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.
Date: August, 1999
Abstract: Would domestic terrorists use biological weapons? The conventional wisdom among experts has been that terrorists "want a lot of people watching, not a lot of people dead" and are unlikely to turn to weapons of mass destruction. A new school of thought proposes that improved technology has made biological attacks resulting in hundreds of thousands or millions of deaths all but inevitable. While terrorists are increasingly interested in weapons of mass destruction, proponents of the latter view exaggerate the threat. Using biological weapons to create mass casualties would require more than having biological agents in hand. The terrorists would need to disseminate the agent, which presents technical and organizational obstacles that few domestic groups could surmount. In addition, relatively few terrorists would want to kill millions of people, even if they could.
For most terrorists, the costs of escalation to biological weapons would seem to outweigh the benefits. Most modern terrorists have had substantively rational goals, such as attaining national autonomy or establishing a government purportedly more representative of the people's will. Escalating to such frightening weapons would result in a massive government crackdown and could alienate the group's supporters. Biological weapons are also dangerous to produce. A number of Aum Shinrikyo members reportedly damaged their own health while working on biological agents. Additionally, some terrorists may perceive moral constraints.
Candidates for successful use of biological weapons represent the intersection of three sets: groups that want to use these weapons despite formidable political risks; groups that can acquire the agent and a dissemination device (however crude); and groups whose organizational structure enables them to deliver or disseminate the agent covertly. The intersection of these sets is small but growing, especially for low-technology attacks such as contaminating food or disseminating biological agents in an enclosed space. Major attacks are also becoming more likely. In the sections that follow, we consider eroding motivational, technical, and organizational constraints.
Some terrorists may turn to biological weapons because they believe it would attract more attention to their cause than conventional attacks. Studies of perceived risk show an inexact correlation between scientists' assessment of risk and the level of fear invoked by risky technologies and activities.4 Biological weapons are mysterious, unfamiliar, indiscriminate, uncontrollable, inequitable, and invisible, all characteristics associated with heightened fear.
Unlike conventional weapons, radiologic, chemical, and biological agents could be used to destroy crops, poison foods, or contaminate pharmaceutical products. They could also be used to kill livestock. (Conventional weapons could be used for the same purposes, albeit less efficiently.) Terrorists might use these agents to attack corporations perceived to be icons of the target country, for example, by contaminating batches of Coca-Cola, Stolichnaya vodka, or Guinness stout. Terrorists could attempt to disseminate anthrax with the explicit goal of imposing expensive clean-up costs on a target government.
The millenarian idea is that the present age is corrupt and that a new age will dawn after a cleansing apocalypse. Only a lucky few (usually selected on the basis of adherence to doctrine or ritual) will survive the end of time and experience paradise.5 Some millenarians believe that the saved will have to endure the 7 years of violence and struggle of the apocalypse, and they want to be prepared.6 Shoko Asahara, leader of the doomsday cult that released sarin gas in the Tokyo subway in 1995, killing 12, told his followers that in the coming conflict between good and evil they would have to fight with every available weapon.7 A similar belief system explains the attraction to survivalism by Identity Christians, white supremacists who believe in an imminent Armageddon.
Slight tension connected with the millennium presumably affects most people. Many are concerned about the Y2K problem, the prospect that computer systems will malfunction or fail at the end of 1999. Some fear the breakdown of air-traffic control systems and are planning to avoid traveling around January 1, 2000. Others fear an accidental launch of Russian nuclear missiles due to malfunctioning computers. Many are stockpiling food and medicine or will have extra cash on hand in case automated banking systems fail. Some feel vague religious fears. Members of antigovernment groups and religious cults are often vulnerable psychologically and appear to be especially affected by premillennial tension. Larry Wayne Harris, a white supremacist and born-again Christian, predicts that the Y2K bug will cause a civil war in the United States and that after January 1, 2000, the government will be unable to deliver welfare checks and food stamps for at least 3 years. He predicts that biological attacks could be carried out by domestic groups fighting for their heritage, traditions, and communities, causing devastating plagues like those described in the Bible's Book of Revelation. He urges all U.S. citizens to prepare. For some domestic groups, preparation involves stockpiling weapons and training to use them.
