Gary Crocker: The Soviet Union, far more than the United States, had built a huge system to decon the battlefield. I mean we had nothing like the big TMS-65's, the decon tanks, we had nothing like that. We didn't even know how to think in these grand terms, of it. So, I always assumed, we always assumed there were thousands of people working on decontamination and defense. That's not a surprise. And certainly, you know, it's easy if you're doing that, if that's what you're doing, that's a pretty legitimate thing. It seems you cross a threshold if you're working at Obolensk, and you know that you are testing something that has nothing to do with defense, that you are making plague, and it's something to kill people. You're not working on a defense against it. So, I mean, you've reached a point where you know that you're working on an offensive system here. But still, you can rationalize it that it's deterrents. That I have this, you know, so that they other guy knows I've got it, he won't use it kind of thing. And if you really believe that the United States still has a program, and is still... I could see... I understand completely: if you visited some of these clinics, and big think tanks who were working on a lot of new biotech genetic engineering, I mean that's all over this country, in universities and everywhere, so you say well that's, you know, they're just doing it at universities now, and that's perfectly believable in my view. I mean to believe that, that yeah, they don't have Pine Bluff anymore, but they're doing all this stuff, OK? And, you know, I think I could be, yeah I could see how you'd be convinced that what you were doing, you know, was legitimate. I understand that.
Slava Paperno: But for a scientist in a laboratory in Obolensk who's inventing a new strain of plague bacteria or plague bacillus, it would be difficult for him to justify to himself and explain it by saying we're doing this to develop a vaccine, to protect our people.
Gennadiy N. Lepeshkin: Well, first of all, every person who does this work does it voluntarily. He does this work and is paid money for it. If he doesn't want to do it, he can pick up and leave, resign and go look for another job. Let him go into clinical medicine or work in a hospital somewhere. But if he's chosen this route, then he's doing what he chose to do. That is his aesthetic [ethical] choice, if you will. A matter for his own conscience.
Paperno: When you've signed the paper stating that you have a security clearance to do classified work and have access to classified documents, you cannot just turn on your heel and leave.
Lepeshkin: Yes, you can.
Lepeshkin: You can. You write a statement, and you turn and leave. That's it.
Paperno: And what about your scientific career, your career in your field won't suffer as a result?
Lepeshkin: Why would it? You still have your experience, a head on your shoulders, knowledge. You go work somewhere else, and you work, doing the same work, though not with pathogens but with regular cells. After all, biological weapons work involves not only creating strains that kill. There are various types of research that go on along with it, to make detection and diagnostic methods and vaccine formulae. The range is very broad.
TMS-65: Soviet decontamination vehicle.