Black Market

BIOTERRORBIBLE.COM: In the aftermath of man-made bio-terror generated pandemic, the government and media will be feeding the public any number of different scapegoats allegedly responsible for the pandemic that will likely kill millions.

While some scapegoats (see below) are indeed plausible, it is much more likely that the live pathogens or agents responsible for the pandemic will likely be dispersed via A) chemtrails by government airplanes or drones, B) by the U.S. Postal Service via Tide detergent samples, C) by the government and medical establishment via tainted vaccines, or by D) the portable petri dish commonly known as the Trojan condom.

Bio-Terror Scapegoats: Africa, Agriculture (Food & Animals), Airports & Air Travel, Al Qaeda, Bio Labs, Bio-Terrorism Is Easy, Bio-Terrorists (Bio-Hackers), Black Market, Bugs & Insects, Censorship / Lack Thereof, Domestic Terrorists, Exotic Animals (Zoonosis), Government Ineptitude, Mail-Order DNA, Mexico, Missile Shield Failure, Mutation, Natural Disaster, No Clinical Trials (Vaccines), and The Monkeys.

Date: April 20, 2003
Title: Lethal Legacy: Bioweapons For Sale

Abstract: Daan Goosen's calling card to the FBI was a vial of bacteria he had freeze-dried and hidden inside a toothpaste tube for secret passage to the United States.

From among hundreds of flasks in his Pretoria lab, the South African scientist picked a man-made strain that was sure to impress: a microbial Frankenstein that fused the genes of a common intestinal bug with DNA from the pathogen that causes the deadly illness gas gangrene.

"This will show the Americans what we are capable of," Goosen said at the time.

On May 6, 2002, Goosen slipped the parcel into the hands of a retired CIA officer who couriered the microbes 8,000 miles for a drop-off with the FBI. If U.S. officials liked what they saw, Goosen said he was prepared to offer much more: an entire collection of pathogens developed by a secret South African bioweapons research program Goosen once headed.

Goosen's extraordinary offer to the FBI, outlined in documents obtained by The Washington Post and interviews with key participants, promised scores of additional vials containing the bacteria that cause anthrax, plague, salmonella and botulism, as well as antidotes for many of the diseases. Several strains, like the bacterial hybrid in the toothpaste tube, had been genetically altered, a technique used by weapons scientists to make diseases harder to detect and defeat. All were to be delivered to the U.S. government for safekeeping and to help strengthen U.S. defenses against future terrorism attacks.

U.S. officials considered the offer but balked at the asking price -- $5 million and immigration permits for Goosen and up to 19 associates and family members to come to the United States. The deal collapsed in confusion last year after skeptical FBI agents turned the matter over to South African authorities, who twice investigated Goosen but never charged him.

Participants in the failed deal differ on what happened and why. But they agree that the bacterial strains remain in private hands in South Africa, where they have continued to attract attention from individuals interested in acquiring them.

The episode throws new light on the extraordinarily difficult task of preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. South Africa, which built nuclear, chemical and biological arsenals under apartheid, renounced its weapons in 1993, and sought to destroy all traces of them, including instruction manuals and bacterial seed stocks. But like other countries that have attempted such a rollback, such as Ukraine and Kazakhstan, South Africa finds itself in a gray zone where weapons of the past pose serious dangers for the present.

"The weapons programs were ostensibly terminated, yet clearly they weren't able to destroy everything," said Jeffrey M. Bale of the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, which is carrying out a study of South Africa's weapons programs. "The fact that Goosen and others are providing samples and being approached by foreign parties suggests that these things never really went away."

To disarmament experts, the case is especially troubling because of the kinds of terrorist-ready weapons produced by Project Coast, a top-secret biological and chemical program created by South Africa's white-minority government, which came to light in the late 1990s. Unlike U.S. and Soviet programs that amassed huge stockpiles of bombs and missiles for biological warfare, Project Coast specialized in the tools of terrorism and assassination -- including "stealth" weapons that could kill or incapacitate without leaving a trace. The program's military commanders also researched anti-fertility drugs that could be clandestinely applied in black neighborhoods, and explored -- but never produced -- biological weapons that would selectively target the country's black majority population.