Exacting Revenge or Creating Chaos
Politically motivated terrorists who desire to change societies rather than destroy them might avoid killing very large numbers of people because the political costs would exceed the benefits. Some terrorists, however, want to annihilate their enemies or demolish the societal order. William Pierce, leader of the neo-Nazi organization National Alliance, aims to initiate a worldwide race war and establish an Aryan state. "We are in a war for the survival of our race," he explains, "that ultimately we cannot win... except by killing our enemies... It's a case of either we destroy them or they will destroy us, with no chance for compromise or armistice." Creating social chaos is thus a worthwhile objective in Pierce's view. Ramzi Yousef, organizer of the World Trade Center bombing, claimed he was exacting revenge against the United States. Osama bin Laden seems to have similar motives.
Terrorists hoping to create an aura of divine retribution might be attracted to biological agents. The fifth plague used by God to punish the Pharaoh in the Bible's Book of Exodus was murrain, a group of cattle diseases that includes anthrax. In the fifth chapter of Samuel I, God turned against the Philistines and "smote them with emerods." Medical historians consider these emerods a symptom of bubonic plague. Some terrorists may believe they are emulating God by employing these agents.
The Aura of Science
Terrorists may want to impress their target audience with high technology or with weapons that appear more sophisticated than conventional ones. Terrorists may find technology appealing for various reasons. William Pierce, who studied physics at California Institute of Technology, is interested in high-technology weapons. In his novel The Turner Diaries, right-wing extremists use nuclear, chemical, biological, and radiologic weapons to take over the world. Pierce believes he can attract more intelligent recruits to his organization over the Internet than through radio or leaflets.
The Copycat Phenomenon
Domestic extremists have shown greater interest in chemical and biological weapons in the last 5 years. For example, in 1998, members of the Republic of Texas were convicted of threatening to assassinate with biological agents President Clinton, Attorney General Janet Reno, and other officials. In May 1995, 6 weeks after the Aum Shinrikyo incident on the Tokyo subway, Larry Wayne Harris bought three vials of Yersinia pestis, the bacterium that causes bubonic plague. No law prohibited Harris or any other U.S. citizen from acquiring the agent. The law has been tightened up since, although many fear it is still not restrictive enough. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Louis Freeh reports that "a growing numberwhile still smallof `lone offender' and extremist splinter elements of right wing groups have been identified as possessing or attempting to develop or use" weapons of mass destruction.
In February 1998, Harris boasted to an informant that he had enough military-grade anthrax to wipe out all of Las Vegas. Eight bags marked "biological" had been found in the back of a car he and his accomplice were driving. Several days later, federal authorities learned that the anthrax Harris had brought to Las Vegas was a vaccine strain not harmful to human health. Nevertheless, the incident frightened many people and sparked a proliferation of anthrax hoaxes and threats in the second half of 1998 continuing into 1999 by groups including Identity Christians and other antigovernment groups, extortionists, antiabortion activists, and presumed prochoice groups. In many cases, the perpetrator's motives were unknown, but some incidents appear to have been student pranks, demonstrating the extent to which the threat of anthrax has entered U.S. consciousness.
With the end of the cold war and the breakup of the Soviet Union, weapons of mass destruction and their components have become easier to acquire. Underpaid former Soviet weapons experts may be providing biological weapons and expertise to Iran. South African biological weapons scientists have offered their expertise to Libya.State-sponsored groups are most capable of overcoming technical barriers to mass-casualty attacks, but the sponsor would presumably weigh the risk for retaliation before supporting this type of terrorist attack.
