RBC Shield, LLC

"The Complete WMD Protection Solution"

BIOLOGICAL THREATS

"We haven't yet absorbed the magnitude of this threat to national security. While it is true that pandemic flu is important, and we're not doing nearly enough, I don't think pandemic flu could take down the United States of America. But a campaign of moderate biological attacks could."1

As early as 1999, the American College of Physicians believed that it was likely that a bioterrorism attack would occur in the U.S. Part of that concern stemmed from the fact that at least 10 and perhaps as many as 17 nations possess biological warfare agents.2 The anthrax attacks two years later proved they were right.

"Abdulla F. Alnafisi of Kuwait (b. 1945). In 1961 received his G.C.E. from Victoria College in Cairo, Egypt and later, received his B.A. in Politics from the American University in Beirut in 1967. Dr. Alnafisi continued on in this field and received his Ph.D. in Politics in 1972 from Cambridge University, UK, Churchill College. At one point he served as a member of the Parliament of Kuwait, and from 1972-78 he acted as chairman of the Department of Politics at the University of Kuwait. Currently Dr. Alnafisi serves as a professor at the University of Kuwait." [SOURCE]

Here are some additional factors to consider regarding this very serious and growing threat:

EXPERTISE AND AVAILABILITY

  • Many of the former bio-workers in the Soviet Union have been recruited by these nations and others wanting to expand their bio-weapons capability either for weapons or for defense. Whether for defense or weapons, the technology and expertise are there. And the biological agents ARE being manufactured.3
  • While several of these countries operate maximum-containment (Biosafety Level-4) labs, many don't, which only increases the risks of dangerous pathogens escaping or being stolen. "Security risks are also associated with roughly one-third of the fifteen hundred state-owned and commercial culture collections worldwide that possess, exchange, and sell samples of microorganisms and toxins for legitimate scientific and biomedical research.... Numerous culture collections outside the United States are not adequately secured and controlled, making them potentially vulnerable to theft by proliferators and terrorists. In addition, trade in microbial cultures is poorly regulated, both within and among countries."4
  • Al-Qaeda is known to have sought bio-weapons & has recruited experts, including microbiologists trained in these modern techniques, which are well within reach and getting easier.5 According to one source, this threat is real. "Al-Qaeda have made it clear… that they consider the use of chemical and biological agents as acceptable. There are a few cases around the world in recent times that suggest that there is a capability."6
  • But the easiest way to get the lethal biological warfare agents would be to steal them from one of the 409 laboratories regulated by the U.S. Government. The lax state of safety and security at these labs was highlighted by the Associated Press who reported on October 4, 2007 that American laboratories handling the world's deadliest germs and toxins have experienced more than 100 accidents and missing shipments since 2003, and the number is increasing as more labs do the work.7

NEW TECHNOLOGIES

  • New techniques and technologies have been developed that allow the creation of synthetic viruses in mere days.8
  • Hardware developed in 2005 by a Harvard genetics professor can churn out synthetic genes by the thousands, for a few pennies each. These techniques and their availability were prominently identified in a Washington Post article on July 31, 2006.9
  • In 2007, A British scientific journal, New Scientist, surveyed several DNA-by-mail companies to show how easy it would be to obtain a potentially dangerous genetic sequence, for example, DNA for a bacterial gene that produces deadly toxins. Only five of the 12 firms responded said they screened customers' orders for DNA sequence that might pose a terrorism threat.10 Screening is not required by law.
  • "It would be possible, fully legal, for a person to produce full-length 1918 influenza virus or Ebola virus genomes, along with kits containing detailed procedures and all other materials for reconstitution. It is also possible to advertise and to sell the product in the United States or overseas."11
  • But the easiest way to get the lethal biological warfare agents would be to steal them from one of the 409 laboratories regulated by the U.S. Government. The lax state of safety and security at these labs was highlighted by the Associated Press who reported on October 4, 2007 that American laboratories handling the world's deadliest germs and toxins have experienced more than 100 accidents and missing shipments since 2003, and the number is increasing as more labs do the work.12 In testimony before Congress in October of 2007, the Director of the Sunshine Project stated, "There are now approximately 400 facilities and 15,000 people in the United States handling biological weapons agents. Many of these facilities are new and are staffed by scientists and others with little to no prior experience with biological weapons agents and the safety and security measures they require. In addition, they are frequently on college campuses and other locations where rule-based systems of strict accountability are absent and, in fact, alien to institutional culture. It is plain to see that our own scores of laboratories that study biological weapons agents represent the easiest avenue by which a would-be bioterrorist could obtain the materials and knowledge necessary to commit crime in the United States."13

Sources/Footnotes

  1. Warrick, Joby, "Custom-Built Pathogens Raise Bioterror Fear," Washington Post, July 31, 2006; A01. Statement made by Tara O'Toole, physician and director of the Center for Biosecurity at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
  2. Bartlett J.G., "Thoughts on Bioterrorism," Annals of Internal Medicine. 1999; 131:273-280. Excerpt: http://www.acponline.org/bioterro/thoughts.htm
  3. Tucker, Jonathon B., "Bioweapons from Russia: Stemming the flow," Issues in Science and Technology, Spring 1999. http://issues.org/15.3/p_tucker.htm
  4. Tucker, Jonathon B., "Biosecurity: Limiting Terrorist Access to Deadly Pathogens," Peacworks No. 52, November 2004. http://www.usip.org/pubs/peaceworks/pwks52.html
  5. Warrick, op.cit
  6. Reuters, "Al Qaeda Bioterror Threat Remains Real, SaysInterpol," March 29, 2004. http://en.epochtimes.com/news/6-3-29/39827.html
  7. Margasak, Larry, "Congress to Hear About Security at Labs," October 4, 2007. Associated Press.
  8. Warrick, op. cit
  9. Ibid.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Ibid. Statement made by Richard M. Ebright, biochemist and Professor at Rutgers University.
  12. Margasak, Larry , "Accidents on rise as more US labs handle lethal germ," October 3, 2007. Associated Press.
  13. Testimony of Edward Hammond, Director of the Sunshine Project. Submitted to the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce for the Hearing: "Germs, Viruses, and Secrets: The Silent Proliferation of Bio-Laboratories in the United States," October 4, 2007.