Even if all of Project Coast's bacterial strains are secured, the know-how and skills acquired by dozens of its scientists may be impossible to contain, South African officials acknowledged in interviews. Several key scientists have pursued business interests overseas since the program was disbanded shortly before South Africa's transition to democracy. Others, including Goosen, have acknowledged they were approached by recruiters claiming to represent foreign governments or extremist groups. While the United States has spent tens of millions of dollars to re-train and re-employ weapons scientists in the former Soviet Union, many Project Coast scientists have been shunned by their peers and left to try to support themselves any way they can.

"It would have been galling to most South Africans to see their government take care of these scientists, after all the revelations about them," said Chandre Gould, an investigator for South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the late 1990s and now the co-author of an official United Nations study on Project Coast. "They were part of a program that tried to kill people in this society."

Novel Weapons

The failed deal with the South African scientist is documented in hundreds of pages of memos, contracts and reports. Many of the documents were provided by Don Mayes, a former CIA operative who acted as go-between in the deal, and helped arrange for the bacterial sample to be brought to the United States for testing. Mayes, Goosen, and several other South African participants were also interviewed at length for this article.

The FBI and CIA, which were jointly involved in the encounter with Goosen, declined to speak about it on the record. However, U.S. government officials, who asked not to be identified by name, have provided details of the negotiations. They say the agencies were troubled by Goosen's claims but suspected the scientist and his partners were more interested in cashing in than helping out. They viewed Goosen and his partners as naive, at best, for expecting to be rewarded for turning over what they viewed as 1990s-vintage biological material -- products that could be duplicated in any well-equipped, modern microbiology lab.

"If they thought we were going to put out good money for that kind of stuff, they came to the wrong group," said one U.S. law enforcement official who reviewed Goosen's proposal. "Thanks for being good citizens, but no thanks."

Goosen acknowledged that he had hoped to benefit financially, and sought permission to work in the United States, where he wanted to start a new business. But he says the FBI misjudged both his intentions and his ability to help them defend against future bioterrorism.

"At minimum, they should have copies and DNA fingerprints for each of the strains from Project Coast," he said. "If one of the strains were to turn up in Iraq, at least they would know where it came from."

Goosen, an affable 51-year-old who became a veterinarian like his father, was picked in 1981 as the founding director of Roodeplaat Research Laboratories, the bioweapons research arm of Project Coast.

Project Coast's notorious military commander, Wouter Basson, used the lab to create novel weapons for use against anti-apartheid activists and the black communities that supported them, according to documents and testimony in a murder and fraud case that ended last year in Basson's acquittal. One of Goosen's first assignments, he has said, was to harvest highly lethal venom from the black mambo snake for use in secret assassinations. Fangs from a dead snake were used to make impressions in the victim's skin so the death would appear accidental.

A widening rift between Goosen and Basson over the lab's direction ended with Goosen's resignation in 1986. But he continued to work as a consultant for the lab and maintained close ties with its scientists, some of whom would later work for him in his private laboratory. After Project Coast was disbanded, Goosen was among the first scientists to publicly acknowledge and condemn its offensive weapons research.

South African officials claimed to have destroyed all of Project Coast's biological materials in 1993, several months before the outgoing government of Frederik W. de Klerk revealed the secret program to Nelson Mandela, the first president of post-apartheid South Africa. But Goosen says many scientists kept copies of organisms and documents in order to continue work on "dual-use" projects with commercial as well as military applications. Goosen's vaccine production lab ended up with hundreds of strains, at least half of which were from Project Coast. At his home in Pretoria, he showed a visiting reporter two trays of what he described as vaccine strains that he kept in a freezer.

"The products should have been destroyed. The products were not destroyed," he said.

After the U.S. anthrax attack in October 2001, at the urging of American friends, Goosen approached the U.S. Department of Defense with an offer of "open cooperation" in sharing Project Coast's extensive research in anthrax vaccines and novel antidotes known as antiserums. The Pentagon was sufficiently interested to arrange a meeting in January 2002 between Goosen and Bioport Corp., the Michigan company that produces anthrax vaccines for the military. But interest from the U.S. side evaporated quickly, to Goosen's amazement.

"At that time there was a massive amount of good will toward the United States, and a feeling that we could contribute," Goosen said. "My thinking was: If George Bush had contracted anthrax, our technology could have cured him."

Clandestine Deals

The two men who finally brought Goosen to the FBI's attention knew little of germ warfare but were old hands in the shadowy world of arms trading and secret deals. Goosen had met neither until May 4, 2002, just two days before the toothpaste tube filled with genetically-altered bacteria began the journey across the Atlantic.