College-trained chemists and biologists could presumably produce biological agents, although they might have trouble disseminating them as aerosols. Microorganisms can be disseminated by air in two forms: as liquid slurries or as dry powders. While producing liquid slurries is relatively easy, disseminating them as respirable infectious aerosols over large open areas is not. Although dry powders can be disseminated far more easily, high-quality powders require substantial development, involving skilled personnel and sophisticated equipment. Milling biological agents would require a level of sophistication unlikely to be found among many domestic terrorist groups. Far more likely are low-technology incidents such as contaminating foods, poisoning livestock, or disseminating industrial poisons in an enclosed space. Such attacks could still be lethal. Major attacks cannot be ruled out; however, governments need to prepare.
In the mid-1980s, a little-known survivalist group called The Covenant, the Sword, and the Arm of the Lord (CSA) acquired a large drum of cyanide with the intention of poisoning water supplies in major U.S. cities. At the time, CSA was unusual among terrorist groups in that its sole objective was large-scale murder rather than influencing government policies. CSA overcame two of three large obstacles to successful employment of a chemical agent. It had the motivation to use a chemical agent to kill large numbers and no political or moral constraints. The group had acquired a chemical agent, although not in sufficient quantity to contaminate city water supplies. The group's leaders had not recruited technically trained personnel and chose an unworkable dissemination technique. Moreover, the group lacked discipline and was easily penetrated by FBI. It is unlikely that CSA would make such mistakes if it were operating today, when antigovernment groups are so much more aware of the potential of poison weapons for inflicting mass casualties.
CSA was run as a relatively open compound. Some members wrote articles in local papers espousing antigovernment beliefs, and some worked in neighboring towns. Several former CSA members became informants, often because they hoped to get their sentences reduced for other, unrelated, crimes. In recent years, however, antigovernment groups have become more aware of the danger of penetration by law-enforcement authorities and have devised a new way of organizing themselves called "leaderless resistance." Members are encouraged to act on their own, minimizing their communication with the leadership of the movement. Timothy McVeigh operated according to this model. His bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building was originally conceived of by CSA, although it is not clear that McVeigh knew of CSA's earlier plot. If future terrorists with chemical or biological agents act on their own or in small, secretive groups, FBI may have difficulty apprehending them.
One of CSA's objectives was to establish a computerized, nationwide system linking right-wing groups. This goal has been achieved, although CSA is not exclusively or even principally responsible for this achievement. The nationwide linking of right-wing groups has implications that have not been adequately appreciated by the law enforcement community. The Internet makes terrorist acts easier to carry out. It facilitates leaderless resistance by allowing leaders of the movement to communicate with sympathizers worldwide without having to meet face-to-face with their followers.
The Likeliest Perpetrators
A small but growing number of domestic terrorists could attempt to use biological weapons in the belief that doing so would advance their goals. The most likely are religious and extreme right-wing groups and groups seeking revenge who view secular rulers and the law they uphold as illegitimate. They are unconstrained by fear of government or public backlash, since their actions are carried out to please God and themselves, not to impress a secular constituency. Frequently, they do not claim credit for their attacks since their ultimate objective is to create so much fear and chaos that the government's legitimacy is destroyed. Their victims are often viewed as subhuman since they are outside the group's religion or race.
Religiously motivated groups are increasing. Of 11 international terrorist groups identified by the Rand Corporation in 1968, none were classified as religiously motivated. By 1994, a third of the 49 international groups recorded in the Rand-St. Andrews Chronology were classified as religious.22 Religious groups are not only becoming more common; they are also more violent than secular groups. In 1995, religious groups committed only 25% of the international incidents but caused 58% of the deaths.23
Identity Christians believe that the Book of Revelation is to be taken literally as a description of future events. Many evangelical Protestants believe in a doctrine of rapture: that the saved will be lifted off the earth to escape the apocalypse that will precede the Second Coming of Christ. Followers of Christian Identity (and some other millenarian sects), however, expect to be present during the apocalypse.24 Because of this belief, some followers of Christian Identity believe they need to be prepared with every available weapon to ensure their survival.
