how could it possibly affect us?

This knowledge *is* potentially dangerous, there's no need to deny that. In this case, however, it's one of the reasons the information should be released -- the chances of creating a vaccine are much higher if it is widely known, and if someone is crazy enough they'd find ways to replicate this research regardless of any censorship attempts. On top of that, a similar virus might naturally form sometime soon, and we shouldn't take that chance.

I think I'd be more worried... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38446732)

...about the US Government getting dangerous information.

Idiocracy via Chilling Effect (1)

cffrost (885375) | more than 2 years ago | (#38446818)

So far, we've had policy-makers acting ignorantly (or worse) in response to- (or, in my opinion, in the manufacture and perpetuation of-) "terrorism."

Now we have an example of a directive that seeks to spread ignorance among those of us who have the lowest tolerance for ignorance; i.e., geeks, nerds, scientists, engineers, researchers, students and teachers, et al.

This political mindset gives me the same sickness in my stomach that the DMCA's anti-research/anti-publish provisions caused.

My admiration and thanks go to all of those who've leaked or published their "illegal information," repercussions be damned.

Flu virus with 95% mortality (4, Insightful)

Frans Faase (648933) | more than 2 years ago | (#38446832)

The article explains how the N1H5 (bird) flu virus, which has a 95% mortality rate for humans, can be genetically modified into a version that would be transmittable from human to human. If such a virus would get out into the wild, it could decimate human population on earth.

Re:Flu virus with 95% mortality (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38446890)

At least madagascar would be ok!

Re:Flu virus with 95% mortality (3, Insightful)

Kythe (4779) | more than 2 years ago | (#38447394)

This is one of the most relevant comments on this entire story (though Wikipedia puts the current human mortality figure at around 60%).

No, we don't want to censor information. But we DO, in certain cases.

No, in general it's not good for society if scientific information is withheld. But if this baby gets out, would we still HAVE a society? This is truly a nightmare scenario: a virus with mortality rates comparable to ebola, as transmissible as the common flu.

I truly do understand the arguments for putting information out there. But think for a moment about what happens if a suicidal person gets ahold of this, or a religious zealot who thinks it won't affect him or his flock, or some other nut who believes it won't affect him or that society is too sick to go on, etc., etc. All it would take is one.

We're not talking about someone grabbing a high powered rifle and gunning down a few people in a public square (as bad as that can be). We're talking potentially billions dead.

Re:Flu virus with 95% mortality (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38447652)

Oooh, I remember this one. Then Randall Flagg accidentally blows up Las Vegas, right?

Censor science reports to prevent Terrorism? (2)

FunkyLich (2533348) | more than 2 years ago | (#38446856)

I can see some discussions which kind of mention the recent virus experiment, or the weapon technology, as a way to partly agree with what TFA is about. How I see all this is under a different light though. Scientific research is science. It is not something which necessarily has to do with weapon, or war, or terrorism and such. Technology is simply technology and it remains such no matter how one puts it into use. It is like withholding information on how to produce high quality steel because it will be used to make very sharp swords, or nuclear energy and research is bad and information about it should be restricted because such knowledge is involved in producing bombs. One doesn't need a knife to commit murder, a fork can serve just as well. Awareness and choice on how technology is used has nothing to do with technology itself. If the concern is at such level that technology will be used for harm, the problem lies with the functioning of the social system, or what values the population has come to appreciate, or what classifies as justice and the feeling of whether it is applied justly or selectively, and so on. It most probably is not a problem of technology. Trying to solve whatever problem it really is by covering it with the veil of 'harmful tech' is burying the head in sand towards the real problem.

Re:Censor science reports to prevent Terrorism? (1)

adosch (1397357) | more than 2 years ago | (#38446922)

It is like withholding information on how to produce high quality steel because it will be used to make very sharp swords, or nuclear energy and research is bad and information about it should be restricted because such knowledge is involved in producing bombs.

I was onboard until your argument produced holes in it. I agree with what I quoted, but tell me the benefit of making a deadly flu virus that doesn't spread over it's natural means? That doesn't provide a barrier to improve anything in my world. If anything someone funded it to do just that: Have scientific evidence for a terrorism report. Should we censor ourselves from providing information like this? Totally.

There are many other ways to massage a scientist's ego than let them do a dog-and-pony show to prove their funding was actually used for something. I don't think it advantageous to share things like this at all.

... And this is why I live in a bunker on the moon (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | more than 2 years ago | (#38447010)

Obviously science should be able to exchange papers and ideas. But try to have some tact about it. Indifferent to this specific incident we don't want making super plagues to become any easier then it already is right now. Just keep private enough of the information that the report will not aid or inspire one of the various blood thirsty dictators or mad dog terrorist organizations to replicate it.

If this isn't something people feel like taking seriously then fine.

I'm going back to my bunker on the moon to make myself a banana smoothy. So long suckers.

