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Did the Pentagon weaponize ticks with Lyme disease? Congress wants to know

In this July 31, 2014, photo, a lone star tick is displayed on a monitor in a lab at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, in Raleigh, N.C.
In this July 31, 2014, photo, a lone star tick is displayed on a monitor in a lab at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, in Raleigh, N.C.
AP

SALT LAKE CITY — A new amendment to the 2020 defense authorization bill would require the Department of Defense to report if they’ve experimented with ticks — of all things — as biological weapons.

According to Roll Call, the United States House of Representatives voted last week to require the Pentagon inspector general to report whether or not the Pentagon had weaponized insects like ticks. Rep. Christopher H. Smith, R-N.J., introduced the amendment into the defense bill on July 11, which was then passed.

According to the amendment, the inspector general will “conduct a review of whether the Department of Defense experimented with ticks and other insects regarding use as a biological weapon between the years of 1950 and 1975.”

If the Pentagon did experiment with ticks, then the inspector general will be asked to provide the House and Senate Armed Services committees with a report on the experiments. And they'll be asked to answer “whether any ticks or insects used in such experiments were released outside of any laboratory by accident or experiment design.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported each year.

Gizmodo reports that theories have existed for years that Department of Defense researchers at laboratories like Plum Island in New York and Fort Detrick in Maryland may have infected insects with Lyme disease before releasing them outside the lab.

Whether or not researchers actually did so is a fact Smith would like to know as soon as possible. The congressman is the co-chairman of the Congressional Lyme Disease Caucus, according to Smith’s website.

“We need answers and we need them now,” Smith said in an interview with Roll Call.

Smith's website also notes the congressman also helped pass the 21st Century Cures Act in 2016, which created the Tick-Borne Disease Working Group within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.