Two political stories are taking shape that together symbolize everything that's wrong with this administration. On the one hand, Ted Stevens plans singlehandedly to interfere with the pandemic flu appropriations amendment passed by unanimous consent in the senate this week. A joint venture by Frist and Reid, who appeared together on ABC's Nightline to push this idea that pandemic flu is serious business:
The funding measure was sponsored by Democrats, who called H5N1 avian flu one of the greatest threats facing the country. "It's the midnight hour," Reuters quoted Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, as saying. "We have to get moving on it now, not next year, not after some study group in the White House bangs this thing around for another three months."
But the story said Sen. Ted Stevens, an Alaska Republican who is guiding the defense-spending bill through the Senate, promised to try to block the avian flu money, Reuters reported. He will have a chance to do that when House and Senate negotiators meet to forge a compromise on the bill, the story said. Stevens argued that the avian flu "has not yet become a threat to human beings," according to Reuters.
There have been reports that Bush would like this passed so as to use it as an example of leadership. Well, show some leadership, Mr. President.
Even worse is this piece from AJC:
Washington — Amid growing concerns that avian influenza will develop into a deadly pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is under fire by some in the scientific community for hoarding data crucial for vaccine development. The allegations come as CDC has issued new and controversial rules on what data, documents and other information it will — and will not — share with the public.
Open government advocates are critical of the CDC's "Information Security" manual, the 34-page document that gives officials 19 categories to shield data from public scrutiny without obtaining a "secret" classification.
That runs counter to CDC's mission, says Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists' project on government secrecy, which first published the leaked manual on its Web site.
"The CDC is not the CIA," Aftergood said. "Withholding data is not just bad public policy, it is bad science," he said, because it impedes the processes of peer review and the scientific replication of results. He called the CDC's policies "just baffling."
Tom Skinner, spokesman for CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding, could not respond when asked about the manual on handling "sensitive but unclassified" information, which was released July 22, because he had not seen it. He asked a reporter to e-mail a copy to him.
National security concerns
Upon further questioning, CDC spokesman Von Roebuck cited national security concerns. He said the agency has programs that require protection from disclosure, such as the locations and work of laboratories with such biological agents as smallpox or anthrax.
In its Sept. 22 issue, the journal Nature reported widespread concern among influenza researchers that too little flu data collected by the CDC are being made available for research, hindering their efforts to develop flu vaccines.
Great. Because we
smallpox bioterrorism, we interfere with the science [and opennness] needed to combat pandemic
flu. And this is a good idea because why? And what else is being
hidden... the rationing called for in the pandemic plan? The plan
It's not like these folks have given us a track record of competence to trust. But this combination of politics and pig-headedness comes at the worst possible time. The H5N1 virus in SE Asia may not, in the end, be the pandemic virus we fear. But how in the world can one plan for a pandemic with Laurel and Hardy in charge?
[Update]: More and better analysis here of the CDC secrecy idea.
The CDC manual is posted at the American Federation of Scientists project on government secrecy.