Not a great weapon (2)

MjDelves (811950) | more than 2 years ago | (#38447020)

Umm. Is it just me, but even ignorant terrorists must be able to work out that creating and releasing a highly transmissible lethal flu virus is a bit stupid. Judging by most recent flu pandemics, they travel everywhere, not just the country/people/religion you hate. Not very targeted. How about a nuke instead?

H5N1 infection rates (2)

miketheanimal (914328) | more than 2 years ago | (#38447064)

Aside to the main topic, is there actually any data on how many people were infected with H5N1. Around the time of the last big scare (late 2009 in the UK IIRC) it seemed to me that a lot of people (myself and my wife and a lot of people we knew, and anecdotally in the population at large) got unusually bad colds and chest infections and what-not, that took a long time to shake off. FTA, "The virus, A(H5N1), causes bird flu, which rarely infects people but has an extraordinarily high death rate when it does" .... are there actually useful figures from random sampling amongst the population, or it is based on people being actively diagnosed with the infection and their subsequent death rate? Call me a cynic, but I have the feeling that there is a significant chance that the number of people infected was much larger than commonly supposed, adn the death rate correspondingly much smaller.

The Stand (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38447104)

Read "The Stand."

Watch what happens when hell breaks loose and the government works to quarantine and censor everything having to do with it.

Well, at least I know how I'll go out. Screw you all.

So where's the NRA on this? (1)

hyades1 (1149581) | more than 2 years ago | (#38447106)

Funny how US legislators slavishly chant the National Rifle Association mantra that if guns are made illegal, only criminals will have guns. Yet for something like this, refereed scientific journals are supposed to censor themselves, lest terrorists get hold of information they could probably find on-line with a 15-minute Google search.

It's so nice to know they actually understand the problem and are cynically ignoring it. The alternative is even MORE frightening.

Re:So where's the NRA on this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38447360)

What does any of this have to do with rifles? Why would the NRA want to even comment outside of their organization's scope?

when they pry the ferret from my cold dead hands? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38447686)

Interesting analogy of distinguishing the "possession of tools" from "mal-intent"

However, there are things where knowhow is restricted, while basic science isn't (ITAR and other export control laws). The challenge is always in finding the dividing line, because it's a judgment call, not a bright line test. We've been doing this for decades for electrical engineering/physics stuff, so maybe it's just time for the biologists to do the same?

IMO, more dangerous than H-Bomb blueprints (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38447160)

At least an H-Bomb still needs to be built - using somewhat-hard-to-obtain materials - and physically delivered to its target.

Now yes - if indeed the cat's out of the bag already, then I agree, the censorship is pointless, and in general I do - strongly - oppose any censorship of science.

But folks - however noble the researchers' intentions, this IS a biological doomsday weapon, perhaps THE doomsday bio-weapon. The existence of this virus - and data on how to make it - is inherently dangerous. If the research leads to a vaccine and/or treatment, that's great - and should be the very top priority for those who created this beast.

But let's be clear; would-be mass murderers can do research too, and they also read the scientific journals. If THEY need to reinvent a few wheels to achieve their aims, that's a good thing.

Which American Agency (1)

Goboxer (1821502) | more than 2 years ago | (#38447254)

As I am sure many people are aware, the US government is a sprawling organization so it might be useful to know which department this comes from.

The request was made by the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity which falls under the umbrella of the National Institute of Health, which is an agency for the US Department of Health and Human Services. According to wikipedia the USDHHS is the biomedical and health related agency like how the National Science Foundation is the science and engineering related agency.

Peer Review (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38447256)

Not only have I invented time travel, cold fusion and found Elvis. But I have also solved world hunger. But because of 'security' all the proof has been redacted.

But it'd be nice if you guys could just peer review this and say I'm telling the truth anyway.

Thanks.

Should Never Have Been Done (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38447378)

This work should never have been done. There are countless more important and more valuable activities that need to be done besides genetically engineering a virus that kills all humans. The virus should be completely destroyed and these people need to start working on something constructive.

No, I don't think it should be published! There are a few things that we do NOT need to teach each other. Genocide is one of them.

The thing about terrorism (1)

pinkeen (1804300) | more than 2 years ago | (#38447382)

The thing about terrorism is that the terrorists want to create fear not total destruction. There is no fear when there is nobody that can fear. I think that almost nobody would be mentally capable of unleashing non-discriminating, globally effective bio-weapon.

Only the ones with serious mental health problems seem to have the goal of just wreaking havoc. But this is marginal, and this are single people not organisations so hopefully they don't have resources to do much harm. Well, maybe breiving is the exception that proves the rule.

Re:The thing about terrorism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38447440)

Sorry, I meant "Breivik"

The Vaccine Already Exists (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38447450)

If the paper is published, yes the terrorists may be able to reproduce the virus.

But, civilians may be able to create an antidote or vaccine against the virus.

Now who would want case #2 not to happen..especially if a vaccine already exists, but is not published.

Who would stand to gain from a very profitable vaccine?..or from the deaths of many?

Change is coming indeed, get ready.

Thinning of the herd is coming.

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