Leonard Cole Investigated Germ Warfare Tests on Public

Bioterrorism expert wrote 'Clouds of Secrecy' about 20-year secret program
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 30, 2022 3:40 PM CDT
He Investigated Army's Germ Warfare Tests in Public
Leonard Cole, in a screen grab from video.   (YouTube)

Leonard Cole, a bioterrorism expert who shed light on the Army's secret germ warfare tests conducted in public places, has died. He was 89 and died in Ridgewood, New Jersey, the New York Times reports. Cole was a dentist when he decided to become a political scientist and began investigating the Army program, which lasted from 1949 to 1969. Information about the open-air tests had been leaked to reporters in the 1970s, and a Senate hearing followed in 1977. Cole used information from the hearing and his own investigative work and interviews in writing the 1988 book, Clouds of Secrecy: The Army's Germ Warfare Tests Over Populated Areas. He found the Army had conducted 239 tests, which employed inert chemicals and bacteria that researchers thought to be harmless in the New York subway, the San Francisco skies, and other public spaces.

The goal was to learn how biological and chemical weapons might spread during a real attack, and the Army said no one was harmed. But Cole found a dozen people had been hospitalized with a rare pneumonia after San Francisco had been sprayed with an aerosol combination that included the bacterium Serratia marcescens, per the Times. One of the patients died. There was no finding that the illnesses were linked to the Army's spray, but Cole was bothered by the fact that the program didn't check for effects on the people caught in its tests. Some thought Cole exaggerated the risks to the public, while others praised his work. (Read the full story.)

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