We've had occasion to discuss the boondoggle, Project Bioshield a number of times (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here). Maybe I should have said, quite a number of times. REally, though, it's hardly worth mentioning. Via the Clinician's Biosecurity Briefing, this:
The Project BioShield Act, passed in 2004, gives HHS "authorities to expedite research, development, acquisition, and availability of priority medical countermeasures for public health emergencies caused by terrorist attacks." This Congressionally mandated report covers progress on the uses of those authorities for the period from August 2006 through July 2007. Furthermore, the report places "the uses of [HHS's] authorities in the context of a broader view of [HHS's] activities in support of and surrounding public health emergency medical countermeasure preparedness."
According to the report, HHS used only one of the Project BioShield authorities that are subject annual reporting requirements during the report period when it exercised the authority to expedite peer review procedures for countermeasure research proposals. All medical countermeasures acquisitions were carried out using normal procedures.
Yes, that's right. The giveaways and enticements and begging and new authorities that were claimed to be absolutely necessary to protect the US population from bioterrorism have essentially not been needed because the usual procedures were adequate. The only extra authority used was to speed up peer review of proposals. One shudders to think what this meant in practice. I'd like to know what kind of mandated peer review was not done and for whom. Because in this administration of cronyism, incompetence and corruption, I think I've earned the right to be suspicious.
Bioshield is part of a huge biodfense scam, not designed to make us safer but to keep us scared and to enrich Big Pharma at the same time. We'll say it again. Biodefense: a bad idea whose time has come.
The notion that we have a law based on the premise that peer review is an unnecessary waste of time that needs to be skipped when Homeland Security(tm) is at stake makes me more than a touch queasy.
Seriously, did somebody actually, with a straight face, manage to argue that peer review is just slowing things down, and can be eliminated to make security faster? I'd almost rather it just be pure greed, not quite as mind-bogglingly thick that way.
The deep-sixing of the 4'th Amendment works the same way as elimination of the peer-review requirements do.
When you collect information the way it's being done now, just trawling the petabytes for "whatever turns up", whatever investigation you thought you were doing promptly dies through failure to scale. Nobody is going to effectively sift through that much data. Because there simply aren't enough analysts and there are never going to be.
The restrictions imposed by "probable cause" also act as a filter. You get a much smaller data set to analyze. This makes the people you have much more effective. And the odds that what you're examining is actually relevant are orders of magnitude higher.
"Probable cause" requirements aren't just there to protect the innocent. They are also there to nail the guilty with much greater certainty and effectiveness.
When you hear somebody argue for skipping "probable cause", you are listening to someone who is either a complete amateur, a complete fool, completely corrupt, or some combination of the three.
Peer review works the exact same way. And when you hear someone argue for skipping that step, it means the exact same thing.