Organizational pressures could induce some groups to commit extreme acts of violence. Followers tend to be more interested in violence for its own sake than in the group's purported goals, making them less inhibited by moral or political constraints than the leaders. Leaders may have difficulty designing command and control procedures that work. Offshoots of established groups may be particularly dangerous. Groups may also become most violent when the state is closing in on them, potentially posing difficulties for those fighting terrorism. Another factor is the nature of the leader. Charismatic leaders who isolate their followers from the rest of society often instill extreme paranoia among their followers. Such groups can be susceptible to extreme acts of violence.
Asked who he thought the most likely domestic perpetrators of biological terrorism were, John Trochman, a leader of the Montana Militia, said that extremist offshoots of Identity Christian groups are possible candidates, as are disaffected military officers.25 Some antigovernment groups are attempting to recruit inside the U.S. military.26 William Pierce also foresees the use of biological weapons by antigovernment groups. "People disaffected by the government include not only the kind of people capable of making pipe bombs. Bioweapons are more accessible than are nuclear weapons."27
Terrorism with biological weapons is likely to remain rare. This is especially the case for attacks intended to create mass casualties, which require a level of technologic sophistication likely to be possessed by few domestic groups. While state-sponsored groups are most likely to be capable of massive biological weapons attacks, the state sponsor would presumably have to weigh the risk for retaliation. As in the case of other low-probability high-cost risks, however, governments cannot ignore this danger; the potential damage is unacceptably high. Because the magnitude of the threat is so difficult to calculate, however, it makes sense to focus on dual-use remedies: pursuing medical countermeasures that will improve public health in general, regardless of whether major biological attacks ever occur. This would include strengthening the international system of monitoring disease outbreaks in humans, animals, and plants and developing better pharmaceutical drugs.
The risk for overreaction must be considered. If
authorities are not prepared in advance, they will be more susceptible to
taking actions they will later regret, such as revoking civil liberties.
Attacks employing biological agents are also more likely and will be far more
destructive if governments are caught unprepared (CDC, 1999).
Title: Experts: Bioterror Threat More Domestic Than Foreign
Date: November 2, 2005
Source: Fox News
Abstract: The bacteria lie dormant, freeze-dried in sealed ampules, in a refrigerator on a teeming university campus beside the Nile.
They're among Earth's most common germs — clostridia perfringens, a cause of food poisoning, a specimen for research.
But this pathogen can also be a weapon: Iraqi scientists worked for years to mobilize this "Agent G" for Saddam Hussein's wars.
In an America nervous over bioterrorism, new laws clamp controls on clostridia and other "select agents," demanding registrations, reporting, background checks on scientists.
Egypt, in a region roiled by terrorism, has no such laws, although the bacteria at Ain Shams University are kept in a locked refrigerator, accessible by one authorized technician, in a laboratory protected by foolproof electronic keys, said Nabil Magdoub, microbe collection director.
"We have to be alert," he said, but not "unreasonable."
After all, Magdoub said, any hospital is also rife with dangerous microorganisms.
"The American people have become so sensitive towards a lot of normal, ordinary matters," he said, echoing a sentiment heard increasingly in America, where microbiologists fear that ever-stricter controls might stifle their ability to exchange samples and conduct research.
Four years after the Sept. 11 attacks, terrorist use of disease agents to inflict mass casualties looms more and more as the bottom line of America's sum of all fears. Tom Ridge, former homeland security secretary, has said authorities don't believe terror groups can build nuclear bombs, and so bioweapons become the greater threat.
"Anthrax is a concern," said Donald Van Duyn of the FBI's Counterterrorism Division. "You could do as much damage with anthrax and other substances" as with a nuclear bomb, the FBI analyst said in a Washington interview.
One attack scenario now used in U.S. planning sees more than 300,000 people in an American city exposed to aerosolized anthrax bacteria spread by terrorists via a truck sprayer, with more than 13,000 dying.
The fear is reflected in the U.S. budget's bottom line as well: Spending on civilian "biodefense" has leaped 18-fold since 2001, to $7.6 billion this year. Project Bioshield, to develop bioterrorism countermeasures, awarded its first contract last November, $877 million for 75 million doses of a new anthrax vaccine.
