Search this site

Bio-Terror Agents

    CONFERENCES‎ > ‎

    Bio-Terror Conferences (2005)

    BIOTERRORBIBLE.COM: Bio-terror and pandemic related conferences have occurred on a regular basis since 9/11, but have recently started occurring on a monthly basis since March of 2011.

    Title: World: Bioterrorism Conference Participants Say Cooperation Lacking
    Date: March 1, 2005
    Source: RFERL

    Abstract: The specter of terrorists getting their hands on nuclear or biological weapons took on new dimensions with the 11 September attacks on the United States more than three years ago. 

    The argument is simple. The terrorists who struck the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington were armed with no more than knives and box cutters. Experts warn of the damage that could be inflicted if the weapons used in any new attack were the deadly poison ricin or the smallpox virus, for instance.

    The conference in Lyon -- which is hosted by Interpol, the world’s largest police organization -- brings together leading experts on bioterrorism to share knowledge and improve the international coordination that is seen as vital to combating terrorism.

    Concerns over a possible chemical or biological attack are based on more than just idle speculation. 

    Saddam Hussein's top scientists are known to have been pursuing an active chemical- and biological-research program before Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait and subsequent UN sanctions. Several countries today, including Iran and North Korea, are suspected by the United States of conducting similar research. Attacks on the Tokyo subway with the nerve agent sarin killed 12 people and injured 6,000 in 1995, demonstrating that individual terrorist groups could acquire such agents and use them against civilian populations.

    Interpol Secretary-General Ronald Noble told conference attendees today that there is, in his words, "no criminal threat with greater potential danger to all countries, regions, and people in the world than the threat of bioterrorism." He added that there is also no area of crime fighting in which police have so little training in preventing -- or responding to -- attacks. 

    On the medical front, the news is arguably more optimistic. However, such advances appear to be largely limited to wealthy industrialized countries.

    Walter Biederbick, a scientist at the Robert Koch Institute of public health in Berlin, spoke to RFE/RL on his way to the bioterrorism conference.

    "A lot of preparations in regard to countermeasures have been taken and these countermeasures are mainly medical. And there, we are for sure not perfect, but in some areas much better prepared than we were three years ago," Biederbick said.

    Many European countries have stockpiled smallpox vaccines, for example, for emergency use in case of an attack. Work is also under way to set up a centralized, infectious-disease monitoring center, patterned on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. 

    Biederbick contrasts this with the lack of preparation in many other parts of the world.

    "In certain Asian countries and especially in a lot of African countries, you don't have a sufficient public health system and medical support for the population. In some very poor countries, it's not as good as it should be and transmissible diseases already have devastating effects," Biederbick said.

    Experts are still debating the true extent of the threat posed by biological and chemical weapons. In order to carry out a successful attack, a terrorist group would need the necessary resources to both develop an agent and disperse it.

    The Aum Shinrikyo cult, which was responsible for the deadly Tokyo gas attack, apparently tried for years to develop far more deadly weapons of mass destruction. But despite abundant funding and scientific expertise, the group was not able to develop more sophisticated methods. 

    Panic could be the terrorists' most potent weapon, says Biederbick, and that is where better police work, communication, and coordination are key.

    "That is exactly the point terrorists want to achieve. They are looking to show that the government, that the state, is not capable of countering their attack. They want to show the vulnerability of society more than to create real damage," Biederbick said
    (RFERL, 2012).

    Title: World: Bioterrorism Conference Participants Say Cooperation Lacking
    Date: March 5, 2005
    Source: Free Radio Europe

    Abstract: The French city of Lyon is hosting the first-ever international conference devoted to the threat of bioterrorism. Police chiefs, counterterrorism experts, and health officials from more than 100 countries are attending the two-day gathering to discuss how to better coordinate their efforts.

    The specter of terrorists getting their hands on nuclear or biological weapons took on new dimensions with the 11 September attacks on the United States more than three years ago. 

    The argument is simple. The terrorists who struck the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington were armed with no more than knives and box cutters. Experts warn of the damage that could be inflicted if the weapons used in any new attack were the deadly poison ricin or the smallpox virus, for instance.

    The conference in Lyon -- which is hosted by Interpol, the world’s largest police organization -- brings together leading experts on bioterrorism to share knowledge and improve the international coordination that is seen as vital to combating terrorism.

    Concerns over a possible chemical or biological attack are based on more than just idle speculation. 

    Saddam Hussein's top scientists are known to have been pursuing an active chemical- and biological-research program before Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait and subsequent UN sanctions. Several countries today, including Iran and North Korea, are suspected by the United States of conducting similar research. Attacks on the Tokyo subway with the nerve agent sarin killed 12 people and injured 6,000 in 1995, demonstrating that individual terrorist groups could acquire such agents and use them against civilian populations.

