By Chris Lane
By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
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By Craig Malisow
"It's absolutely diabolical," Garth Nicolson explains. "The likelihood of a single gene being transferred naturally into a mycoplasma is vanishingly small."
With the help of their intelligence sources, the Nicolsons concluded the biological weapon was created by Tanox Biosystems on Stella Link, a company with close ties to Baylor; that it was tested on inmates at the Walls Unit in Huntsville; and that it was sold to Saddam Hussein. Bodies were burned and records destroyed in Huntsville. A massive cover-up was under way, in part because George Bush and Jim Baker were Tanox investors.
(Bush and Baker were unavailable to comment on any of this, but David Anderson, executive vice president of Tanox, said they've never been associated with the company. To the best of Anderson's knowledge, Tanox has always been in the business of developing cures, he said, not diseases. As for the TDCJ's involvement, a spokesman for the prison system laughed and said, "Don't think so. That's just not true.")
Thereafter, Garth Nicolson devoted a lab in his department to mycoplasma research. As they began studying microorganisms, the espionage community began studying them, the Nicolsons say. Faxes and letters were intercepted, and "the phone company said they'd never seen so many taps on a phone," Nancy Nicolson recalls.
"It was a record," her husband adds.
Nancy Nicolson claims to have endured at least six attempts on her life. Assassins told her they saw her face and just couldn't pull the trigger. She says she was walking through the lobby at M.D. Anderson one day when a man in dark glasses stopped, opened a briefcase and showed her a gun with a silencer on it. He identified himself as an agent from the Department of Defense who had been sent to scare her. It was kind of absurd, she says. She laughed, and he ran away.
"It's been pretty dangerous," Nancy Nicolson says.
"But we've passed the most dangerous part," her husband says.
The danger subsided when, on the advice of their intelligence sources, the Nicolsons announced their suspicions publicly. Last September, in a seminar before M.D. Anderson's department of laboratory medicine, Nancy Nicolson told of the mycoplasma connection between Gulf War veterans and TDCJ employees in Huntsville. Then the Nicolsons found not their lives at risk, but their jobs.
Nancy Nicolson's relationship with M.D. Anderson was terminated then, she says. Garth Nicolson received a hand-delivered letter in October from LeMaistre. The cancer center has received numerous inquiries about this mycoplasma, LeMaistre explained, and he had discussed the matter at length with other administrators.
"We share a concern," the letter reads, "that scientific support for your statements needs to be reviewed and documented to protect both your reputation as a scientist and the Cancer Center's reputation as a cancer research facility."
The cancer center has no record of Nicolson's mycoplasma research, LeMaistre wrote, and administrators have not given authorization for it and can find no relationship between these studies and the cancer problem. He proposed a panel to review Nicolson's research and requested that until concerns were resolved, Garth Nicolson refrain from making public statements.
"It was clearly an unprecedented infringement on my academic freedom," Nicolson says, "and I would not tolerate it."
Nicolson believes Baker and Bush are friends with LeMaistre and pressured him to interfere. LeMaistre wouldn't speak with the Press, but through a spokesman he said his relations with Nicolson have nothing to do with Bush and Baker.
At any rate, Nicolson responded with a letter of his own. He admitted he had only preliminary evidence that Gulf War Syndrome was caused by biological warfare, but said the evidence had been presented as just that -- preliminary. As for peer review, he wrote that probably no one at the cancer center was qualified to review mycoplasma research, but he was consulting with researchers at other institutions. He promised LeMaistre he would call no more press conferences.
"You have my assurance that any future statements will be carefully drafted to insure that they are backed up by sound laboratory data," Nicolson wrote.
He was quiet until January, and then he and his wife began talking on radio shows again. The administration was apparently not convinced Nicolson had the data yet, for according to Nicolson, an administrator tried and failed to find reason to dismiss him.
The Nicolsons have continued to talk publicly since then. In an "unofficial" capacity, Nancy Nicolson continues to work as a consultant with office space in the department of tumor biology. They have a full-time volunteer now who takes telephone calls from people who believe they're suffering from Gulf War Syndrome. The volunteer asks these people to send blood samples, which are then tested in a department laboratory for mycoplasma infection by two full-time technicians. Nicolson does not charge for these tests, and he pays the technicians out of his own pocket. "It's cost us tens of thousands of dollars," he says. When results are positive, he mails a letter suggesting doxycycline.
Nicolson believes the mycoplasma is a deadly contagion. Nancy Nicolson says she's already detected infections among their neighbors. But because there is no evidence that Gulf War Syndrome is anything more than the many different maladies contracted by 700,000 soldiers during a foreign war, and because there is no evidence to prove doxycycline is a cure for it, and perhaps because of a government cover-up, doctors at military hospitals have not agreed to prescribe doxycycline to patients claiming to suffer from Gulf War Syndrome.