One of the men, retired South African Maj. Gen. Tai Minnaar, was a former military intelligence officer who had worked undercover for the CIA in Cuba in the 1970s, according to his resume. After Goosen's unsuccessful meeting with Bioport, Minnaar phoned Goosen, offering to put him in touch with U.S. officials who would appreciate the value of his work. And, Minnaar said, the Americans might be willing to pay money -- perhaps tens of millions of dollars, Goosen recalled.

Minnaar's first call was to Mayes, the former CIA operative, whom he had met and befriended during Mayes' frequent business trips to South Africa in the 1980s and 1990s. On March 4, Minnaar wrote to Mayes warning that dangerous biological material from Project Coast still existed in South Africa and posed unacceptable risks.

"With the current situation here at present, we need to ensure that the technology as well as 'stock in hand' (at present stored safely in a private facility) are safeguarded from finding its way to the people on the wrong side of the fence," Minnaar wrote in an e-mail to Mayes. "This is a very real danger, as some of the other technology we fear has already been sold."

Mayes, 64, a missiles expert who had built a career out of making clandestine deals to acquire foreign-built weapons and air-defense systems for the CIA, said he became quickly convinced that Minnaar was right. Within three weeks, he arranged the first of a series of meetings with FBI and CIA officials to discuss the feasibility of bringing Goosen and his bacterial collection to the United States.

Mayes said that he sought "not a penny" of compensation for himself because "it didn't seem like the patriotic thing to do." Mayes acknowledged he was hoping to shore up his reputation with the U.S. intelligence community following a series of highly publicized legal troubles in the late 1990s. Mayes had been investigated for alleged offenses ranging from the mishandling of classified documents to violating export regulations. Two separate grand juries found no evidence that Mayes had broken the law. His ex-wife made the allegations during a difficult divorce.

To remove the bacterial strains from South Africa, Mayes and an associate, Robert Zlockie, a former CIA officer, drew up an extraction plan in the event an agreement was reached to sell the pathogens to the United States.

A private aircraft would land at a remote airfield 600 miles from coastal city of Durban. From a waiting camper-trailer on the runway, the bacteria in two cryogenic canisters would be loaded onto the plane along with two of the South African scientists. The canisters were to be labeled "oxygen" to avoid suspicion. One of the canisters was to contain more than 20 liters of antiserum and other antidotes, documents show. The other would contain 200 glass vials of biological material described as "extremely harmful to people and the environment." An inventory later provided to the FBI listed the contents of those vials as more than 150 strains of bacteria, including six that were marked as "genetically modified."

Before the large transfer of pathogens could be made, Goosen first sent a sample to the FBI, which they insistently sought. It was meant to ice the deal and dispel any doubts about Goosen's credentials. Goosen recalled that he thought carefully before selecting a strain and settled on "Escherichia coli 078:K80 (+K60 GM)," a common intestinal bacterium that had been spliced with a toxin-producing gene from Clostridium perfringens. C. perfringens causes several potentially fatal conditions including gas gangrene, a rare and severe form of gangrene in which in bacteria aggressively attack living tissue.

Biodefense experts have long worried about the implications of genetic modification for biological warfare or terrorism. The kind of engineering accomplished by Project Coast could theoretically be used to transfer lethal properties to ordinary bacteria. Or, conversely, it could be used to inoculate people and animals against disease.

The problem of how to transport the sample to the United States was quickly solved by Goosen himself. Microbes can easily be transported, he said, in a sealed glass cylinder inserted inside an ordinary toothpaste tube. A few grams of cooling gel squirted into the tube would ensure a stable temperature for a trip of up to several days.

"I can take it all over the world," Mayes quoted the scientist as saying.

Offer Declined

At 5 p.m. on May 9, 2002, Robert Zlockie, the retired CIA officer who had couriered the toothpaste tube across the Atlantic, delivered the package to an agent at the FBI's office in Key West, Fla. In return, he was given a hand-written receipt on FBI letterhead. "One toothpaste tube containing one ampul of E. coli genetically coded with epsilon toxin," it read.

Within days, the bacteria arrived at the Army's top biodefense laboratory at Fort Detrick, Md. for scientific analysis. Government biodefense scientists were consulted about the findings, and helped the FBI in assessing the implications. By May 15, the FBI arrived at several conclusions, according to officials who participated in the discussion.

