by Lieutenant Colonel Tom “Buzz” Rempfer, USAF retired
President Donald J. Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Trump,
Sir, I am a retired USAF military officer and pilot. I have 5,500+ hours of flight time as an F-16 flight lead, a F-117 instructor pilot, a C-130 aircraft commander, and an A-10 forward air controller. I instructed and evaluated MQ-1 and MQ-9 missions. I hold a Master’s degree from Naval Postgraduate School and graduated with distinction from the USAF Academy, where I was an All-American boxer.
I am also a fearless parent; a devoted father of three children. Like you, I take my responsibilities very seriously.
I have a final mission and I need your help
My final mission for the Department of Defense involves correcting service records for approximately 1,000 troops who were punished because they refused to comply with the anthrax vaccine mandate during the time-frame when the program was deemed illegal by federal courts.
Too many of my loyal compatriots have been wrongfully punished over the DoD’s anthrax vaccine program.
I respectfully submit this second appeal to you, my President and Commander-in-Chief.
Our correspondence about a grave injustice
My first letter to you is available here.
And this was your response.
Military records should be corrected
Thank you for your reply. You acknowledged my letter and, significantly, you did not deny my request for a draft Executive Order granting pardons, reprieves, or corrections to military records.
But, based on the generic nature of the response, I remain uncertain if you were personally made aware of my appeal and the facts supporting my suggestions.
Pending a negative reply, I will be persistent.
An Executive Order to pardon soldiers
As our new President, with important powers granted under the Constitution, you possess the authority and ability to correct history. You can remedy past wrongs and correct our service member’s records through pardons or reprieves.
Accompanying my letter, I also sent you this proposed draft of an Executive Order. I appealed to your paternal responsibilities as both our President and Commander-in-Chief of our nation’s armed forces.
Twenty years ago the government and military broke the rules; punished many who justifiably questioned their actions; and failed to fully investigate legitimate concerns. The DoD’s anthrax vaccine mandate defied operational military common sense and good government.
The Pentagon has not corrected records to-date due to the military court rulings held that the order was “presumed” to be legal at the time, notwithstanding the federal court rulings that it was not. Absent an overarching Executive Order correcting records based on the evidence supporting the illegalities, it seems fair and just to consider unilateral upgrades to characterizations of discharge in accordance with military precedent cases. This compromise remedy does not re-adjudicate the basis of past disciplines, but instead removes the “stigmatizing” narratives previously associated with anthrax vaccine refusal based on passage of time.
My research into the mandate stopped me cold
My letter and draft Executive Order were supplemented by these talking points that reinforce the case for justice.
The basis of my appeal rests on the idea that we follow rules and procedures because we trust. We trust our families, our workplaces, and our government. This is especially true in the military. Rules are meant to keep us safe. When we don’t follow rules, we get into trouble. My parents and the DoD taught me this simple rule and it guided me through childhood and a big part of my professional life.
My research into the anthrax vaccine stopped me cold:
- 1985: DoD admits there is “no vaccine in current use which will safely and effectively protect military personnel against exposure to this hazardous bacterial agent.”
- 1997: FDA issues a Notice of Intent to Revoke (NOIR) the licensure of the anthrax vaccine due to quality control deviations.
- 1998-1999: FDA deems the manufacturing process for anthrax vaccine “not validated.” DoD implements anthrax vaccine mandate anyway.
- 2001: The anthrax vaccine program, poised to be canceled, is resuscitated due to political pressure applied by the anthrax letter attacks, later determined to have been perpetrated by a DoD insider.
- 2003: Federal courts rule vaccine “investigational” and the DoD mandate illegal and orders a halt to the anthrax vaccine program (violation of 10 USC §1107 regarding mandatory use of an unlicensed and statutorily experimental vaccine). Congressional reports SR 103-97 and HR 106-556 (“Unproven Force Protection”) questioned safety and efficacy of the vaccine, along with many GAO reports.
- 2005: FDA licenses anthrax vaccine.
- 2007: DoD renews anthrax vaccination. DoD officials do not correct troops’ records, despite documented illegalities.
The rest of this letter provides deeply worrisome background details, including intentional anthrax attacks by a DoD insider designed to engineer support for a failing vaccine program, and examples of the FBI’s mishandling of the unlawful violence and intimidation.
Long history of attempts for justice
We worked long and hard internally, within the military, as we were trained. Our efforts to bring attention to the dangers of the anthrax vaccine and correct the wrongs inflicted upon innocent service people started almost 20 years ago. The late Lieutenant Colonel Russell Dingle was the moral and intellectual backbone of our efforts. Russ was a father and a fighter pilot.
