It is nearly 15 years since biological weapons (BW) have become a significant national security preoccupation.I haven't read the book yet. My fave sentence:
The distribution of professionally prepared anthrax spores through the U.S. postal system in the weeks afterwards September 11, 2001, magnified previous concerns by orders of magnitude. In December 2002, after U.S. forces had overrun much of the territory of Afghanistan, it was discovered that the al-Qaida organization also had spent several years trying to obtain the knowledge and means to produce biological agents. These new factors shifted the context in which BW was considered almost entirely to "bioterrorism." Within 4 years, almost $30 billion in federal expenditure was appropriated to counter the anticipated threat. This response took place in the absence of virtually any threat analysis. The purpose of this monograph is to begin to fill that gap.
"“Bioterrorism” may come someday if societies survive all their other impending crises. However, the persistent exaggeration is not benign"
"On the grounds of “necessity,” the U.S. biodefense research program appears to be drifting into violation of Article 1 of the BWC. There is little question but that U.S. officials would make that judgment of any other nation’s biodefense program in which the same kind of work was being carried out"
Here are the conclusions:
• Significance of the problem. “Bioterrorism” may or may not develop into a serious concern in the future, but it is not “one of the most pressing problems that we have on the planet today.”
• The evolution of state biological weapons programs. The number of state BW programs has apparently been reduced by one-third or one-fourth in the past 15 years. The remaining number of countries appears to be stable; no compensating rise in offensive state BW programs has been identified. In addition, the U.S. Government—which has almost without exception in past decades been the only country to publicly identify WMD proliferants—appears in its most recent statements to be qualifying the status of states with presumed offensive BW programs. To date, no state is known to have assisted any nonstate or terrorist group to obtain biological weapons.
• The evolution of nonstate/terrorist biological weapon capabilities. The production and distribution of a dry powder anthrax product in the United States in 2001 is the most significant event. However, understanding to what degree that demonstration of competence is relevant to “traditional” terrorist groups is impossible until the perpetrator(s) of the anthrax events are identified. If it was done with assistance, materials, knowledge, access, etc., derived from the U.S. biodefense program, the implications change entirely.The Rajneesh group (1984) succeeded in culturing Salmonella. The Japanese Aum Shinrikyo group failed to obtain, produce, or disperse anthrax and botulinum toxin.
The steps taken by the al-Qaida group in efforts to develop a BW program were more advanced than the United States understood prior to its occupation of Afghanistan in November- December 2001. Nevertheless, publicly available information, including the somewhat ambiguous details that appeared in the March 31, 2005, report of the Commission on Intelligence Capabilities, indicates that the group failed to obtain and work with pathogens. Should additional information become available regarding the extent to which the al-Qaida BW effort had progressed, that assessment might have to be changed.
Scenarios for national BW exercises that posit various BW agents in advanced states of preparation in the hands of terrorist groups simply disregard the requirements in knowledge and practice that such groups would need in order to work with pathogens. Unfortunately, 10 years of widely broadcast public discussion has provided such groups, at least on a general level, with suggestions as to what paths to follow. If and when a nonstate terrorist group does successfully reach the stage of working with pathogens, there is every reason to believe that it will involve classical agents, without any molecular genetic modifications. Preparing a dry powder preparation is likely to prove difficult, and dispersion to produce mass casualties equally so. Making predictions on the basis of what competent professionals may find “easy to
do” has been a common error and continues to be so. The utilization of molecular genetic technology by such groups is still further off in time. No serious military threat assessment imputes to opponents capabilities that they do not have. There is no justification for imputing to real world terrorist groups capabilities in the biological sciences that they do not posess.
• Framing “the threat” and setting the agenda of public perceptions and policy prescriptions. For the past decade the risk and immanence of the use of biological agents by nonstate actors/terrorist organizations—“bioterrorism”—has been systematically and deliberately exaggerated. It became more so after the combination of the 9/11 events and the October- November 2001 anthrax distribution in the United States that followed immediately afterwards. U.S. Government officials worked hard to spread their view to other countries. An edifice of institutes, programs, conferences, and publicists has grown up which continue the exaggeration and scare-mongering.
In the last year or two, the drumbeat had picked up. It may however become moderated by the more realistic assessment of the likelihood of the onset of a natural flu pandemic, and the accompanying realization that the U.S. Government has been using the overwhelming proportion of its relevant resources to prepare for the wrong contingency.
Others see exaggeration as necessary in order to prompt preparation. They acknowledge the exaggeration but argue that political action, the expenditure of public funds for bioterrorism prevention and response programs, will not occur without it. “Bioterrorism” may come someday if societies survive all their other impending crises. However, the persistent exaggeration is not benign: it is almost certainly the single greatest factor in provoking interest in BW among terrorist groups, to the degree that it currently exists, for example, in the al-Qaida organization. Precisely this occurred: Their most senior leadership was provoked by statements regarding bioterrorism and its supposed ease by U.S. officials in 1996-97.
• Costs of the U.S. biodefense program. On the grounds of “necessity,” the U.S. biodefense research program appears to be drifting into violation of Article 1 of the BWC. There is little question but that U.S. officials would make that judgment of any other nation’s biodefense program in which the same kind of work was being carried out as is taking place and is planned by U.S. agencies, or in the case that agencies of another government put forward reinterpretations of the provisions of Article 1 of the BWC so as to imply that work could be
done on “defensive” biological weapons. A national-level oversight system to see that BWC compliance is maintained by all projects of the U.S. biodefense program—unclassifi ed, classified, and perhaps yet other “black” projects—does not exist. Should the BWC be weakened further and if other state programs begin to go down the same research path as the U.S. biodefense program, together with any eventual recourse to BW by nonstate actors, the international regime against the development of biological weapons may be irrevocably damaged.
No wonder he is interested in curveball and stephen hatfill.
i hope he isn't looking for new research funding.