They decided that Goosen's altered bacteria was precisely as the scientist had described it and that the pathogens listed in his collection were likely "legacy" materials from Project Coast, just as Goosen claimed. They also decided that the FBI would not offer a penny for any of it.

"The material was just as advertised, but the hands-down reaction was, 'So what?' " said one law-enforcement official familiar with the assessment.

U.S. officials involved in the decision say they saw no compelling reasons for paying Goosen or for excluding the government of South Africa, a U.S. ally, from an operation affecting the security of biological material in that country. Mayes, in an urgent note to the FBI, pleaded against alerting South African authorities, saying the scientists "have no faith that the material would ever reach" the United States government. But within days of the note, the FBI reported the matter to South Africa in an official letter relayed through the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria. "From that point on, it became a police matter for South Africa," the law enforcement official said.

The FBI also was not convinced that buying Goosen's vials would make Americans safer, the official said. Deadly anthrax and c. perfringens can be found in nature, the official noted. And, while Project Coast's experiments in genetic engineering were state-of-the-art at the time, technology had advanced so rapidly that similar kinds of genetic alterations are now performed by microbiology students "at the graduate or even undergraduate level," the official said.

Other biological weapons experts have criticized the FBI's decision, saying the agency missed the point. While genetic engineering has become increasingly common, there are few known instances where scientists have deliberately tried to adapt organisms for germ warfare. Soviet bioweapons scientists were beginning to produce genetically altered prototypes when their program was shut down in 1992, according Ken Alibek, a former Soviet scientist who defected to the United States.

Back in Pretoria, Goosen heard not a word from the United States after sending his toothpaste tube. But he assumed the deal was off when local authorities obtained a warrant to search his laboratory. Nothing was confiscated, said Goosen, who has never been charged with a crime.

The experience left Goosen embittered and disillusioned, but otherwise little has changed in his circumstances -- except that more people are aware of his bacteria collection and are inquiring about it. In the past nine months, the scientist has been offered money by a German treasure-hunter and a man claiming to be an Arab sheik. Goosen says he turned the offers down, but worries about future bioterrorism.

"A small container of pathogens could kill a million people," he said. "It's hard enough to secure fissile materials, which are large and easy to detect. How do you begin to control a substance that looks like nothing more than sugar?"

Bale, the Monterey Institute researcher, believes U.S. officials should have jumped at the opportunity to secure the South African strains. "Here was a guy who had worked in a former chemical and biological program and was willing to provide information and assistance to the United States," Bale said. "That's worth following up on. If a person like Goosen decides to collaborate with a foreign party, it's far better that he collaborates with us and not with rogue elements in other parts of the world" (UCLA, 2003).

Title: Biotoxins Fall Into Private Hands
Date: April 21, 2003

Abstract: In three days of secret meetings last July, the man known throughout South Africa as "Doctor Death" astounded U.S. law enforcement officials with tales of how the former white-minority government carried out unique experiments with chemical and biological weapons.

Wouter Basson, the bearded ex-commander of South Africa's notorious 7th Medical Battalion, spoke candidly of global shopping sprees for pathogens and equipment, of plans for epidemics to be sown in black communities and of cigarettes and letters that were laced with anthrax. He revealed the development of a novel anthrax strain unknown to the U.S. officials, a kind of "stealth" anthrax that Basson claimed could fool tests used to detect the disease.

But most disturbing was the question Basson could not answer: Who controls the microbes now?

Nearly a decade has passed since the last South African president under apartheid, Frederik W. de Klerk, dismantled the top-secret biological and chemical weapons program known as Project Coast, of which Basson was the director. In 1993, South Africa declared all the weapons, pathogen strains and documents destroyed. Since then, South Africa has been held up as a model -- an example for Iraq and other nations of "what real disarmament looks like," as Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said in a speech in January.

But in reality, Project Coast's legacy continues to haunt South Africa in ways that bode poorly for countries seeking to roll back programs for weapons of mass destruction, according to government officials and weapons experts. South Africa is still struggling to answer basic questions about the kinds of weapons developed in the program, how they were used and what happened to them, the officials said. Bacterial strains that supposedly were destroyed continue to turn up in private hands. Law enforcement officials remain concerned that former weapons scientists may share secrets with extremist groups or foreign governments.

The lingering threats from Project Coast attest to the existence of a gray zone, the combination of weak states, open borders, lack of controls and a ready market of buyers and sellers for weapons of mass destruction.