The anthrax scare began when someone mailed anthrax powder through the U.S. postal system in late 2001 and five people died.
As a result, "I'd say we get five white-powder threats a week, people calling saying, 'I found white powder. What do I do?'" said Van Duyn.
Because of the high quality of those 2001 anthrax spores, however, experts believe the perpetrator, still at large, was not linked to foreign terrorists, but possibly to the U.S. government's own anthrax program. That research began decades back as an offensive weapons program, but is now considered defensive.
Even a terror group as well-financed and educated as Japan's Aum Shinrikyo, whose homemade sarin chemical agent killed 12 people in 1995, failed to isolate a virulent strain in four years' work on anthrax.
Usama bin Laden's Al Qaeda also pursued anthrax in Afghanistan, captured documents showed. But it turned the job over to a Malaysian with a mere bachelor's degree in biology, U.S. investigators found. He, too, apparently failed to find a virulent strain — let alone a workable way to "weaponize" anthrax — before being arrested in 2001 after returning to Malaysia.
Drying and refining anthrax spores into particles readily inhaled, and then engineering equipment to spread them extensively, is a formidable challenge, U.S. congressional researchers noted in a 2004 study.
"Even a Ph.D. microbiologist doesn't know the dark arts of putting microbes into weapons," said Jonathan Tucker, a bioweapons expert with California's Monterey Institute for International Studies.
It took Iraqi scientists five years to weaponize anthrax in the 1980s. Meanwhile, others in Saddam's secret program were working on "Agent G," U.N. arms inspectors later learned. The toxin-spewing clostridium perfringens, applied to shrapnel, would kill the wounded by spreading virulent gas gangrene in their shrapnel wounds.
The Iraqis apparently never weaponized Agent G, however, and eventually reported to inspectors they had destroyed all 900 gallons they made.
Today clostridium perfringens is one of 49 microbes on the U.S. list of "select agents" considered potential "severe threats." American laboratories handling the germ must register with the government, their personnel must undergo background checks, and transfers of cultures must be reported.
That list's length, from the toxin abrin to the plague bacteria yersinia pestis, tells some that billions of U.S. dollars won't go far, since only three on the list — anthrax, smallpox and botulinum toxin — are being addressed so far in stepped-up biodefense research programs. And that's not counting any new genetically re-engineered microbes.
"What's going to come at you is impossible to predict," molecular biologist Roger Brent told a U.S. House panel in July.
Others question whether anything will come, in view of what Tucker calls Al Qaeda's "gap in technical sophistication."
Milton Leitenberg, a bioweapons authority at the University of Maryland, contends the threat has been "systematically exaggerated."
Few question the need, however, to tighten security at microbe collections worldwide. Only 500 of the estimated 1,500 major repositories — which maintain, exchange and sell samples for research and diagnostics — subscribe to the World Federation for Culture Collections' voluntary security guidelines.
Magdoub's Egypt Microbial Culture Collection is one. But a team of Egyptian microbiologists noted in a recent study that smaller collections have proliferated in Egypt, which has no "biosecurity" laws.
Team member Youssef Hamdi told The Associated Press all such resources should be combined in a single "National Culture Collection" to "insure purity, conservation and security."
Internationally, "the problem is the ones you don't know about," said Barry Kellman, director of the International Weapons Control Center at Chicago's DePaul University. Perhaps one-third of the world's microbe collections are poorly protected, he estimated.
The World Health Organization plans a "guidance document" next year promoting laboratory biosecurity, but only individual governments can enforce restrictions.
Kellman, meanwhile, agrees with those who doubt that Al Qaeda, "in a cave in Afghanistan," poses a bioterrorism threat.