When we learned that the anthrax vaccine was experimental and unlicensed, we fulfilled our duty, as outlined in military law, by informing the chain of command that the mass mandatory immunization order was “patently illegal.” And evidence continued to mount.
We were not anti-vaccine. We simply cautioned our DoD that they were breaking the law.
We also spent many years correcting the improper licensing and misstatements by DoD and FDA officials, and the damage their misinformation caused to our troop’s careers, only to find these former government officials are now working for the very manufacturer they defended by promoting the threat and the unapproved, experimental, and investigational vaccine.
Inequitable and inconsistent treatment
After internal efforts failed, LtCol Dingle and I chose to speak out out publicly. We were unable to convince the chain of command to change their anthrax vaccine policy. Our military careers, however, continued. This served to highlight the grossly inequitable treatment of other service members who were disciplined. Those punishments conflicted with the consistency requirements of the “Uniform” Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).
LtCol Dingle and I refused the vaccine based on our research findings after serving as members of a formal military investigative team appointed by our chain of command. We were not punished per se, other than being ‘ordered to resign’ from our combat aviation assignments. The inequitable treatment, compared to other soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who were punished or jailed, can only be explained by the possibility that the Pentagon did not want to highlight the overt illegalities our research uncovered.
The disparate treatment alone may provide ample justification for you as our Commander-in-Chief to correct the military service records of troops who were punished over a vaccine that was known to be experimental, “investigational,” and illegal according to DoD’s own documents.
Number games, service members’ lives
Reports indicate that at least 500 to 1,000 military members were disciplined over the anthrax vaccine through non-judicial punishment, and as many as 100 faced judicial court martial during the time frame the anthrax vaccine program was deemed illegal, with some serving jail time.
Because the military has the ability to impose lesser disciplines through administrative corrective actions, such as reprimands, it is likely the actual numbers are much higher.
GAO statistics and Congressional hearings supported that the DoD underreported both refusals and adverse reactions. Official numbers suggested up to 16% of aircrew changed status in order to avoid inoculations; two-thirds did not support the program; up to 87% of those who took the shots had some level of adverse reaction; and 50% of our military declined the vaccine once it was voluntary due to the federal court injunction.
Rather than parse the statistics, I remain hopeful that, as Commander-in-Chief, you would agree the numbers are disturbing. If even one military member was punished over what turned out to be an illegal or questionable order, the discipline deserves to be overturned or at least reviewed. If that one person was your child or your grandchild I sincerely believe that you would feel as passionate about this injustice as I do. As our President and Commander-in-Chief you have the power to correct it.
Political support for the vaccine started to wane
The anthrax vaccine program was not only illegal, but it also failed the common sense check.
The DoD had difficulty implementing their policy. The vaccine program ran out of stockpiled doses due to quality control problems that were discovered before the mandate began. The vaccine doses were improperly stored and surveillance procedures to monitor adverse vaccine reactions were inadequate.
By 2001, senior White House officials were also questioning the program’s problems. Karl Rove called it, along with Gulf War Syndrome, “political problems.”
We were gaining traction. The vaccine program was slated for cancellation in August 2001.
Illegal program revived by anthrax letter attacks
Political support for the vaccine mandate gained renewed strength after the anthrax letter attacks against Senator Daschle, the New York Post, and others.
On October 15, 2001, I traveled to Washington DC. I was on the phone with Senator Daschle’s office to update a staffer about the anthrax vaccine Citizen Petition we filed at the FDA. My call occurred at the very moment the Senator’s staff opened the anthrax letter. Senator Daschle’s staffer politely placed me on hold, then returned to explain they were evacuating due to an “anthrax package,” and hung up.
FBI badly dropped the ball — an accident?
Within days, and multiple times over the years that followed, I attempted to explain these events to the FBI, and about Senator Daschle’s critical letter on anthrax vaccine to Secretary Rumsfeld. The FBI apparently ignored these early tips that suggested they should investigate the DoD’s anthrax scientists based on their access to and expertise with anthrax.
The FBI also apparently ignored case referrals by the DoD Inspector General, and omitted the relevance of the Daschle anthrax vaccine objections in the final Amerithrax investigative report.
Instead, the FBI reported to the American people almost ten years later that they found no ostensible connection to the anthrax mailings when discussing the attack on Senator Daschle’s office.
This was odd considering that, in 2010, the FBI did determine the anthrax letter attacks were perpetrated by a US Army scientist, who was honored for getting the anthrax vaccine program back on track, and who was responsible for the anthrax vaccine testing program at Fort Detrick. The Army scientist’s motive, according to the FBI, was to create a scenario to resuscitate the “failing” anthrax vaccine program. But, the FBI failed to tie this motive to the attack on Senator Daschle’s office despite the fact that his office was the only entity attacked that actively questioned the anthrax vaccine.