"So many of the past problems occurred because there weren't enough checks and balances in the system," said Torie Pretorius, one of two lead prosecutors in the state's case against Basson on murder and fraud charges stemming from Project Coast, of which he was acquitted. "Are those checks and balances any better today? I don't think so," he said.

"The rollback in South Africa is incomplete," said Milton Leitenberg, an arms control expert and senior research scholar at the University of Maryland's School of Public Affairs. "It's unclear that the government ever wrapped these programs up, and they need to wrap them up. The fact that you've got a guy with a walking collection of bacteria traveling around the world is just more evidence of that."

'Black Bomb'

Project Coast was a closely guarded state secret, created as a unit of the South African National Defense Force (SADF) in 1981, at a time when the white-minority government saw itself under siege from all sides -- from communist-led insurgencies in neighboring countries and from an increasingly restive majority black population within its borders.

"The SADF viewed the liberation movements as terrorist organizations, a view that held that every white South African was a potential target," South African researchers Chandre Gould and Peter Folb wrote in a major study on Project Coast released in January for the United Nations.

The first authoritative accounts about Project Coast surfaced only in 1998 when Basson and other top scientists were called to testify before South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings. In 1999, state prosecutors began a 2 1/2-year trial of Basson on murder and fraud charges, alleging that he had directed the use of weapons in assassinations and misused state money. The trial resulted in the release of thousands of pages of documents, and produced sensational disclosures about South Africa's use of chemicals and pathogens. In a stunning rejection of the state's case, a South African judge acquitted Basson on all counts last April, finding that Basson did not break any laws. Prosecutors are appealing the case.

Testimony in the trial portrayed Basson as a skillful and wily manager who built a sophisticated weapons program on a modest budget with little oversight from the country's political and military leadership. Unlike the vastly larger Soviet weapons program, Project Coast produced no warheads or missiles and no "weaponized" agents that would be considered militarily significant. Instead, it focused entirely on small-scale, custom-made weapons intended to terrorize, weaken and kill opponents of the apartheid government, testimony and documents showed.

"The most characteristic feature of the South African program was the development, testing and utilization of a wide array of hard-to-trace toxic agents to assassinate 'enemies of the state,' " said Gary Ackerman, a South African weapons expert with the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute for International Studies.

Project Coast scientists collected hundreds of strains of deadly pathogens, including 45 types of anthrax and the bacteria that cause cholera, brucellosis and plague, according to documents released by the government. They also developed novel methods for distributing toxins. A 1989 sales list released by the government provided a partial inventory: sugar cubes laced with salmonella, beer bottles and peppermint candies poisoned with pesticide, cigarettes and letter-size envelopes sprinkled with anthrax spores.

More sinister were the attempts -- ordered by Basson -- to use science against the country's black majority population. Daan Goosen, former director of Project Coast's biological research division, said he was ordered by Basson to develop ways to suppress population growth among blacks, perhaps by secretly applying contraceptives to drinking water. Basson also urged scientists to search for a "black bomb," a biological weapon that would select targets based on skin color, he said.

"Basson was very interested. He said, 'If you can do this, it would be very good,' " Goosen recalled. "But nothing came of it."

Toxic Trail

When South Africa announced destruction of its nuclear weapons program in 1993, teams of international observers were flown in for verification that the warheads as well as thousands of pages of blueprints and documents were destroyed. But the process was different for biological and chemical weapons -- the only witnesses to the destruction at Project Coast were the program's top managers. Their claims came into question as early as 1997, when steamer trunks filled with Project Coast documents belonging to Basson turned up in the home of an associate. The trunks contained financial and scientific records as well as a sales list of clandestine weapons.

When questioned by U.S. officials in July, Basson said he could offer no assurances about the possible existence of other documents, or bacterial strains and chemicals that he previously claimed were incinerated or dumped at sea.

"His suspicion was that people working in the labs had probably taken things with them," said a knowledgeable U.S. law enforcement source. "As the program ended, an effort was made to destroy or sell off as many assets as possible. That's because the white leadership didn't relish the prospect of this technology ending up in the hands of the new black government."

Goosen acknowledged in an interview that scientists had retained copies of bacterial strains to continue work on vaccines and antidotes with commercial applications. Goosen said he ended up with scores of such strains in his private laboratory, a collection he attempted unsuccessfully to sell to the United States last May. Goosen did not destroy them, he said, because he considered them vital to his continued research and vaccine business.