He worries more about a homegrown menace, asking, "What if Ted Kaczynski" — America's notorious Unabomber — "had been a biology professor instead of a math professor?" (Fox News, 2005).Title: Breivik’s Interest In Anthrax And Religious Extremism
Date: August 2, 2011
Abstract: Known as a lone wolf, Anders Behring Breivik planned and killed 77
Norwegians on July 22, 2011. Such a cruel expression of ‘belief’ by an
individual shocked the entire world, particularly since it occurred in
Breivik’s terrorism was an act of intolerance that stemmed from the migration of Muslims to Europe. He has outlined his ideology in a 1,518-page online manifesto 2083 – A European Declaration of Independence. In this manifesto, Breivik reveals his views on politics, culture, history, Marxism, Islam, and so on. He discusses various ‘revolutionary’ concepts and also expresses his views on the use of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) to bring about a change in the system and society. His manifesto deals with issues related to conventional as well as chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.
Particularly alarming is his belief that Anthrax is ‘one of the most effective weapons’ and an instrument to help him achieve his goal. It appears that he neither had expertise in this field nor did he have a stockpile of Anthrax. According to the New York Times, the word Anthrax appears more than 50 times in his manifesto. He discusses the success of Anthrax attacks in the United States post 9/11. He is of the opinion that it should not be difficult to acquire Anthrax spores from the black market. He has also published a photograph of a man (mostly likely of himself) in a protective suit with respirator and a vial and a syringe in his hands. He speculates that any large scale Anthrax attack could kill 200,000 people and feels that this weapon has excellent shock value.
This highlights the necessity for a fresh debate on the otherwise ignored subject of biological weapons. Global concerns about biological weapons have been mainly concentrated on bioterrorism for many years. However, the history of the use of biological agents by non-state actors indicates that radical groups, religious fanatics and even disgruntled scientists have a deep interest in this form of intimidation and violence.
The most prominent case of the successful use of a biological weapon was by the Rajneesh (Osho) cult in the US state of Oregon. The cult had used Salmonella Typhimurium to contaminate salad bars in a particularly locality. Its purpose was not to kill people but make them ill for a few days and thus stop them from voting in local elections. Another instance of a radical group employing weapons of mass destruction was by the Aum Shinrikyo, which released Sarin gas in the Tokyo subway in 1995. This cult had made significant investments in biological weapons as well and had probably experimented with them though without much success. The third prominent instance was the anthrax attacks in the United States in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, which was the handiwork of a disgruntled scientist.
These instances and Breivik’s interest in using Anthrax highlight the
need to expand the debate on biological weapons and bioterrorism to
include the involvement of religious groups and cults; something that
must be undertaken at the 7th Review Conference of the Biological and
Toxic Weapons Convention (BTWC/BWC) scheduled for December 2011.
Hitherto, the primary argument about the threat from biological weapons has been that they may not be the first preference for terrorist groups since their impact is mostly unpredictable. Secondly, terrorist organisations are generally involved in a struggle to gain political power or control over a certain territory; and the use of such WMDs could turn world opinion against them and thus impede the achievement of the groups’ final goal. Moreover, a covert state supporter (if any) may not support such an attack because of geopolitical compulsions. Thirdly, since terrorist organisations gain legitimacy from their supporters, the use of biological weapons could result in the death of those who support and sympathise with their cause. Lastly, most terrorist organisations have a ‘copy cat’ syndrome. Since no terrorist organisation has used biological weapons as the primary mode of attack till date, it seems unlikely that there will be any such attack in the future.
However, such arguments do not deter terrorists and if they decide to opt for this form of terrorism they will. None of the above arguments holds good for a lone wolf like Breivik or for that matter any other radically motivated group in any part of the world. Consequently, it is important to take the threat of use of biological weapons by radical groups and cults seriously. Their occasional acts of terrorism are likely to have major consequences particularly if these involve the use of biological weapons.The future use of biological weapons, which are easy to carry and disguise, cannot be ruled out. Norwegian police found 5000 kilograms of fertiliser in Breivik’s farm house. While the actual purpose of such a large stockpile is not known, it might well have been for the manufacture of ‘conventional’ bombs or for developing some form of chemical weapons. Breivik’s terrorism highlights the fact that there are always such people in every society who could use weapons of mass destruction in general and biological weapons in particular (IDSA, 2011).