US Code, Title 50, Chapter 32, Subsection 1520a

Alex Jones is a man who believes in chemtrails. He also believes that the government has secretly granted themselves the right to wantonly experiment on human subjects, and he has one obscure piece of the US Code that he brings up very often to justify this incorrect belief.

Whenever he is pressed to justify his position, he will generally fall back on referencing the Tuskegee syphilis experiments, where rural African-American citizens were intentionally infected with syphilis so researchers could study the progression of the disease when left untreated. He feels that bringing up this example proves that the government has done similar things in the past, therefore they must currently be doing so now, which is incredibly unsound logic.

Tuskegee as a piece of American history is a deeply racist and profoundly unethical case of medical misbehavior, but it does not really help Alex’s argument that the government has secret authority to test dangerous things on unsuspecting people.

None of this should in any way minimize the damage that those doctors did to unsuspecting citizens or their families, but it needs to be brought up that the Tuskegee studies began in 1932. This fact is only relevant because the medical ethics of that time were very different than those of today. Just as a very basic example, the term “informed consent” was not even coined until 1957.

The idea that experimenters had an obligation to make their test subjects aware of the risks associated with the study they are a part of is not a view that has been uniformly held by medical practitioners over time. In fact, many have been proponents of lying to patients when the physician thinks that they will make a bad medical decision, thus saving them from their own ignorance of science.

In terms of research, the conversation about how subjects had the right to know what they were being subjected to did not really begin to take its modern shape until the Nuremberg Code was established in 1947, in response to the atrocities of Nazi human experimentation. And even after that, it would still take a long time for the standards to evolve to the point where we are today, which is still far from perfection.

In 1932, many of our modern expectations of how a researcher or doctor would treat a subject or patient were not the standard. What the Tuskegee researchers did was absolutely monstrous and wrong, but they were able to do it in part because of the horribly insufficient medical ethics standards of the day.

All that is to say that Alex Jones cannot really use the abuses of Tuskegee to insinuate or prove that the government can do those sorts of things today. There are rules, regulations, and laws on the books that were not there 85 years ago.

And one of those rules is something he likes to bring up very often when he gets into an argument with someone about chemtrails. He most likely loves bringing it up because he can rattle of “US Code Title 50 Chapter 32 Subsection 1520a” really fast and the person he’s talking to will not know what he’s talking about and just assume he has some deep knowledge of topic, when in reality he’s just memorized some words that refer to a statute that actually disproves his argument.

The basic outline of Alex’s contention is that the government has granted itself the authority to expose unwitting civilians to whatever they want, as long as it is disguised as a “study” or “research.” Thus, the government can spray dangerous whatever dangerous chemicals they want over the Heartland in the form of chemtrails, so long as they justify it as being part of a research experiment. In reality, Alex knows better; their true intentions are to pacify and sterilize the population.

His conviction that the government can get away with anything under the name of research is almost entirely based on his misreading of the aforementioned subsection in the US Code.

Chapter 32 contains a number of statutes regarding the proper handling of chemical weapons, mostly covering topics such as how best to transport any chemically dangerous material, or proper disposal methods. Of all of these, Subsection 1520a is the only one Alex is interested in because the subtitle of it is “Restrictions on use of human subjects for testing of chemical or biological agents.”

The subsection starts out:

(a) Prohibited activities: The Secretary of Defense may not conduct (directly or by contract)—

(1) any test or experiment involving the use of a chemical agent or biological agent on a civilian population; or

(2) any other testing of a chemical agent or biological agent on human subjects

So far, so good. What we have here is the beginnings of a good statute. The Secretary of Defense cannot test chemical or biological agents on civilians, nor can they pay someone else to.

The next section is where Alex tries to intentionally confuse his listeners, or as we call it, “lie to them:”

(b) Exceptions: Subject to subsections (c), (d), and (e), the prohibition in subsection (a) does not apply to a test or experiment carried out for any of the following purposes:

(1) Any peaceful purpose that is related to a medical, therapeutic, pharmaceutical, agricultural, industrial, or research activity.

(2) Any purpose that is directly related to protection against toxic chemicals or biological weapons and agents.

(3) Any law enforcement purpose, including any purpose related to riot control

On first glance, you could look at this section of the statute and easily imagine how these exceptions basically would undo the entire prohibition on exposing civilians to chemical and biological agents. If any “medical, therapeutic, pharmaceutical, agricultural, industrial, or research activity” is grounds for an exception, it would stand to reason that pretty anything could fall under that heading.

And that is what Alex Jones preaches to his audience, even going so far as to exploit Joe Rogan’s ignorance of the statute to sell his con to Rogan’s audience:

At this point in Rogan’s podcast Alex is losing an argument about chemtrails, and pulls out the subsection to wow and impress Joe Rogan and Eddie Bravo into thinking he’s an expert on the subject, and thus his position must be correct and backed up by documents they just don’t know about. He uses the subsection to make the claim that “the government gets around the law by calling something research,” which is exactly the wrong conclusion you could easily come away with, if you misread Paragraph B.

The reason for that is that Paragraph B explicitly begins, “subject to subsections (c), (d), and (e).” The exceptions that sound scary in Paragraph B are very specifically subject to these other paragraphs that must be considered in order to understand what this statute means.

Paragraph D involves a requirement to notify Congress, and Paragraph E lays out a specific definition of what is meant by the term “biological agent,” but the one that is the most important is Paragraph C, which states:

(c) Informed consent required

The Secretary of Defense may conduct a test or experiment described in subsection (b) only if informed consent to the testing was obtained from each human subject in advance of the testing on that subject.

Because informed consent is required for any test or experiment that falls under the heading of those exceptions in Paragraph B, this statute cannot be used to justify a belief that the government has given itself carte blanche to do chemical and biological tests on civilians with disregard for their rights.

Using this statute to explain how the government has allowed themselves to spray chemtrails is patently absurd, given that Paragraph C would require them to receive informed consent from literally every civilian who would be affected, which in the case of chemtrails would be entire cities or counties. If anything, this subsection explicitly damages Alex’s argument.

There are really only two possibilities here. One option is that Alex Jones knows that Paragraph C exists and that all of the things he says about this subsection are completely incorrect, and he chooses to lie about it anyway because he knows most people are never going to look it up, and even if they do, they’ll probably just see the scary words in Paragraph B and uncritically accept Alex’s narrative.

The other option is that Alex has never actually read the entire subsection himself and is actually so stupid that he thinks he’s right.