Documents and e-mails generated as part of that attempted sale to U.S. officials suggested that additional "replica" copies of Project Coast strains existed. Tai Minnaar, a retired South African general who represented Goosen in the attempted sale, wrote to a retired CIA official describing one such replica that "is in fact a copy of the original in every way." Goosen said he had no knowledge of such a replica.

Reconstructing what happened to Project Coast materials is made more difficult because of uncertainties over the identities of outside companies and institutes that may have provided assistance. Most of Project Coast's scientists worked for one of two front companies, Roodeplaat Research Laboratories and Delta G Scientific But based on interviews with former South African military leaders, some U.S. researchers have concluded that other entities were deeply involved.

"There were a number of different research and testing centers at universities and companies, and scientists in various parts of South Africa assisted," professors Helen E. Purkitt and Stephen F. Burgess wrote in a June 2002 article in the Journal of Southern African Studies. Over time, Basson was able to acquire or develop "pathogens that had never before been seen," they wrote.

Global Marketplace

During his trial, Basson boasted of logging many tens of thousands of miles visiting foreign capitals, from Taipei to Tripoli. According to his own testimony, his trips included a visit to Iran to acquire samples of chemical weapons used in the Iran-Iraq war, and a trip to Russia to purchase sophisticated equipment used in genetic engineering. Along the way he built a network of foreign contacts who later became business partners.

Although weapons experts dismiss many of Basson's claims, travel records confirm that he made at least five trips in the 1990s to Libya -- a country the CIA believes is attempting to establish a biological weapons program. The State Department became so concerned about his visits that a formal complaint was made to the South African government in 1995.

Other former Project Coast officials have made extended visits to Libya as well as China, and still others have received visitors from countries regarded by the United States as proliferation concerns. Gould and Folb, in their U.N.-sponsored study, describe a visit by a group of Syrian businessmen to meet with former Project Coast scientists Andre Immelman and Jan Lourens some time after the program was shut down.

One of the visitors was "quite open in his request for technology in the form of documentation or skills," Lourens was quoted as saying. He said the Syrians returned home empty-handed, and no further contact was made.

Deciphering the intent of the foreign contacts was a key objective of U.S. officials who met with Basson during a secret three-day session last summer. Basson, who did not respond to requests for an interview for this story, has kept a relatively low profile while awaiting the outcome of the state's appeal of his acquittal. But in July, he offered himself to U.S. government officials for questioning at the fortress-like U.S. Embassy in Pretoria, the capital.

Officials knowledgeable of the meeting agreed to discuss some of the revelations on the condition they not be identified. They recalled Basson had requested the meeting, saying he wanted to clear his record with U.S. law enforcement officials who had tracked his movements in recent years to determine whether he was trying to sell biological agents or secrets to other countries. During three days of questioning, Basson answered questions and told stories with the assurance that none of his statements could be used against him in any criminal or civil court, the officials said.

In past statements, Basson told extraordinary tales that later turned out to be either fabricated or unverifiable. The U.S visitors were not convinced of his candor on many points, particularly about his foreign travels. Basson acknowledged the trips but offered innocuous explanations. For example, he said that in Libya he consulted with senior government officials about plans to construct a hospital and a railway.

"He was having one hell of a time going all over the world," said a law enforcement official familiar with details of the embassy meetings. "He told us about Libya, Iran, Syria, Egypt and Israel. He mentioned meeting officials from North Korea. And of course, we're convinced he only told about the things he thought we already knew."

The officials did find disturbingly credible Basson's account of an unknown "stealth" anthrax strain. South Africa's most tightly guarded anthrax weapon was a native bacterial strain, known to be lethal to humans and animals -- one of 45 anthrax types in Project Coast's collection. But the strain achieved a whole new significance, he said, when his scientists were able to induce a change that rendered the microbe invisible to standard field tests commonly used in South Africa and neighboring countries.

"They ended up with an organism that would confound conventional detection," said one U.S. law enforcement official who reviewed Basson's claim. "That way, the spread of the disease is not stopped, and more people would become ill." The official said more sophisticated anthrax tests commonly used in the United States would not be fooled by the "stealth" microbe.

Anthrax experts who learned details of Basson's claim said the reported accomplishment was possible, but likely not very effective as a weapon. The alterations described by Basson would likely have severely reduced the virulence of the strain, said Martin Hugh-Jones, an anthrax specialist at Louisiana State University.