I can only surmise that to do so would have highlighted the early missteps in the investigation and would have required that the government resurvey the anthrax vaccine program’s punishments as Senator Daschle had requested of Secretary Rumsfeld.
Justice was not served
Instead, the letter attacks worked as designed. The DoD did not resurvey punishments meted out on the troops and “suddenly rejuvenated” the program, while maintaining that the anthrax letter attacks illustrated the threat (and the need for the vaccine).
And the delayed findings worked as designed. They “inoculated” the anthrax vaccine program from an intellectually honest review, and precluded the corrections of service people’s records as requested by Senators Daschle and Blumenthal.
Robert S. Mueller, III (FBI Director during the entire timeline of events) was responsible for the controversial findings linking the motive of the attacks to a US Army scientist and the DoD anthrax vaccine program. However, Director Mueller missed a critical opportunity to highlight the link to Senator Daschle regarding motive due to the botched investigation.
As a result, our attempts to rectify service members’ records were obstructed and the failing anthrax vaccine program was rejuvenated by capitalizing on a DoD scientist’s bioterrorism attack.
America was hoodwinked
The anthrax vaccine suffered additional fatal flaws. The vaccine program violated U.S. law because it was not properly licensed. The program was illegal because it was being used for a known unapproved and experimental purpose (as we had warned years earlier).
Our troops were denied informed consent, which includes the right to refuse the vaccine. Instead of adhering to the law, about 1,000 service people were disciplined over the illegal order to submit to a known experimental and unlicensed medical product. The deviant manufacturer was forewarned by FDA with a threat to halt its production.
FDA fast-tracked the anthrax vaccine anyway
The myriad GAO findings, DoD documents, Congressional report, and federal court rulings notwithstanding, the FDA fast-tracked and finalized the anthrax vaccine’s license in 2005.
Despite the years that have passed since the FBI missteps and Congress being played, this is not done. We still have the troops’ unresolved concerns and the refusal to reverse sanctions still warrants review to ensure we do not repeat past mistakes and procure only the best and necessary countermeasures.
Vaccine premise lies on foundations of sand
The DoD justified the anthrax vaccine program on two fundamental underpinnings.
The first premise was the threat. Yet history reveals the only incident validating that premise involved a DoD insider lone wolf attack intended to manufacture fear in order to save the program.
The second premise insisted the anthrax vaccine was FDA approved. But it was not, as affirmed by federal courts.
DoD leaders, our troops, the Congress, the press, and the American people were all misled. Officials responsible for the program broke the law, the FDA failed to regulate and the FBI stumbled by missing the opportunity to expeditiously investigate the anthrax attacks and the anthrax vaccine program’s illegalities that precipitated and motivated the murders.
It’s time to acknowledge harms, restore trust
I hope that you will act under your authority as our President and utilize the anthrax vaccine tragedy as a case study for our government.
This is no different than what a reflective father would do when teaching lessons to his children. Trust can only be restored when higher authorities “resurvey” past judgments. A humble starting point, of which any father and leader would make his children or citizens proud, includes correction of records by the DoD for our troops who were subjected to a bad order and discipline.
I am a Fearless Parent who trusts our nation’s leaders will defend my countrymen as they would their children.
Based on past illegalities associated with the anthrax vaccine, as well as the delayed and overlooked FBI findings about the anthrax letter attack’s link to Senator Daschle’s request for a review of anthrax vaccine punishments, I am confident that as another Fearless Parent, and our President and Commander-in-Chief, that you will ensure we do the right thing for our troops who deserve record corrections.
Lt Colonel Thomas L. Rempfer, USAF, retired
Lieutenant Colonel Tom “Buzz” Rempfer, USAF retired ended his military flying career instructing and evaluating MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper missions. Past US Air Force flying assignments included duty as an F-16 flight lead, an F-117 instructor pilot, a C-130 aircraft commander and as an A-10 forward air controller, with total flight time of over 5,500 hours. He earned a Master’s Degree through the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Homeland Defense and Security, and received the program’s Outstanding Thesis Award. LtCol Rempfer was a distinguished graduate from USAF Pilot Training and the USAF Academy where he was an All-American boxer. His final mission for the Department of Defense involves correcting service records for approximately one thousand troops wrongfully punished over refusing to comply with the anthrax vaccine mandate when the program was illegal. Tom and his wife are fearless parents of three and live in Tucson. Learn more about his work on this website Hoping4Justice.com and connect with his Facebook community.