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Don't talk to Feds: Stark warning about scientist who tried to do the right thing

Don't talk to Feds: Stark warning about scientist who tried to do the right thing
Don't talk to Feds: Stark warning about scientist who tried to do the right thing

[If the facts are as the ProMED editors claim they are (and ProMED is a 
respectable source), this is beyond a disgrace. The federal agents and 
prosecutors responsible for this outcome should be the ones dishonored, 
fined, and imprisoned. Of course they're not. Remember, it is rarely in 
your own interest to cooperate with the Feds without a lawyer's 
involvement. If people begin to understand this, perhaps some good can 
come from Dr. Butler's travails. --Declan]

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Bioterrorism Prosecution - Thomas Butler
Date: Tue, 31 May 2005 16:49:32 -0500
To: Declan McCullagh  



* If you are a researcher, and lose track of some infectious agent,
think twice before reporting it.

* Never, never, never speak to a federal agent without legal counsel.

 From ProMED-mail, the email list of the International Society for
Infectious Diseases 


Thomas Butler, Physician- Scientist, prisoner
The paragraphs below are the abstract and edited summary of an
article in
Clinical Infectious Diseases 2005; 40:1644-8, entitled "Destroying
the Life
and Career.of a Valued Physician-Scientist Who Tried to Protect Us From
Plague: Was It Really Necessary?"

Thomas Campbell Butler, at 63 years of age, is completing the 1st
year of a
2-year sentence in federal prison, following an investigation and trial
that was initiated after he voluntarily reported that he believed vials
containing _Yersinia pestis_ were missing from his laboratory at
Texas Tech
University. We take this opportunity to remind the infectious diseases
community of the plight of our esteemed colleague, whose career and
have, as a result of his efforts to protect us from infection by this
organism, paid a price from which they will never recover.

In January 2003, Dr. Butler could not locate 30 vials of plague
and reported this to the safety officer at Texas Tech University; the
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was notified by Texas Tech
University, which resulted in  60 FBI agents rapidly descending upon
Tech University and the briefing of government officials, apparently
up to
the level of President George W. Bush. According to reliable sources,
Butler was questioned by FBI agents without legal counsel which he
because he felt he had nothing to hide, he had worked with the
military and
federal agencies for years on this and other projects, and he genuinely
wanted to help the FBI allay public fears. Testimony at the trial
that, after many hours of interrogation without sleep, and with the
assurance that such interrogation would prevent any legal action, he
a statement to the effect that the vials may have been autoclaved. He
then put in handcuffs and jailed, having been accused of lying to the
(a charge for which he was later acquitted).

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