"It might make a few goats sick but it wouldn't do very well at killing people," Hugh-Jones said. "It appears he turned a pathogenic organism into a nonpathogenic one."

Basson acknowledged to U.S. officials that the modifications stripped the microbe of some of its virulence, but said Project Coast scientists remained interested because of the strain's ability to sicken and debilitate targets without leaving a trace.

Basson also told U.S. officials he had learned the technique from Israeli government scientists, a claim that could not be independently verified. Israel has persistently denied having biological or chemical weapons programs, although many U.S. weapons experts believe such programs exist. Israel also is widely believed to have assisted South Africa with the development of its former nuclear weapons program, a claim Israeli officials also deny. Basson and at least one other member of South Africa's biological and chemical weapons team made extended trips to Israel in the 1980s, according to testimony and documents cited by authors Gould and Folb.

"The two countries at the time shared a similar mind-set: Both saw groups inside their own borders that threatened the country's survival," said a U.S. government weapons analyst with first-hand knowledge of Project Coast and its aftermath, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "The enemy wasn't another nation-state but pockets of individuals within their own population" (UCLA, 2003).

Title: Universal Detection Technology Bioweapons Detection Kits Combat Black-Market Botox, Bioterrorists
June 21, 2010
Source: Business Wire

Abstract: Universal Detection Technology  a developer of early-warning monitoring technologies to protect people from bioterrorism and other infectious health threats, and provider of counter-terrorism consulting and training services, commented today on a recent study that said worldwide consumer demand for Botox was driving a black-market of fake versions of the cosmetic. The uncontrolled and unregulated production and distribution of counterfeit Botox could lead to would-be bioterrorists harboring botulinum-toxin, the study warns.

The study was conducted by Monterey Institute's James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies and published in the June issue of Scientific American.

According to the authors, “the fake cosmetic products generally contain real toxin, albeit in widely varying amounts.” However, while one small vial might not pose a serious threat, the potential for would-be terrorists to purchase the products in bulk, or attempt to manufacture botulinum toxin themselves, is a grave concern.

Botulinum toxin is one of the most toxic substances known to man, more toxic than sarin nerve agent. It is estimated that a single gram of crystallized botulinum toxin could kill more than one million people. Botulinum toxin could be used to contaminate food supplies, but a more likely scenario involves dissemination of the toxin as an aerosol.

"This biowarfare potential puts the existence of illicit laboratories churning out the toxin and of shady distributors selling it worldwide through the internet into a more disturbing light than most pharmaceutical fraud," noted the authors.

“The growing black-market for counterfeit Botox, while a consumer protection issue, should be a major red flag for our national security,” said Jacques Tizabi, CEO of Universal Detection Technology. “Universal Detection Technology is prepared to equip law enforcement, military, special forces and customs agents with the tools necessary to easily detect the lethal bioagent botulinum toxin, as well as a host of other deadly biohazards.”

Tizabi noted that the company’s flagship bioweapons detection kits, certified last year by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as an “Approved Product for Homeland Security,” are ideally suited for law enforcement teams uncovering counterfeit Botox detection labs in the field, as well as rapidly identifying suspicious agents discovered in unsecured locations. The kits are designed to detect and identify up to five separate threats using one sample in a single, easy-to-use device. The kits equip first responders with an effective tool for the rapid onsite detection of up to five biological warfare agents: anthrax, ricin, botulinum toxin, Y. pestis (plague) and Staphylococcal Enterotoxin B (SEB). Detection time is under three minutes.

About Universal Detection Technology
Universal Detection Technology is a developer of monitoring technologies, including bioterrorism detection devices. The Company on its own and with development partners is positioned to capitalize on opportunities related to Homeland Security. For example, the Company, in cooperation with NASA, has developed a bacterial spore detector that detects certain biohazard substances. The Company is also a reseller of handheld assays used for detection of five bioterrorism agents, radiation detection systems, and antimicrobial products. For more information, please visit

Forward-Looking Statements
Except for historical information contained herein, the statements in this news release are forward-looking statements that involve known and unknown risks and uncertainties, which may cause the Company's actual results, performance and achievement in the future to differ materially from forecasted results, performance, and achievement. The Company undertakes no obligation to publicly release the result of any revisions to these forward-looking statements that may be made to reflect events or circumstances after the date hereof, or to reflect the occurrence of unanticipated events or changes in the Company's plans or expectations (Business Wire, 2010).