23 January 1995
To the cc list for the Gallo file:
Robert Gallo, Council of the National Academy of Sciences, Suzanne Hadley, John Dingell, Bruce Alberts, Paul Doty, John Edsall, John Cairns, Fred Richards, Bob Shulman, Kenneth Ryan, Gerald Fischbach, Mark Ptashne, Gerald Koocher, James Darnell, Günter Blobel, Philip Siekewitz, Charles Park, Bill Paul, Gunther Stent, Don Glaser, George Trilling, David Goodstein, Samuel Broder, Harold Varmus, Alexander Kamb, Charles Andrews, Dan Koshland, Ellis Rubinstein, John Crewdson, Dan Greenberg, Barbara Spector, Nicholas Wade, Gina Kolata, Neville Hodgkinson, etc.
§1. Enclosure of the Dingell Subcommittee Staff Report. The Dingell Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation is no more, because of the Republican majority victory last November. However, I am sending you:
In the past, Gallo and his attorney have issued false statements about previous reports (e.g. the HHS Inspector General's Memorandum). I documented some of these false statements in my mailings last September, and I enclose a sample with this mailing. It was Gallo's responsibility as a scientist to correct these false statements, but to my knowledge he did not do so.
The Subcommittee Staff Report confirms the findings of the IG Memorandum and the ORI Offer of Proof, as far as they went. We shall see what happens to the Subcommittee Staff Report, now that it is available for the whole world to evaluate.
§2. Failure of the scientific press and the mainstream media. The main scientific press, notably Science, Nature, The Scientist, have been extremely derelict in the way they have reported past events of the Gallo case. For example, The ORI Offer of Proof was not covered. I documented some concrete defects in various mailings (including the Science-Rubinstein file, spring 1994). The HHS Inspector General's Memorandum was covered tendentiously by Jon Cohen in Science, which reported on an even basis the factual statements of the memorandum and the false statements issued by Gallo's attorney, without giving its readers documentation which would make them able to evaluate the falsehoods. The Scientist, instead of covering the IG report and the ORI Offer of Proof (which I sent to them in September 1994), published a tendentious article and interview with Gallo on 14 November 1994.
With the exception of the Chicago Tribune, what I have seen of major papers in this country (Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, etc.), has been grossly negligent reporting. In earlier days the New York Times adequately reported on the Gallo case via articles by Philip Hilts and others. Since Nicholas Wade became science editor, I have documented in my mailings how the New York Times has systematically misreported the Gallo case, as in Nicholas Wade's essay "Method and Madness - The vindication of Robert Gallo", NYT Magazine, 26 December 1993. The New York Times misreporting included the suppression of essential information (e.g. the ORI Offer of Proof and the HHS IG Memorandum). On the other hand, Crewdson reported on the Subcommittee Staff Report ("In Gallo case, truth termed a casualty" Chicago Tribune, 1 January 1995). Crewdson was backed up by an editorial "Defending the indefensible Dr. Gallo" (6 January 1995). The New York Times has not yet followed up this story, let alone provided editorial support.
§3. Failures of scientists. The National Academy of Sciences has evaded responsibility from the beginning, especially after electing Gallo in 1988. Most scientists have not spoken out publicly so far. In 1992, using information available from some original documents, and the reporting of Crewdson as well as Science and Government Report, I had mailings documenting the way NIH Director Bernadine Healy personally selected a committee of scientists to bypass the Richards panel, and how she manipulated scientists. In the Executive Summary of the Subcommittee Staff Report, you will find pieces of information we did not have before, for instance, here, that this handpicked committee decided Dr. Gallo should be fired as an NIH laboratory chief. One member of her handpicked committee expressed this determination as follows:
"...Gallo failed in his responsibilities as the head of the Laboratory. His behavior was seriously discordant with the 'guidelines for the Conduct of Research in the Intramural Research Program at the NIH'....The consequences of Gallo's failings have been substantial. At a minimum, an enormous amount of time and effort has been spent on these investigations, the efforts of both the French and American groups have been diverted into unproductive activities and considerable damage has been inflicted on the scientific enterprise, in general...I recommend that you remove Dr. Gallo from his position as Chief of the Laboratory..."Then this handpicked committee was manipulated by Healy in various ways, explained here in the Executive Summary. (2)
Fred Richards expressed one conclusion via Dan Greenberg's Science and Government Report (15 May 1994): The "major purpose of this whole investigation was to find out whether they stole the virus. The answer is, they stole the virus. But we didn't know that at the time these [investigative] reports came out." Apparently there was no scientific institutional official avenue for such a conclusion, let alone for the documentation on which this conclusion was based, to be made available. As for the press, Science, Nature, The Scientist and the New York Times sure didn't report it.
§4. Will scientists finally look at the evidence and speak out? In the Baltimore case, some scientists finally looked at the evidence, and came out in the open with published letters, notably John Cairns and Paul Doty. The Executive Summary of the Subcommittee Staff Report ends by quoting from these letters, as follows:
John Cairns in Nature 352 (11 July 1991) p. 101...science is the pursuit of a truth that is external to our wishes. This truth is quite unlike the verdict of a court of law because it does not depend on advocacy.
Paul Doty in Nature 352 (17 July 1991) p. 184. This challenge to readdress the fundamental tenets of acceptable behavior in science comes at a time when the traditions of the scientific enterprise are under new threats arising from new stresses and temptations... As a result, the scientific community may already be experiencing a gradual departure from the traditional scientific standards... In this way we risk sliding down toward the standards of some other professions where the validity of action is decided by whether one can get away with it. For science to drift toward such a course would be fatal -- not only to itself and the inspiration which carries it forward, but to the public trust which is its provider.The Executive Summary concludes: "There could be no better description of the disastrous consequences of the U.S. Government's defense of Gallo et al."
It would be better late than never for the scientific community to express some appreciation for those who have tried to uphold or fought for scientific integrity in the Gallo case (among which are Suzanne Hadley, the HHS IG, and the Dingell Subcommittee), and to voice belatedly the scientific community's own concerns - to the extent there are such concerns...
As I wrote to some leaders of science on 30 November 1992, the handling of the Gallo case (among others) by the leaders of science has been a profound mess. The leaders' failures of responsibility has forced individuals either to accept that things are going to get worse before they get better, or to spend an inordinate amount of time and effort documenting these failures and attempting to deal with them. Expanding such time and effort detracts from doing science. Instead of actively doing something about the Gallo situation, the leaders of science have continuously engaged in obfuscations and evasions of responsibility. The failure of the scientific community's leadership, whether in government agencies such as NIH and HHS (except for the ORI Offer of Proof and the IG, which were disregarded by the top leadership) has been monumental. To quote from the Executive Summary (here):
HHS did its best to cover up the wrongdoings. Meanwhile, the failure of the entire scientific establishment to take any meaningful action left the disposition of scientific truth to bureaucrats and lawyers, with neither the expertise nor the will essential to the task. Because of the continuing HHS cover-up, it was not until the Subcommittee investigation that the true facts were known, and the breadth and depth of the cover-up was revealed. This report describes the facts, and how and why HHS went so badly wrong.The availability of the Subcommittee Staff Report provides one more opportunity to learn or acknowledge the facts, and to speak out. The leaders of science, scientists at the grass roots, and the mainstream press are in a position to make a difference. I challenge them to do so.
Back to Gallo Case.