USIS Washington 

10 April 1998


(Roundtable includes scientists, foreign policy advisors) (570)

Washington -- President Clinton led a roundtable discussion April 10
with some of his senior foreign policy advisors and some of the
government's leading experts on genetic engineering and biological

"This is a subject the President had wanted to schedule time to get a
thorough briefing on, and then have a discussion about," White House
Press Secretary Mike McCurry told reporters.

The participants in the meeting talked about advances in technology
and the implications those advances pose for responding to the threat
of biological weapons, McCurry said.

Much of the discussion, he added, involved classified material
relating to threat assessments and how the United States responds to
particular scenarios.

The White House Press Secretary noted that Clinton had talked in his
State of the Union message to Congress in January about ways to
strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention and suggested that the
United States needs a new international inspection system to detect
and deter cheating.

In addition, Clinton felt it was very important for him to be fully
briefed on the dangers of genetic engineering, McCurry said.

Following is the White House announcement on the roundtable issued
prior to the event:

(begin text)


April 10, 1998

President Clinton will lead a roundtable discussion Friday morning on
genetic engineering and biological weapons. He will be joined by a
small group of outside experts and several Cabinet members.

The purpose of the roundtable is to discuss advances in technology and
their potential implications for controlling and responding to the
biological weapons threat. The President has a longstanding interest
in these issues. This roundtable discussion will provide him with an
opportunity to talk with some of the country's leading experts about
both the opportunities and the national security challenges posed by
genetic engineering and biotechnology.

In his State of the Union address, the President underscored the
importance of preventing the use of disease as a weapon of war or
terror by strengthening the Biological Weapons Convention with a new
international inspection system to detect and deter cheating. This is
one of the issues which will be addressed, along with domestic and
military efforts to respond to biological warfare threats.

Participants in the roundtable include:

Administration Participants:


Secretary of Defense William Cohen

Attorney General Janet Reno

Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala

Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet

National Security Advisor Sandy Berger

Deputy Chief of Staff John Podesta

Deputy Secretary of Defense John Hamre

Under Secretary of State John Holum

General Joseph Ralston, Vice Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff

Deputy National Security Advisor Jim Steinberg

Major General Don Kerrick, Deputy National Security Advisor

Kerri-Ann Jones, Acting Director,

  Office of Science and Technology Policy

Outside Experts:

RADM Frank Young

Former Head of the Office of Emergency Preparedness,

Public Health Service

Former Commissioner, FDA

Craig Venter

President, Institute for Genomic Research

Joshua Lederberg

Nobel Laureate

President Emeritus, Rockefeller University

Thomas Monath

Vice President, Oravax

Former Centers for Disease Control and U.S. Army Medical Research

Institute for Infectious Diseases Official

Lucille Shapiro

Professor of Genetics and Chairman of the Department of

Developmental Biology, Stanford University School of Medicine

Jerome Hauer

Director, Mayor's Office of Emergency Management for the City of

New York

Barbara Rosenberg

Director of Chemical and Biological Projects, Federation of

American Scientists

Research Professor of Environmental Science, State University of

New York

(end text)