    Interpol Secretary-General Ronald Noble told conference attendees today that there is, in his words, "no criminal threat with greater potential danger to all countries, regions, and people in the world than the threat of bioterrorism." He added that there is also no area of crime fighting in which police have so little training in preventing -- or responding to -- attacks. 

    On the medical front, the news is arguably more optimistic. However, such advances appear to be largely limited to wealthy industrialized countries.

    Walter Biederbick, a scientist at the Robert Koch Institute of public health in Berlin, spoke to RFE/RL on his way to the bioterrorism conference.

    "A lot of preparations in regard to countermeasures have been taken and these countermeasures are mainly medical. And there, we are for sure not perfect, but in some areas much better prepared than we were three years ago," Biederbick said.

    Many European countries have stockpiled smallpox vaccines, for example, for emergency use in case of an attack. Work is also under way to set up a centralized, infectious-disease monitoring center, patterned on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. 

    Biederbick contrasts this with the lack of preparation in many other parts of the world.

    "In certain Asian countries and especially in a lot of African countries, you don't have a sufficient public health system and medical support for the population. In some very poor countries, it's not as good as it should be and transmissible diseases already have devastating effects," Biederbick said.

    Experts are still debating the true extent of the threat posed by biological and chemical weapons. In order to carry out a successful attack, a terrorist group would need the necessary resources to both develop an agent and disperse it.

    The Aum Shinrikyo cult, which was responsible for the deadly Tokyo gas attack, apparently tried for years to develop far more deadly weapons of mass destruction. But despite abundant funding and scientific expertise, the group was not able to develop more sophisticated methods. 

    Panic could be the terrorists' most potent weapon, says Biederbick, and that is where better police work, communication, and coordination are key.

    "That is exactly the point terrorists want to achieve. They are looking to show that the government, that the state, is not capable of countering their attack. They want to show the vulnerability of society more than to create real damage," Biederbick said
    (Free Radio Europe, 2005)

    Title: No World Health Assembly Approval For Expanding Smallpox Virus Research
    Date:
    May 25, 2005
    Source:
    Sunshine Project

    Abstract: At the 58th World Health Assembly (WHA), which ended today, the leadership of the World Health Organization (WHO) was requested by member states to reconsider proposals to expand risky smallpox research and to reassess the process by which such research recommendations are produced.

    WHA discussed, but did not approve, experiments to genetically engineer smallpox and other proposals that would dramatically expand risky experiments with live smallpox virus. Rather, it “noted” a report containing the proposals, after the WHO Secretariat “especially welcomed” and took “special note” of the serious cautions and criticisms made by member governments. WHO must now move to resolve the issues that governments have raised and which it has committed to address.

    Most of the countries speaking about smallpox research expressed serious concerns. These included calls for ongoing research to be terminated, for greater transparency, for a new destruction date for remaining virus stocks, and for strengthened WHO oversight mechanisms that are more independent and scientifically and regionally balanced.

    According to the Sunshine Project and Third World Network, WHO's leadership has been given a mandate to radically restructure its oversight of smallpox in the interim before destruction of the remaining stocks. This includes the terms of reference, membership, and procedures of it's Advisory Committee on Variola Virus Research (or "VAC", for Variola Advisory Committee). Once restructured, the VAC then needs to reconsider past recommendations and seek approval from the WHA before any research that goes beyond the existing limits (established in 1994) is allowed.

    Governments requested that WHO smallpox oversight be transformed into a stronger and more independent process that separates research proponents from those who perform reviews, that is regionally-balanced, and which incorporates heretofore neglected perspectives of public health, biosafety, and preparedness for deliberate outbreaks of disease. NGOs say that major world regions are underrepresented or entirely unrepresented on WHO's current committee. WHO should heed the calls from governments and NGOs for this problem to be addressed.

    Third World Network and the Sunshine Project are requesting that WHO take the following steps in response to the concerns and objections raised about smallpox virus research at the WHA:

    1. Launch a transparent and balanced process to overhaul the VAC, including its terms of reference, membership, and procedures, aimed to:

    a. Prevent research proponents from reviewing their own proposals,
    b. Incorporate neglected areas of expertise, such as public health and biosafety,
    c. Achieve regional balance among members and advisors,
    d. Institute a separate, and transparent, laboratory safety review procedure
    e. Reform committee modalities to create greater transparency, including that of subcommittees, and to create more frequent, high quality reporting to WHA.

    2. Once the VAC has been so restructured, it should reassess its prior recommendations, forwarding revised ones to the WHA for its consideration and (dis)approval.

    3. In keeping with prior WHA resolutions and as requested by member states, WHO should prepare a resolution to fix a new destruction date for all remaining stocks of smallpox virus.

    4. Prepare a WHO Secretariat study for the next WHA on options for how possession of live smallpox virus may be deemed a crime against humanity following destruction of remaining stocks (Sunshine Project, 2005).